Spanish America against Napoleon
More than a few people in Spain's colonies were influenced by the Enlightenment and the American and French revolutions, and among them was a growing dislike of Spain's restrictions over economic matters. There were restrictions on trading with foreigners, restrictions against growing crops that would compete with crops grown inSpain, and restrictions on making goods that would compete with goods made in Spain. Taxes imposed by Spanish authorities were also annoying. People of Spanish heritage born in Latin America were not participating in government the way that people of British heritage had been in Britain's colonies. Criólles (those born in America claiming pure Spanish blood) were living under the more authoritariantradition of the Spaniards. The Church and its Inquisition were dominated by Spaniards. So too was the military in Latin America. The families of Spain's officials enjoyed their authority and higher status. They were haughty toward the Criolles as well as toward Indians, and the Criolles resented it. Many of them had a non-white in their family sometime in the 200 years since the Europeans hadarrived in the New World, while people born in Spain prided themselves on their purity.
A turning point for Latin America was Napoleon's move into Spain and Portugal. From 1808 to 1814, Napoleon held Spain's king, Ferdinand VII, captive. With this, to the Criollos, Spanish authorities in Latin America appeared to be agents of the French. Criollo of both liberal and conservative persuasion formedcommittees (juntas) that declared their loyalty to King Ferdinand - believed by some to be their divinely chosen authority. On May 25, 1810 a junta in Argentina claimed rule on behalf of Ferdinand VII. A junta in Santiago (Chile) declared independence on September 18, 1810, and in Acuncion (Paraguay) independence was declared on May 14, 1811. A junta in Caracas (Venezuela) declared independence onJuly 5, 1811, and independence was declared also in La Paz (Bolivia) and in New Grenada (Colombia). And fighting erupted between Spanish authorities in Latin America and those associated with the juntas.
Hildago and Morelos in New Spain (Mexico)
In Mexico City - the administrative center of New Spain - a Criollo junta declared for Ferdinand VII and independence. New Spain extended from Panama inthe south to the territories of Alto California, Nuevo Mexico and Texas in the north (Nuevo Mexico including territory between Texas and Alto California as far north as what eventually would be called Wyoming). New Spain had a population of around 1.2 million whites, 2 million mestizos (part Indian, part white), 4 million Indians (about a million more than a century and a half earlier but down from15 million at the time of Cortez), and there were some blacks on the Caribbean coast. The Criollos were interested in maintaining their property and status vis-à-vis Mexico's vast numbers of Indians and mestizos.
A sixty-year-old Criollo priest, Miguel Hidalgo, had a more radical response to events. Hidalgo was an intellectual who had drawn from the Enlightenment, and he dismissed popular notionsconcerning race. Hidalgo had been fighting for the well-being of Mexico's Indians and Mestizos, including a call for the return of lands stolen from the Indians. Pursuing this in the wake of the more conservative independence movement in Mexico City, he organized an uprising for December 8, 1810. Then, in the early morning of September 15 at the village of Dolores (110 miles northwest of MexicoCity), Hidalgo was warned that Spanish authorities in the nearby town of Querétaro had learned of his plans and were sending a force against him. Hidalgo rang his church bell, calling his Indian and Mestizo followers to action. And, according to reports, he shouted:
Long live Ferdinand VII! Long live religion! Death to bad government!
Hidalgo's followers, with their farm tools as weapons,...