September 15th

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September 15th
On the night of September 15, 1910, the special envoys stood on the illuminated balconies of the National Palace and watched the fiesta of all fiestas on the Mexican civil calendar:the grito de independencia, the "cry of independence." One hundred years earlier (less a few hours) at dawn on Sunday, September 1810 -- while Napolean's troops were occupying Spain and King FerdinandVII was still in captivity -- Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a fifty-seven-year-old priest from an old family of criollos (Mexican-born Spaniards) had suddenly begun to harangue his parishioners in thesmall town of Dolores in the state of Guanajuato, "seducing them" (according to a chronicle of the time) to rise up in arms - even with stones, slings, sticks or spears - in order to defend theirreligion against the "French heretics" who had occupied Spain since 1808 and now threatened to come over to the Americas.
What Hidalgo intended - and accomplished - was to launch his flock against thehated gachupines (Spaniards born in Spain and living in Mexico) "who had been exploiting the wealth of the Mexican people with the greatest injustice for three hundred years." Within a month, he had beenjoined by more than fifty thousand men, mainly Indians from the poorest levels of society. Attracted by his religious magnetism and by other, less noble motives, these multitudes devastated the citiesof San Miguel, Celaya, and Guanajuato and were on the point of entering Mexico City when Hidalgo ordered them to retreat.
A few months later, in July of 1811, he was tried by the Inquisition,condemned by the civil authorities, and executed. But by then the seed had begun to sprout. It took the form of a long and violent social earthquake, almost without precedent in New Spain or the Americas:the Mexican War of Independence - a truly popular movement led by four hundred armed parish priests - only to be compared in its fury with the uprising of black slaves in Santo Domingo in 1801, and...
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