Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla
Birthday: May 8, 1753
Died At Age: 58
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Don Miguel Gregorio Antonio Francisco Ignacio Hidalgo-Costilla y Gallaga Mandarte Villaseñor, Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla or Miguel Hidalgo
Born Country: Mexico
Born in: Corralejo de Hidalgo, Mexico
Famous as: Priest
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
father: Cristóbal Hidalgo
mother: Ana María Gallaga
Died on: July 30, 1811
place of death: Chihuahua, Mexico
Cause of Death: Execution
education: Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo
Don Miguel Gregorio Antonio Francisco Ignacio Hidalgo-Costilla y Gallaga Mandarte Villaseñor, popularly known as Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla or Miguel Hidalgo, was a Mexican Roman Catholic priest who served as one of the leaders of the Mexican War of Independence. He taught at the Colegio de San Nicolás Obispo in Valladolid before he was sacked in 1792. He worked at a church in Colima and then in Dolores. He was surprised to find the soil to be fertile in Dolores and reached out to the poor people to teach them how to harvest olives and grapes. However, at the time, farming such crops was not allowed in New Spain (modern Mexico) by the authorities, as they were imported from Spain. In 1810, he delivered his famous speech, "Cry of Dolores”. In the ensuing months, he travelled across Mexico and accumulated an army of about 90,000 poor farmers and Mexican civilians. After encountering some initial success, his troops suffered a drastic defeat at the Battle of Calderón Bridge. Hidalgo was subsequently arrested and executed.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on May 8, 1753, in Pénjamo, Viceroyalty of New Spain (modern-day Guanajuato, Mexico), Hidalgo was the second child of Don Cristóbal Hidalgo y Costilla and Doña Ana María Gallaga Mandarte Villaseñor.
He hailed from the Criollo community from both sides of his family. His father served as a hacienda manager in Valladolid, Michoacán, which was Hidalgo’s home for most of his life.
He grew up with three brothers: José Joaquín, Manuel Mariano, and José María. After his mother’s death, his father remarried, and Hidalgo subsequently had a stepbrother named Mariano.
Hidalgo’s father wanted him and his brother Joaquín both to embrace priesthood and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Being wealthy, he could afford to provide his children with the best education available in the region.
Hidalgo possibly was instructed privately by the priest of the neighbouring parish before he attended the Colegio de San Francisco Javier with the Jesuits in Valladolid (now Morelia), Michoacán. His brothers also studied there.
Following the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, he joined the Colegio de San Nicolás, pursuing a degree in priesthood.
In 1770, he finished preparatory education and enrolled at the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico in Mexico City, from where he obtained his degrees in philosophy and theology in 1773. In 1778, at the age of 25, he became a priest.
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Hidalgo began his career in 1779 as a teacher of Latin grammar and arts and theology at the Colegio de San Nicolás Obispo in Valladolid (now Morelia). In 1787, he was made the treasurer, vice-rector and secretary. Three years later, he was appointed dean at the age of 39. However, he was fired in 1792 due to his alternations of traditional teaching methods, as well as "irregular handling of some funds".
In the following decade, Hidalgo served at the parishes of Colima and San Felipe Torres Mochas. In 1802, he was made the parish priest in Dolores, Guanajuato, and arrived there in 1803.
Within a few months, he designated most of his clerical duties to one of his vicars, Fr. Francisco Iglesias, and began working to elevate the financial condition of the poor and rural people in his area.
He extensively studied literature, scientific works, grape cultivation, and the raising of silkworms and utilized the knowledge to open factories. He also taught indigenous people how to make leather and spoke about the benefits of beekeeping.
He aimed to turn the Indians and mestizos more self-sufficient and independent from Spanish economic policies. However, his actions were seen as direct violations of the policies created to safeguard agriculture and industry in Spain, and Hidalgo received instructions telling him to stop doing them. These policies, along with the exploitation of mixed-race castas, made Hidalgo resentful of the Peninsular-born Spaniards in Mexico.
Fight against the Spanish Government
In 1808, following the French invasion of Spain, Napoleon I replaced Ferdinand VII with his brother Joseph Bonaparte.
The Spanish government in Mexico did not demonstrate much opposition against this transition, but many Mexicans participated in various secret societies, some of which were supportive of Ferdinand, while others wanted independence from Spain. Hidalgo was part of a pro-independence group in San Miguel (present-day San Miguel de Allende), located close to Dolores.
When the plot became known to the Spanish, several members were apprehended. His well-wishers urged him to go into hiding. Instead, he decided to take action without any haste. On September 16, 1810, he issued a call to parishioners in Dolores by ringing the church bell.
In the subsequent gathering, he declared his intention of starting an insurrection against the Spanish. In his speech, he not just called for a revolution, but he also demanded racial equality and redistribution of land. This has gone down in history as the Grito de Dolores (“Cry of Dolores”).
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The insurrection initially started as a movement for independence but ultimately transformed into a social and economic struggle of the masses against the upper classes.
Hidalgo led a march, attended by thousands of Indians and mestizos, from Dolores under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe. With the help of his followers, he took control of the city of Guanajuato, as well as several other major cities in the west of Mexico City.
It was not long before the group reached the capital, but due to Hidalgo’s indecision, they lost the chance to topple the government. His followers vanished, and there was widespread fear among the royalists and other groups of people of the possibility of social upheaval which led to the suppression of the revolt.
On January 17, 1811, Hidalgo and his forces suffered a decisive defeat at the Battle of Calderón Bridge, which was fought on the banks of the Calderón River 60 km (37 mi) east of Guadalajara. This compelled Hidalgo to escape towards Aguascalientes. He was subsequently forced to step down from his position as the military commander of the revolutionary forces but remained their political leader.
Hidalgo was ultimately betrayed. On March 21, 1811, he was arrested by royalist Ignacio Elizondo at the Wells of Baján and sent to Chihuahua.
Family & Personal Life
Disregarding his vow of chastity, Hidalgo had sexual relationships with at least four women and fathered several children. From his relationship with Manuela Ramos Pichardo, he was the father of two children.
He had one child with Bibiana Lucero. Later, he resided together with María Manuela Herrera. They were not married but were parents of two children. He also had three other children with Josefa Quintana.
These liaisons led to his trial at the Court of the Inquisition, though he was ultimately exonerated. An ardent egalitarian, he welcomed Indians and mestizos as well as creoles in his house during his time as a parish priest in both San Felipe and Dolores.
Death & Legacy
In July 1811, Hidalgo was handed over to the bishop of Durango, Francisco Gabriel de Olivares, for a formal defrocking and excommunication. He was convicted in a military court of treason and sentenced to death. His hands were flayed to symbolically wipe out the chrism that he received there at his priestly ordination. He was executed on July 30, 1811, though the manner of it is unknown.
For his contribution to the Mexican struggle for independence, Hidalgo is considered as the country’s “Father of the Nation”. Two dates are celebrated as the Mexican Independence Day: 16 September, the day on which Hidalgo delivered his Grito de Dolores speech in 1810, and 27 September, when Agustin de Iturbide took control of the Mexico City in 1821.