Historically Speaking

Dies y Seis: Many reasons to celebrate


Celebrations abound on both sides of the US/Mexican border each September 16th. For Mexico the date marks Independence Day. In the US it coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15). Of importance to Texas, the event marked a step closer for Texas’ independence from Mexico; and for humanity, it marked the end of organized social injustice at the hands of European leadership.

Spain ruled Mexico with an iron fist since their arrival in the New World in the early 16th century. Hernan Cortes annihilated the native Aztec empire, claimed the land for the crown and a legal racial caste system was initiated to determine how high in society one could go. European-born Spaniards were given dominance, Spaniards born in the newly conquered territory (Criollos) were looked upon as secondhand citizens; and the devaluation went down from there according to racial mix.

Three hundred years later, in a town called Dolores in central Mexico, a Catholic priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was secretly priming his parishioners for a revolt against the tyrannical rule. When he learned that the Spaniards had been made aware of his activities, his hand was forced. On the eve of September 16, 1810, he rallied his parishioners and delivered the call to action now known as the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores). Hidalgo affixed an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe to a staff to symbolize the liberation movement and launched the Mexican War of Independence against Spain. With an army comprised of thousands of Indians and mestizos he marched towards the capital and defeated the Royalist army on several fronts. A defeat suffered in January of 1811, caused the loss of much of his army and he retreated to the north hoping to reach the United States to regroup. Hidalgo was captured, tried and executed as a traitor. Although he did not live to see Mexico freed from Spanish rule, he is considered the Father of Mexican Independence and September 16th is recognized as the Day of Independence for Mexico.

The war lasted over 10 years. It officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba on August 24, 1821, which approved a plan to make Mexico an independent constitutional monarchy.

Texas adopted its Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. The signed document allowed settlers in Mexican Texas to officially declare independence from Mexico and to create the Republic of Texas.

The Emancipation Proclamation issued by “Retablo de la Independencia” by Juan O’Gorman (1960-61), in the National History Museum, Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City. This is a portion of a mural painted by Mexican architect and painter Juan O’Gorman depicting Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla delivering the “Grito” and the varied players in the war for Mexican independence. The mural had initially been commissioned to Diego Rivera. Rivera, a friend of O’Gorman, died before he could begin the project. O’Gorman’s work can also be seen on the façade of the Lila Cockrell Theater on the HemisFair grounds in San Antonio, Texas. The mosaic entitled “Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas” was commissioned for the World’s Fair of 1968 known as HemisFair.

Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 also ended an era of social injustice in the United States.

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING is written by Atascosa County Historic Preservation Officer, Marie Levy, on behalf of the Atascosa County Historical Commission. If you have history to share, you may contact her at 210-846-1728.

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