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Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla

Hidalgo y Costilla, Miguel (mēgĕlˈ ēħälˈgō ē kōstēˈyä) [key], 1753–1811, Mexican priest and revolutionary, a national hero. A creole intellectual, he was influenced by the French Revolution. As parish priest of the village of Dolores, Hidalgo attempted to improve the lot of the natives. Under his direction the indigenous peoples set out olive groves and vineyards, built a porcelain factory, engaged in the silk industry, and began other forbidden projects. As a result he antagonized the government and was also brought before the Inquisition to be tried for heresy, but the case was suspended.

When Napoleon invaded Spain and captured Ferdinand VII, the aftermath in Mexico, as in other South American countries, was the birth of separatist movements. Hidalgo was one of a group of creoles who met at Querétaro and planned a revolution. The plot was soon discovered, but he took a bold step and openly adopted the cause of independence. On Sept. 16, 1810, he issued the Grito de Dolores [cry of Dolores], launching the revolt against Spain. Hidalgo gathered an immense army of local Indians. With the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe (see Guadalupe Hidalgo) as his standard, he injected religious zeal into the insurrection, but the Indians' cry for freedom and land was just as fervent. Ignacio Allende and other creole officers who had taken part in the conspiracy now brought colonial militia into Hidalgo's ranks, and certain radical creoles also joined. The church and the landowning creoles remained hostile.

Success attended Hidalgo's ill-organized army: Guanajuato, Guadalajara, and Valladolid fell to the revolutionaries, and they set out for Mexico City. They defeated a royalist force at Monte de los Cruces (Oct. 30, 1810) but did not pursue their victory. Rather, on Hidalgo's orders, the insurgents turned away from the capital and, retiring northwestward, were routed at Aculco. At Guadalajara, Hidalgo reorganized the army that was sent forth only to be crushed by Calleja del Rey, the royalist general, at Calderón Bridge (Jan. 17, 1811). Hidalgo, Allende, and the other leaders made their way north, hoping to reach the United States, but were betrayed and captured. Hidalgo, after being degraded (defrocked) by the Inquisition, was shot. His schemes for social reform, exemplified in the emancipation of slaves, the cessation of the tribute tax, and the return of the land to the indigenous Indians, had come to nothing, but the war for Mexican independence continued; leadership of the movement was passed on to Morelos y Pavón.

See studies by H. Hamill (1966), J. A. Canuso (1967), and A. H. Noll (1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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