Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla – Father of Mexican Independence
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was a Mexican Roman Catholic priest and revolutionary leader, who marked the beginning of the war for independence from Spanish rule. He was the national hero of Mexico, known as the “Father of the Fatherland” (Padre de la Patria).
Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla y Gallaga Mondarte Villaseñor was born on May 8, 1753 in Penhamo, Guanajuato. He was the second of four sons in the family. Their mother died in 1762, shortly after the birth of the youngest child. Miguel grew up in the hacienda where his father served as a manager.
In June 1765 twelve-year-old Miguel and his brother Jose Joaquin went to Valladolid (now Morelia) and entered the Jesuit College of St. Nicholas, where he studied Latin, law, rhetoric, classical writers, philosophy, theology and other religious disciplines. There he read History of Ancient Mexico (Historia antigua de México) by the Mexican historian Francisco Klavihero.
In 1767, by decree of King Charles III of Bourbon, the Jesuits were expelled from Spain and the colonies. Because of this the college was closed for several months, but in December it was reopened.
At the age of 16 he already taught philosophy and theology, while continuing his own studying. He studied Italian and French, read Moliere and even staged performances based on his plays when he was a priest in the town of Dolores (now Dolores Hidalgo). In 1790 he became a rector at his alma mater. Two years later he was removed from office because of liberal ideas and sent to Colima.
In 1773, Miguel Hidalgo received his BA in philosophy and theology. In 1778, at the age of twenty-five he was ordained a priest. After his brother’s death in 1803 he replaced him in the parish of Dolores.
Soon there was an event that pushed the Spanish colonies to separate from the mother country. Spain teamed up with Napoleon to attack the UK and to provide the necessary means for the future war seized the property of debtors. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805 caused even more resentment of the population of the colonies. Miguel’s younger brother lost his property, went crazy and died in a mental hospital in 1809.
In 1808 France invaded Spain. The French forced the Spanish king to step down. These events encouraged many poor Mexicans to begin fighting for independence from Spain. Father Hidalgo joined the fight for independence. On September 16, 1810, he rang a church bell and called the people to revolt against Spain. His call became known as the Grito de Dolores (the cry of Dolores).
The Spanish captured Hidalgo on March 21, 1811.
Miguel Hidalgo was shot on July 30, 1811 in Chihuahua. Ten years later Mexico finally won its independence from Spain.
Today Miguel Hidalgo is considered a national hero in Mexico. The state Hidalgo, many settlements in Mexico, such as Dolores Hidalgo, International Airport in Guadalajara and districts Hidalgo in Texas and New Mexico were named in his honor. His portrait is on Mexican banknote and monuments dedicated to him are in different countries.
Every Mexican Independence Day, the Mexican president shouts a version of Hidalgo’s Grito from the balcony of the National Palace.