Dan Arellano Hispanic Heritage Month News

The African and Indigenous Contribution to Mexico’s War of Independence

By Dan Arellano Author/Historian
By Dan Arellano
Vicente Guerrero was the first black president in North American (Public Domain)
Vicente Guerrero helped Mexico gain independence from Spain and was the first black president in North America. (Public Domain)

What the Spaniards feared the most after the conquest of Mexico was the uniting of the enslaved Africans and Indigenous Peoples.

In El Grito de Independencia proclaimed by the rogue priest Father Miguel Hidalgo on September 16, 1810, their worst nightmares would become reality. Historians still argue whether it was a call for independence or an act of defiance, after all Hidalgos cry was “Viva El Rey,” Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe.” And who would be the first to respond to his call; the enslaved indigenous, blacks and many liberal creoles. Their battle cry would be “Death to all Spaniards.” As Hidalgo and his 80,000 rag tag army of Indians, Blacks, and Spanish Army deserters marched towards Mexico City they were successful in every encounter mainly because of their huge numbers, unfortunately as the army approached Mexico City, Hidalgo would not allow them to enter and turned back making his biggest blunder of the war. During this campaign Hidalgo would meet the black priest Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon. Morelos would be given an assignment by Hidalgo to go south to Michoacan and to recruit an army, which Morelos accepted.

As the rebel army retreated from Mexico City, a disaster awaited at the Bridge of Calderon. As the battle raged, a wagon loaded with gun powder exploded, killing and maiming hundreds of rebels, creating fear and confusion causing many to flee in terror. Father Hidalgo was now doomed. As he tried to flee with the remnants of his army he would be captured and executed leaving the revolution in the hands of the black priest Jose Maria Morelos Y Pavon. As the revolution continued in the south, Morelos would meet Vicente Guerrero, who was of Spanish, indigenous and black ancestry. Joining the revolution, Guerrero quickly earned promotions for his leadership and bravery on the battlefield. Again another misfortune would occur with the capture and execution of Morelos in 1815. The revolution would rage on for another 6 years now in the hands of the black general, Vicente Guerrero. After years of fighting the political winds of change would bring a different climate to Spain causing the Spanish Royalist General Augustine de Iturbide to switch sides. No one knows why he did so but it was certainly not because of altruistic designs but rather political ambitions. As Iturbide was now fighting against the very soldiers he previously was fighting with, sends word to Guerrero to bring his armies north and to join him since he had seen the errors of his ways and was now fighting for the independence of Mexico. Now Guerrero may have been illiterate but he was no fool and had no faith in Iturbide. Needing more evidence of his intentions Guerrero would wait and continue with his own war in the south. Eventually Guerrero’s own father would be sent with a message from Iturbide that his intentions were honorable and he should come and join him in the revolution. There is now a saying in Mexico where Guerrero responds to his father, who he loved dearly, ‘Mi Patria antes que mi padre,” My country before my father, now the official motto of Guerrero, Mexico.

Eventually Guerrero, now realizing that Iturbide was sincere, brings his army north and united they would finally force the Spanish Government to sign the Treaty of Cordoba. But, it was not yet over.
It seems that as soon as the treaty was signed Iturbide would forget about El Plan de Iguala and the Three Guarantees which called for equality of all Mexican citizens, the establishment of Catholicism and Independence. Crowning himself as Emperor would cause yet another struggle between the liberals and the conservatives resulting in Iturbide being exiled from Mexico. And it would not be until under the administration of the black President Vicente Guerrero in 1829 that Mexico officially abolished slavery forever. Unfortunately all of the credit of the Mexican War of Independence goes to Hidalgo who started his unintentional revolution but it would take the perseverance of two Mexicans of African and indigenous descent, Jose Maria Morelos Y Pavon, Vicente Guerrero and a Creole, Augustine de Iturbide to finally win Mexico’s Independence.

September 15 – October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month and throughout the month Tejano Nation will feature articles written by historian and author Dan Arellano.

About Dan Arellano – Dan Arellano is an historian and author of Tejano Roots, a book about The Battle of Medina, the biggest and bloodiest battle ever fought in Texas.

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