SoFiA Part 1 – Miguel Hidalgo

As stated in a former article, I’ll be presenting Stories of Freemasons in America.

The first Freemason I want to present is one of the famous figures in Mexican history and even in today’s Mexico still: Miguel Hidalgo.

Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla

Miguel Hildalgo (full name: Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla y Gallaga Mondarte Villaseñor) was a priest, intellectual, Freemason and a leader of the Mexican War of Independence. He was born 1753 on an Hacienda in Guanajuato and died 1811 in Chihuahua after conviction of the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody expects).

On college in Valladoid, where he studied liberal arts, he got nicknamed “Zorro” because of his ingenuity. He continued studying in Mexico City, where he completed studies in Philosophy and Theology. In 1778 he was ordained, 1785 he became professor for Theology after his return to Valladoid. One month later he already was accused of heresy due to his constant criticism of the church and lost the position as rector. He was appointed parish priest of Colima and arrived at 1792.

This was the time where it gets interesting for us in our SoFiA. He started to read a lot about the developments in Europe and USA. You have to imagine, that the USA were already independent after a war, in 1792 George Washington got reelected president, it was the founding year of the New York Stock Exchange and the US Postal Service. France became a Republic this year after their revolution. All those things he read and also started to intensely study the ideas of the Freemasons.

Foreground: Statue of Hidalgo
Background: Church in Dolores
picture: Paigemorrison/wikimedia.org/cc-by-sa

In 1803, 50 years of age, he was appointed parish priest of Dolores, a name that should enter the chronicles of Mexico. He kept on critisizing the Catholic church and in 1806 joined the Freemasons on a trip to Mexico-City. From there on, things should develop very fast.

In the night to September 16th 1810, he gathered 600 people at the local church and started the movement of liberation, as we know today. The picture above shows a depiction of that scene. In the background you see the church, where all started. On the monument, there is Hidalgo with the standard of the Virgen de Guadeloupe leading the people. Please also note the eagles eating snakes on the bottom of the monument; a reference to the Mexican coat of arms.

Standard of the Virgin of Guadalupe
picture:AlexCovarrubias/wikimedia.org/cc-by-sa

In remembrence of this day and the actions of Hidalgo, nowadays Mexicans celebrate this day and the cry of independence in a big celebration. El Grito de Dolores or El Grito de la Independencia is performed by the president, governors and mayors in whole Mexico. Ringing a bell, they shout three times “Viva Mexico!” which symbolizes the shouting and leading of Miguel Hidalgo. In case of the Palacio Nacional in Mexico-City, the bell is in fact the original bell from the church in Dolores.

The balkony of the National Palace with the bell of Dolores above it

While this celebration of the events of September 15th 1810 is carried out in a rather mythical manner, we have a possibility to read the real words, that Hidalgo spoke to the masses in Dolores. They show us, how his studies and his understanding of the time influenced him to feel, that the time is right to start something big.

My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen by three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once… Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the gachupines!

Gachupin was a derogative expression for Spaniards living in Mexico. Interesting enough, Hidalgo himself was a Gachupin, so to say. He came from a Creole family and was of pure Spanish blood. However, he led Mestizos and Indigenas to the fight for liberty cause of ideas that are higher than any cultural bond. He is today considered Mexico’s father of the nation. It took Mexico a decade of fighting to finally gain official independence from Spain at September 27th 1821.

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