Viva México!, Long Live San Miguel de Allende, City of the Conspiracy!
“The time of our emancipation has come. This is the time for our freedom, and if you value freedom, you will help me to defend it from the Spanish rule. Today, you will see me heading an army made up of those who love their freedom. I invite you to fulfill your duty.”
According to Mexican history, this is a fragment of Hidalgo’s speech before the multitude on September 15, 1810.
Long live religion! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe! Long Live Fernando VII, and death to the bad government!
These are other phrases Hidalgo could have used to exhort the insurgents to fight for their independence.
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
The biggest Mexican fiesta takes place on September 15. This is a party that is celebrated in a special way in San Miguel de Allende—the first village handed over to the insurrection army on September 16, 1810, without any bloodshed—with plays, civic ceremonies, parades, pedestrian races, lots of fireworks, and the traditional and vibrant call, “Viva México!” All of this is combined with the sound of bells, music, and the happiness of the crowd.
New Spain’s (México’s) war of independence physically started on Sunday, September 15, 1810. However, the conspiracy meetings of those not in agreement with the Spanish government had been taking place for years before in cities like Xalapa, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Valladolid (now Morelia), Querétaro, and San Miguel de Allende, where the house of conspiracies is preserved and protected by the National Institute of Anthropology and History.
After the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in 1808 and the imprisonment of King Carlos IV and his son Fernando VII (to whom his father had ceded the throne) creoles (children of Spanish parents but born in Mexico) all over New Spain started organizing meetings to plan independence from Spain. They did not want to be under French rule, and besides, they were tired of the Spanish occupying key positions in the government, leaving the less important ones to them.
The conspiracy meeting that did succeed took place at the village of San Miguel el Grande, which had local members, including Ignacio Allende (general of the Dragones de la Reina army), Francisco de Lanzagorta, Juan de Umarán, Juan and Ignacio Aldama, and Luis Malo, among others. Later, the members of this meeting invited new members, such as Miguel Domínguez, the corregidor (a kind of magistrate appointed by the viceroy of New Spain for Querétaro) and his wife Josefa Ortiz, as well as Miguel Hidalgo, who was a priest in the community of Dolores. Some of the conspiracy meetings in San Miguel were held on the second story of the house situated on Relox at the corner of the Plaza Principal. There the conspirators used to conceal their meetings with private parties. They planned the start of the fight for independence on December 8, 1810, during the celebration of our Lady of San Juan in San Juan de los Lagos. On that date, there many people were attending the celebration, and the conspirators could attract them to the insurgent cause. Unfortunately, the plan was uncovered, and they had to start the war on Sunday, September 15, 1810.
The path from Dolores to San Miguel
Eleazar Romero, from the “Tradicionalistas” (a group devoted to preserve San Miguel traditions), told Atención that the viceroy knew that Ignacio Allende was involved in conspiracy meetings. He commanded Narciso María Loreto de la Canal, commander of the Dragones de la Reina army, to arrest Allende. Allende knew about this, but he was friend of de la Canal, who did not arrest him. Canal was also in agreement with the war of independence. According to Romero, Allende freely participated in the procession of the celebration in honor of Our Lady of Loreto, who was the Grand Patroness of San Miguel. This was one of the most important events in the small town; the yearly celebration took place on September 8 with a major procession through the main streets.
Later, on September 15, the vice-regal authorities started arresting the conspirators, but Josefa Ortiz (the corregidora) had time to deliver a message to Allende via Ignacio Pérez, who arrived in San Miguel on horseback during the night looking for Allende—who was in Dolores during the celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows. Perez did not find him, so he handed over the message to Juan Aldama, who rode to Dolores and informed Allende and Hidalgo that the conspiracy had been uncovered. “…We are lost, and there is not another option than to go and kill the gachupines (Spaniards),” said Hidalgo, who was trusted as the priest of the area. Hidalgo rang the bell, the crowd gathered, and he invited them to fight for their freedom. He also released the imprisoned. The crowd joined the insurgents armed with stones, sticks, and machetes and launched their journey to independence.
Our Lady of Guadalupe was a major emblem of the war because on their way to San Miguel, the insurgents walked through Atotonilco, where the chaplain gave Hidalgo a banner bearing an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The rebels continued their march toward San Miguel. The Spanish in San Miguel who were against the war heard about the danger and looked for refuge in the current city hall building, commanding Narciso de la Canal to protect them.
Romero says that Hidalgo allowed the insurgents to steal and commit vandalism during the war to get valuables “because they had never had access to luxuries.” However, they did not commit any crimes in San Miguel because Hidalgo was a very serious and respected soldier. According to historian Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach, when the multitude that followed Hidalgo entered the village, “the mob gathered and opened the door of the store owned by don Francisco de Landeta (today La Coronela) and sacked it,” as well as another store owned by the Lambarri family. Allende, according to Jiménez, “disbanded the mob with a whip, and they retreated. Shortly after 10pm, everything was calm.”
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