Wars of Independence, 1810-21
The eleven-year period of civil war that marked the Mexican wars of independence was largely a byproduct of the crisis and breakdown of Spanish royal political authority throughout the American colonies. A successful independence movement in the United States had demonstrated the feasibility of a republican alternative to the European crown. For most politically articulate criollos, however, a strong cultural affinity with the mother country, a preference for stability and continuity, and alienation from Mexico's native and poor mestizo populations were significant disincentives to a radical break with the established order. Dissatisfaction with peninsular administrative practices and anti-criollo discrimination at many levels of the colonial government and society were important foci of discontent, but beyond small pockets of radical conspirators, these grievances had not yet spawned a pronounced wave of proindependence criollo sentiment at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The French occupation of Spain and the overthrow of the Iturrigaray junta created a vacuum of legitimacy, as it was no longer clear that the ad hoc peninsular administration represented any authority or interests other than its own. A revolt would no longer necessarily be a challenge to the paternal crown and the faith that it ostensibly defended, but would instead shake off the rule of the increasingly despised gachupines , as the peninsulares were derisively called. It was in this context that a radical criollo parish priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, was able to lead the first truly widespread insurrection for Mexican independence.
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