Every year, on the night of September 15th, as part of a civic ceremony popularly known as “El Grito,” Mexicans commemorate the movement that initiated their struggle for independence.
During this ceremony, the call made by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the priest of the town of Dolores, in the early hours of September 16, 1810, to rise up in arms and fight against the colonial government, is reenacted. This struggle evolved into a protracted war for independence, finally achieved on September 27, 1821, ending three centuries of colonial rule imposed by the Spanish Crown since the heroic defense of Cuauhtémoc in Tlatelolco on August 13, 1521, when it fell into the hands of Hernán Cortés.
The intellectual underpinnings of this movement lie in the influence of the Enlightenment and the revolutionary spirit of France. Miguel Hidalgo, an enlightened thinker, was inspired by French thought and the Revolution of 1789, leading him to take up arms against Spanish absolutism. This influence is evident in the foundational documents of the insurgency, from the “Sentimientos de la Nación” to the Constitution of 1814. While this perspective prevails in the media, it has been discarded in academic circles for at least three decades.
Comparing the independence movements of different countries, let’s take the examples of the United States and Mexico. Both shared the goal of independence but faced significant differences and obstacles. The American War of Independence saw relatively little bloody combat, with the British Crown quickly recognizing independence to focus on other territories. In contrast, Mexico’s struggle required over a decade of warfare, resulting in a high death toll, and Spain strongly resisted granting independence. Further- more, while the early U.S. government thrived economically by selling land to settlers, the newly independent Mexican government faced financial troubles, debts, and a lack of resources. This was emphasized by historian Josefina Zo- raida Vázquez in an academic event moderated by Javier Garciadiego at El Colegio Nacional, titled “Revolutions in Mexican History and Independence in the Americas.”
As we reflect on the significance of these historical events, it becomes evident that the legacy of independence is not just a celebration of a distant past but a continued source of inspiration for modern societies striving for self-governance and equality. The insights offered by historians like Josefina Zoraida Vázquez prompt us to critically examine our under- standing of these movements and their enduring relevance. Ultimately, the annual commemoration of “El Grito” bridges the gap between past and present, fostering a deeper ap- preciation for the sacrifices made.
Comparing the journeys of nations towards independence, the contrasting paths of the United States and Mexico shed light on the diverse challenges faced by those seeking to break free from colonial dominance. While the former encountered relatively smoother negotiations and a flourishing economy, the latter endured a prolonged, arduous struggle marked by sacrifice and loss.
The annual commemoration of Mexico’s struggle for inde- pendence on September 15th, known as “El Grito,” serves as a reminder of the valor and determination of its people in seek- ing freedom from colonial rule. The reenactment of Miguel Hidalgo’s call to arms encapsulates the spirit of that pivotal moment in history when the fight for self-determination was ignited. The juxtaposition of the intellectual inspirations be- hind the movement, drawing from Enlightenment ideals and the revolutionary fervor of France, underscores the complex- ity and depth of thought that fueled the desire for autonomy.