Allegory of independence, 1834, anonymous

Father Hidalgo breaking the chains to Spain and crowning Mexico


Unlike in America, where there was a broad groundswell at indignation at English abuses and taxation without representation, only a few conspired for independence in New Spain . There were some military officers kept out of the highest ranks by virtue of  being born in New Spain rather than the motherland.  Merchants and civil servants exposed to ideas of the Enlightenment and the American and French revolutions. The most radical were the parish priests who saw the suffering of their Indian parishioners firsthand. Most Creoles wished to change the system so that they could have equality with the peninsulares, but not equality for all. The lower classes, the Indians and mixed castes had nothing much to lose, their lot was so hard . They did rebel, but these rebellions were not organized enough to spread far .


One of the first to call for independence was priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in Guanajuato .He became a bishop in 1778 and was investigated by the Inquisition in 1800 for questioning the celibacy of priests ( he had a mistress ), reading proscribed books, doubting the veracity of the virgin birth and the infallibility of the pope and considered the king a tyrant .However, none of these charges could be proved and he was released .However, he lost his position as a rector at the collage of San Nicolas in Morelia .He led a rebellion against the Spanish and almost took Mexico City, but he was betrayed and captured in the Texas territory and  executed for treason by firing squad on July 31, 1811.

Jose Marcia Morelos y Pavon ,1812 , anonymous


The movement was continued under the mestizo priest Jose Marcia Morelos y Pavon, who had been recruited by Hildago .Morelos organized his soldiers into small bands that carried out guerrilla warfare .By 1813 they won enough territory to encircle the capital. Morelos then held a congress in Chilpancingo to discuss the plans for the nation once the Spanish were driven out .

Meanwhile, the Spanish army gathered strength and broke the encirclement, retaking many towns .Gradually, the rebel army dwindled and in 1815 Morelos was captured and executed .With his execution the Independence movement reached its lowest point .For the next 5 years the movement was little more than guerrilla fighting by a number of independent bands without coordination .After awhile only two major bands remained, one led by Guadalupe Victoria with about 2.000 troops around Puebla and Vicente Guerrero with about 1,000 around Oaxaca .By 1819, the Spanish viceroy, Juan Ruiz de Apodaca was able to report to king Ferdinand that the situation was under control .He offered a pardon for all who would lay down their arms.




Meanwhile, King Ferdinand had been gathering a powerful fighting force to quell the more serious Independence movements in South America . At Cádiz, Spain, in January 1820, troops who had assembled for an expedition to America were angry over infrequent pay, bad food, and poor quarters and mutinied under the leadership of Colonel Rafael del Riego y Nuñez .Colonel Rafael Riego declared himself in revolt and  thousands of troops followed . The Spanish troops demanded that the king should abide by the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812 which affirmed the sovereignty of the people, free speech and curbed the power of the church . If this was not done there would be a military coup .The king, a virtual prioner of the army at this point, yielded to their demands .


Ironically, the Creoles found this change too liberal, and began to support Independence and secretly meet with the former colonel Agustin de Iturbide to be their leader to ensure a more conservative government . Iturbide  had fought against the rebels for nearly a decade . He  resigned from the royal  army after being accused of corruption. The Creoles convinced the viceroy to reinstate him in the army .


In 1820 viceroy Apodaca placed colonel  Iturbide in charge of 2,500 men to fight Guerrero .  Iturbide marched his force toward those of  Guerrero and instead of fighting him  asked for a meeting and  peace if he could dictate the terms . Guerrero agreed and on Feb 24 they issued the Plan de Iguala, the major points of which were that: independent Mexico would be a constitutional monarchy, led by King Ferdinand or another European prince , .The Catholic Church would remain the only official church in the country, Creoles and peninsularies would have equal rights. A new army would be created, the Army of the Three Guarantees to enforce the plan .


This was a much more conservative plan than that of Morelos. The revolution of Hidalgo and Morelos never gathered support from the conservative upper classes of New Spain, this plan could and military units and common people began to defect to the Army of the Three Guarantees. Priests spoke in support of it from the pulpit . Even many Spanish in Mexico supported the plan since they saw a future for themselves in Mexico, unlike the earlier more radical plans that demanded death or exile of the peninsulares .After many cities fell to the Army of the Three Guarantees, viceroy Apodaca resigned .


Entrance of the Army of the three Guarantees, anonymous, 1821


On September 27, 1821 , Iturbide marched into the capital with Vicente Guerrero and Guadalupe Victoria and the army. After so many years of fighting and over 300 years of Spanish rule, Mexico was independent at last .


The first Mexican Empire 


Agustín de Iturbide


As provided by the Plan de Iguala,  General Agustín de Iturbide, a Mexican-born criollo ( Creole )  who originally fought for the pro-Spanish royalists but switched his allegiance to the insurgents in the final phases of the war, named a provisional Junta to rule the country, which in turned named him as its presiding officer .The Congress was still independent and some members of it wanted to form a republic and decreed that no member of the military could hold political office in order to forestall Iturbide 's attempt at becoming monarch . Iturbide knew he had to move quickly if he wanted to seize supreme power. After the declaration of independence on September 27, 1821, it was the intention of  Congress to establish a commonwealth whereby the king of Spain, Ferdinand VII, would also be Emperor of Mexico, but in which both countries were to be governed by separate laws and with their own legislative offices. However, as Spain was eyeing to retake Mexico, it did not accept the offer .

Senora Sanchez Solis Felipre Gutierrez (1824-1904)

Iturbide appointed Jose Antonio Echaverri in charge of the imperial force to attack Santa Anna . Ironically, Echaverri  proved as loyal to Iturbida as Iturbide had been to the Spanish viceroy . Echaverri  joined Santa Annas' forces . On February 1, 1823, Santa Anna and the other members of his movement announced the Plan de Casa Mata.The key points of the plan were that Mexico would become a republic and Catholicism was to be the sole religion of Mexico. Iturbide would not be recognized as emperor . Realizing he no longer had support, Iturbide abdicated his throne in February 1823 and left first to Italy and then went to London .


Santa anna fighting the Spanish at Tampico, 1829, anonymous

Hacienda owner and wife Don Carlos Nebel 1834, Don Carlos Nebel


Colonial Mexico


Modern Mexico