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16 September 2008

…The Queterero Literary Society wasn’t reading the latest novels or discussing poetry—they were discussing things the Inquisition or viceroy forbade, like the American “Declaration of Independence”, military manuals and French and American revolutionary propaganda. They discussed the best type of government for an independent México, and how they might achieve their ends. They planned an army uprising for October 1810. Don Ignacio Allende and Juan de Aldama, both army officers, were in charge of the plans. The pair had been passed over for promotion both for being honest and for being criollos. The two knew officers throughout the army (criollo, honest, or both) who were willing to act.

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest from the near-by town of Dolores (modern Dolores Hidalgo), had been a popular professor of religion before he was sent to administer a poor, indigenous community. He had friends throughout the clergy. Like the officers, Hidalgo was criollo, not a gachupín. He could not expect a high position in the church, although his talents would have qualified him to be at least a bishop. Hidalgo had been in some trouble with his Spanish-born bishop (he apparently threw wild parties for his students, liked gambling and had fathered children). Sent to Dolores, more or less as punishment, Hidalgo, like Las Casas and Vasco de Quiroga, dedicated himself to his people. A skinny, bald-headed old man with piercing green eyes, he could command an audience; he was an eloquent defender of the poor against the rich and powerful. He could preach; he could open businesses to employ local people (always something of a rebel, Hidalgo openly grew wine grapes and raised silkworms—both forbidden economic activities.); he also started a shoe factory that is still in business today; but he was helpless to stop Spanish officials from abusing the poor.

The society’s less than literary activities were an open secret. Everyone from the viceroy to the local army commander knew what was going on during the literary gatherings. When the local police chief was ordered to arrest Allende and Aldama, he wasn’t sure what to do. He thought it was a plot to trap him. After all, he and his wife were both members of the Literary Society. Not quite trusting his wife and hoping to keep the arrest orders a secret, he locked her in her bedroom. Josephina Ortega de Dominguez was a stout lady if later portraits are any indication, but she wasn’t the typical indolent criollo lady of her time. According to some stories she broke out her window, tied sheets together and mounted a mule to ride off to warn the plotters. More likely, she sent her maid to warn Allende. Allende and Aldama rode over to Dolores to warn Hidalgo. It was 15 September 1810.

Hidalgo stuck a pistol in his belt, rang the church bell in the middle of the night and preached a sermon. Very few of his parishioners could read or write, and a professorial lecture on the American “Declaration of Independence”, or Paine’s Rights of Man wouldn’t mean very much. These people had not argued over the best form of government for an independent México, but they understood Spanish oppression.

Hidalgo hadn’t taught rhetoric for nothing. He gave the sermon of his life. It began with a three-hundred year history of the people’s abuse by the Spanish. Warming up, he accused the Spanish of plotting to turn the church over to French atheists. Historians have never agreed on exactly what Hidalgo told the people that night, but he worked the crowd into a frenzy and turned the congregation into any army by the time he delivered his Grito de Dolores – Shout (or Cry) of Dolores1 – “¡Viva el rey!, ¡Viva México! ¡Mueran los gachupines!” – “Long live the king, long live México, kill the Spaniards!” …

(Yes, Gods, Gachupines and Gringos will be out very shortly.  The review copies are being printed this week.  Advance sales direct from the publisher:  $24.95 US or 295.00 MX

3 Comments leave one →
  1. ... permalink
    16 September 2008 11:26 am

    In Queretaro they say Josefa Ortiz (you wrote Ortega) sent her caballerango (the guy in charge of the stables, I think). They have a statue of him riding like mad.

    Have you read Taibo II’s “El general orejón ese”? It’s right up your alley. A nicely narrated bio of Mariano Escobedo.

  2. 16 September 2008 11:46 am

    Totally explains why my attempt to start a book club went nowhere. Probably should have picked a different name…

  3. javier hernandez permalink
    5 November 2008 11:55 am

    Que herrmoso y poético es hablar cosas limpias y puras de los criollos o gachupines, como si fuera verdad. Ellos igual que todos los seres humanos en sus edades y tiempos tuvieron necesidades, tanto sexuales como económicas, asuntos deshonrosos, corruptos, libido y deseos, simplemente miembros de una sociedad corruptísima, semejante a la que vivimos ahora con los mochos del pan. Hablan de principíos y moral y en lo obscuro dan paso a la verdadera humanidad. Sería grandioso que pudieran referirse a ellos y sus tiempos con la total verdad. Es más las nuevas generaciones vivirian en paz con la conciencia de escuchar la verdad. Hoy día mouriño es mexicano, mañana otro dice lo contrario y muestra pruebas. Unos dicen que pueden con la violencia y prensa y medios testifican que no, sabemos de la corrupcion de elba gordillo y otros lo niegan, se habla del yunque y se ofrecen pruebas y otros dicen que no, el gobierno lo sabe y tiene el poder para sacar es organización de la clandestinidad y no lo hace, la verdad, la verdad. Bueno hasta la mención que el famoso jesus cristo no es el que dicen que es, es solo fantasia y eso lo usan muchos individuos para someter a otros, claro lo que se dejan y los que no buscamos otras alternativas, pero la verdad.

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