War of Independence

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Editors: Jay Kinsbruner and Erick D. Langer
Date: 2008
Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons
Document Type: Topic overview
Length: 496 words
Content Level: (Level 5)
Lexile Measure: 1360L

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War of Independence

This struggle followed the September 1808 overthrow of Viceroy José de Iturrigaray and culminated in Mexico's final liberation from Spain thirteen years later. In the wake of disruptive plots and conspiracies, the denunciation of the Querétaro conspiracy forced Father Miguel Hidalgo to launch his rebellion on September 16, 1810. For the first weeks, the rebels appeared invincible as enormous numbers of Indians and mestizos joined to pillage royalist properties. Following the fall of the Alhóndiga in Guanajuato (September 28, 1810) and atrocities directed against the elites elsewhere, most Mexican Creoles understandably supported the royalist side. Although Page 563  |  Top of ArticleHidalgo protested Spanish governance, the motives of peasants and indigenous communities are less clear. Some studies have examined how the Bourbon reforms of the eighteenth century threatened local community identity and culture, whereas others have examined how population pressures created tension and frustration with the colonial system. Moreover, the causes of revolt varied greatly based on individual and communal grievances.

The uprising caught the army of New Spain by surprise, and some units in the rebellious regions joined Hidalgo. At San Luis Potosí, Félix Calleja formed the royalist Army of the Center. This force dispersed the rebels at the battles of Aculco (November 7, 1810), Guanajuato (November 25, 1810), and Puente de Calderón (January 17, 1811). However, even prior to the capture and execution of Hidalgo and his leadership, the rebellion had expanded and become a multicentered guerrilla war. Despite the implementation of effective counterin-surgency programs and the militarization of Mexican society, the royalists found themselves bogged down in a war they could not win.

In 1812, Calleja's army marched out of the Bajío provinces north ofMexico City to confront the insurgents of José María Morelos. Although Morelos was defeated at the siege of Cuautla, he reorganized his forces, expanded the rebellion from Acapulco to Veracruz, and occupied the province of Oaxaca. In 1815, after a failed assault on Valladolid, Morelia, Morelos was captured, tried, and executed. His movement was more successful than that of Hidalgo in actually declaring independence, forming a congress, and writing the 1814 Constitution of Apatzingán.

Although many historians have argued that by 1815 the revolt had declined into common banditry, entrenched guerrilla war continued. In Veracruz province, the mountainous regions southwest of the capital, and in other isolated districts, the royalists occupied urban centers but lost control of the countryside except during sweeps by powerful divisions. Calleja's counterinsurgency program to mobilize the population in order to free the army for campaigns against insurgent centers, drained Mexico of funds and manpower. Gradually, the war exhausted both sides and fragmented the centralized viceroyalty. The restoration of the Spanish Constitution in 1820 was interpreted by Mexicans as a prohibition of local taxation for military support. As the militias disbanded, Agustín de Iturbide issued the Plan of Iguala and attracted both royalists and insurgents into the Army of the Three Guarantees. After eleven years of war, the royalists collapsed, and Iturbide's army entered Mexico City on September 27, 1821.


Lucas Alamán, Historia de México desde los primeros movimientos que prepararon su independencia en el año de 1808 hasta la época presente, 5 vols. (1849–1852; repr. 1942).

Timothy E. Anna, The Fall of the Royal Government in Mexico City (1978).

Brian R. Hamnett, Roots of Insurgency: Mexican Regions, 1750–1824 (1986).

John Lynch, The Spanish American Revolutions, 1808–1826, 2d ed. (1986).

Jaime E. Rodríguez O., ed., The Independence of Mexico and the Creation of the New Nation (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Archer, Christon I. The Birth of Modern Mexico, 1780–1824. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2003.

Guarisco, Claudia. Los indios del valle de México y la construcción de una nueva sociabilidad política, 1770–1835. Zincantepec, Mexico: Colegio Mexiquense, 2003.

Herrero Bervera, Carlos. Revuelta, rebelión y revolución en 1810: Historia social y estudios de caso. Mexico: Centro de Estudios Históricos Internacionales, 2001.

Van Young, Eric. The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle for Independence, 1810–1821. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

                              CHRISTON I. ARCHER

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3078903631