Mexico is the northernmost country of Latin America. It lies just south of the United States. The Rio Grande forms about two-thirds of the boundary between Mexico and the United States. Among all the countries of the Western Hemisphere, only the United States and Brazil have more people than Mexico. Mexico City is the capital and largest city of Mexico. It also is one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas in population.
Hundreds of years ago, the Indians of Mexico built large cities, developed a calendar, invented a counting system and used a form of writing. The last Indian empire in Mexico, the Aztec, fell to Spanish invaders in 1521. For the next 300 years, Mexico was a Spanish colony. The Spaniards took Mexico’s riches, but they also introduced many changes in farming, government, industry and religion. The descendants of the Spaniards became Mexico’s ruling class. The Indians remained poor and uneducated.
During the Spanish colonial period, a third group of people developed in Mexico. These people, who had both Indian and white ancestors, became known as Mestizos. Today, the great majority of Mexicans are Mestizos, and they generally take great pride in their Indian ancestry. A number of government programs stress the Indian role in Mexican culture. In 1949, the government made an Indian the symbol of Mexican nationality.
The war for independence is sometimes considered a revolutionary war. It is not, however. The war for independence was fought to end colonial rule. The war was based on politics and a separation of powers. In this essay I will start from the rising discontentment amongst the indigenous population and how the higher ranking classes exploited their failures for their own societal class gain in a system where they have always been favored more by societal leaders.
Once New Spain settled in its new territory, inner cores were created as part of the system. New Spain, from now on, would be under direction of the mother country Spain. Its colonial system would be entrenched in the new colony and therefore, its economy would strive to gain profit and make Spain richer and stronger. The economy was based on agriculture, ranching, mining, industry, and commerce. The majority of labor that would go into doing these jobs would be from the indigenous people, or “Indians”. Although some “Indians” were paid decent wages, most were treated unfairly or poorly. They worked long, hard hours. While working in the mines, the “Indians” would suffer from the dust and fumes inhaled in the damp, dark shafts. Countless “Indians” died from having worked there.
The ranching industry in the north would gain most of its production from the cultivation of large amounts of livestock through labor from the “Indians”. Haciendas, with again the labor of “Indians”, would provide throughout New Spain agricultural needs such as fruits, vegetables, and grains introduced by the Spaniards. “Without slaves and forced labor, who was to carry out the necessary takes of labor?” (Leone, B, 1996). The answer would be the “Indians”. They would go on to build New Spain’s lower aspect of the economy. Soon after many other resisting “Indians” gave in to their new occupant’s demands for labor and started to work for them. Shortly thereafter, some “Indians” found refuge.
During the earlier years of conquest, the colonial church was still in-tact. The church organization had created two distinct branches, secular and regular clergy. This would then spread around the word of Christianity to save souls. By assimilating this belief into the population of the “Indians”, the “Indians” would then get acculturated into thinking their way of living was evil and to abandon their beliefs and always praise the lord. As a result, many “Indians” found shelter in the hands of their newfound religion and the guidance of their priests.
There were frequent disputes between the friars and the priests who would argue in favor of the “Indians” to the Spaniards describing the poor treatment to the “Indians”. At times disputes would end in violence which would ripple throughout other areas in Mexico. Although there were restrictions in the organization of the church which kept “Indians” from converting, the main one was the Inquisition. Under the rule of Spain, churches were to investigate culprits who didn’t follow the rules and such culprits were given a hefty punishment. This would keep many on their toes. Many “Indians” were still secure in their new religion but found it hard to deal.
“Indians” were always to remain at the bottom of the social status. Actually, Indian women and children were to be the last ones to be recognized, or were not recognized at all. Mestizos, those of “Indian” descent and another race, were the next level up. Those born in Mexico but of full-blooded Spanish descent were called Criollos. The highest of all would be the Spaniards. In this structure of power and rank, the only way for one to rise to the top would be through the military. Otherwise, if you were born “Indian”, you were destined to be a laborer. If one was lucky enough to become a priest or a member of the church, becoming educated would be a better way to climb into politics and gain knowledge.
With the economy in the mother country, Spain, in shambles due to wars, Spain decided they would look towards their colonies in search of financial benefit. “The Spanish would borrow heavily from individuals and institutions in the colony to pay for its involvement in European conflicts” (Stefoff, R, 1993). This made many upset, but it would not cause the “Indians” to revolt until the reform of the church occurred. Spain ordered the expulsion of the Jesuits, who helped in educating and converting many “Indians”. The Criollos, who were educated by the “Indians”, became angered as well. It was true that “dependency of the colonists to the mother country remained a fundamental tenet of the imperial system.”
Soon the change had begun to grow increasingly upsetting to many. The rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer. As for the Criollos, who were second to Spaniards in New Spain, they were the first to bring up the idea of independence from the throne after the Mulattos overthrew the powers in Haiti. So they decided to follow in the Haitians footsteps while maintaining the same social structure that was already in place. Soon race wars between dark-skinned “Indians” and light-skinned Criollos and Gachupins would bring upon rebellions against each other. Soon after the colonies got word of Spain’s defeat by the French, the colonies sought to gain freedom from Spain. The Viceroy Jose de Iturrigaray was forcibly taken out of his palace and sent to Spain where Peter Garibay would take his place. This would result in more confusion in New Spain. Officials in Mexico City would here of conspiracies to overthrow the government but once they heard of one in Queretaro, they would come in contact with a growing attack.
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (Hidalgo) is known as one of the main leaders who guided the peasants, “Indians”, to independence from Spanish rule. He was of Criollo descent and studied at the Jesuits College and became a priest in 1778. He came into contact with a few others and organized a plan to battle for independence. The plot leaked out and information came to Hidalgo that Mexico City knew about his plan. On September 13, 1810, although the intended date was December 8, he gave his Grito de Dolores speech to the “Indians” and Mestizos for the start of independence. His attack on San Miguel was swift to the point where it was uncontrollable. Days later, after the hysteria calmed down, more battles broke in other areas. His quest would lead him to towards the hills looking down towards the capital. What happened next, says the text, is that once they decided to retreat and leave, they were soon caught by officials of Mexico City. Hidalgo was executed for his actions on July 31 the following year.
Criollos would recognize the failed effort as what Hidalgo had put into the fight for independence. Soon after congress formally declared independence and issued several series of principles that should be incorporated into a new constitution such as; slavery and all caste systems should be abolished and all judicial torture should be abolished. The independence was not fully established until the Plan de Iguala came into effect through Lieutenant Augustin de Iturbide.
Following the wars of Independence, the military would be very much involved in the political processes of government. More civil wars and national wars would occur throughout Mexico in the years following their break from Spain. The Mexican identity myth would arise from a social contentment that what the “people” or “Indians” would like to be referred to as once New Spain found its country’s name, Mexico. Nothing changed once the country became independent, in terms of social status. The “Indians” and Mestizos still remained as the lower classes in the societal hierarchy.
Leone, B. (1996). The Mexican War for Independence. : Lucent Books.
Lone Star Internet: The Mexican War. Retrieved December 20, 2004, from http://www.lnstar.com/mall/texasinfo/mexicow.htm
Mexiconline.com. Mexico History. Retrieved December 20, 2004 from http://www.mexonline.com/history.htm
Stefoff, R. (1993). Independence & Revolution in Mexico. : Facts on File.
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Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia: Mexican War for Independence. Retrieved December 28, 2004, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_War_of_Independence