Father Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla Urges His Congregation To Fight For Mexican Independence

Early on the morning of September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla summoned the largely Indian and mestizo congregation of his small Dolores parish church and urged them to take up arms and fight for Mexico's independence from Spain.

His El Grito de Dolores, or Cry of Dolores, which was spoken—not written—is commemorated on September 16 as Mexican Independence Day.

Father Hidalgo was born into a moderately wealthy family in the city of Guanajuato, northwest of Mexico City, in 1753. He attended the Jesuit College of San Francisco Javier, received a bachelor's degree from the University of Mexico in 1774, and was ordained into the priesthood in 1778. He soon earned the enmity of the authorities, however, by openly challenging both church doctrine and aspects of Spanish rule by developing Mexican agriculture and industry.

In 1803, Hidalgo accepted the curacy of the small parish of Dolores, not far from his native city of Guanajuato. Between 1803 and 1810, he directed most of his energy to improving the economic prospects of his parishioners. He also joined the Academia Literaria, a committee seeking Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Hidalgo and several educated criollos were involved in a planned revolt against the Spanish colonial government, and when the plotters were betrayed, he declared that war should be waged against the Spaniards. Just before the dawn of September 16, 1810, Hidalgo ordered the church bells to be rung and gathered his congregation. Flanked by Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama, he addressed the people in front of his church, encouraging them to revolt. The exact words of the speech are lost; however, a variety of "reconstructed versions" have been published. Hidalgo is believed to have cried: "Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe [a symbol of the Amerindians' faith], death to bad government, and death to the Spaniards!" The Battle of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, occurred 4 days later. Mexico's independence would not be recognized by the Spanish crown until September 27, 1821, after a decade of war.

My Children, a new dispensation comes to us today…Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once.”

— Cry of Dolores, attributed to Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla