Whether you’re Mexican or not, it helps to know more about the United States’ neighbor to the south. As we gear up to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day, here are some facts that could help each of us look a little more like a history buff.
When is Mexico´s Independence? We wish we didn’t have to break this down, but unfortunately, Mexico’s independence often gets confused with Cinco de Mayo. That is not Mexico’s Independence Day! Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain on September 16, not May 5. May 5 marks Mexico’s underdog victory the Battle of Puebla against the French.
Is Mexico a fairly “new” country? Well, that’s complicated. See, Spain ruled Mexico for almost 300 years. After three centuries of Spanish power and governance, Mexicans rose against the Spanish crown and gained independence. But, it’s only been an “independent” country for a little over 200 years; however, its indigenous groups have inhabited that territory for a very, very long time. Although it’s a fairly “new” country known as “Mexico,” its history is rich with pre-historic traditions, language, culture, and wisdom from the “old” world.
Who was the army that defeated the Spanish troops? Those who fought against the Spanish army for Mexico’s independence were not trained soldiers, but rather ordinary people whose strong desire for a drastic change in the hierarchal power structure made it possible to triumph against the Spanish crown. The “army” that fought against the crown were known as “the insurgents” and represented all groups of Mexico of the time. Although the Mexican “army” was not composed of trained soldiers, they defeated the Spanish “royalists.” It helped that the Spanish viceroy in Mexico lacked money, and other provisions as a consequence of Napoleon’s occupation of Spain.
Was the leader of the Mexican fighters a strong Mexican leader? Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s parents were Spanish, but he was born in Mexico. He wasn’t a general by training either, but rather a priest who chose to revolt against the Spanish army and court and in favor of a more “equitable” society and power structure. His role as the priest in the town of Hidalgo and his popularity with the people led him to the idea of revolting against the Spanish’s power and authority. He was part of the “criollos” group; Mexico-born Spanish who didn’t have the same rights as the Spanish in the “new” world. He believed “criollos” and others should have equal rights in society and decided to fight for those ideals.
Was this fight for independence the first sign that citizens wanted to be free of Spanish rule? Although the war for independence formally began in 1810, there had been demonstrations of people across the country expressing their opposition to the existence of the Spanish hierarchal power in Mexico during its colonial period and expressing their dissatisfaction with Napoleon’s occupation of Spain. What many folks might not know is that, technically, the unofficial opposition began two years prior to 1810 with frequent interruptions in the “new” world and back in Spain against the new rulers. Economic and political turmoil caused Mexicans to become increasingly dissatisfied with Spanish crown and accelerated their desire to become independent.