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Post Dolores Hidalgo, Birthplace of Mexico
Created by John Eipper on 04/09/14 5:30 AM

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Dolores Hidalgo, Birthplace of Mexico (John Eipper, USA, 04/09/14 5:30 am)

Yesterday we took the 90-minute bus ride from Guanajuato to cross another item off my Bucket List:  a visit to the birthplace of Mexican independence, Dolores Hidalgo.  A sleepy city that appears much smaller than its 150,000 inhabitants, it was the parish of the progressive priest Miguel Hidalgo, who called the people to rebellion on the steps of this church:

Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.  Birthplace of Mexican Independence, 16 September 1810

¡Long Live Mexico!  !Long Live our Lady of Guadalupe!  ¡Death to Bad Government!  JE attempts the Grito de Dolores, 8 April 2014

Father Hidalgo's fight was short-lived, however.  After victories at Guanajuato and proclaiming the emancipation of Mexico's slaves in Valladolid (now Morelia), he was pursued northward by loyalist troops and captured near Saltillo.  He was de-frocked in the city of Chihuahua, in a ritual known as "degradación"...

...and then stood before a firing squad.  (Priests are not eligible for execution by this method, so they must first be stripped of their office.  What a convenient technicality.)  José, our guide at the Museo de la Independencia, told us that the soldiers assigned to the squad refused to aim at their victim, so Father Hidalgo was subjected to three volleys before he was finally killed.

His campaign had lasted six months.  As a gruesome warning against further insurrectionist shenanigans, his head was sent back to Guanajuato and displayed in a cage on the Alhóndiga fortress for ten years, until Mexico finally achieved its independence in 1821.  Eventually Father Hidalgo's head was reunited with its body, where it was taken to Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral.  In 1925 the remains were relocated to the Monumento a la Independencia on the Paseo de la Reforma.

Mexico's heroes tend to meet tragic fates--from Cuauhtémoc to Hidalgo, to Morelos, Madero, Zapata and Villa.  Yet I learned that Father Hidalgo was far more than a martyr.  I came away from Dolores with a great appreciation for his culture and learning--he knew French, Italian, Latin, Náhuatl, Tarascan, and Otomí--as well as his dedication to the people's betterment through industry:  he taught the Dolores locals the crafts of ceramics and brickmaking, among other skills.

¡Viva México!  ¡Viva el Padre de la Independencia, Miguel Antonio Gregorio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla Mandarte Villaseñor!  A confession:  visiting Dolores Hidalgo gave me a bit of Hispanophobia.  I'll promise not to tell our host son Aritz... although the Basques don't much care for Spain, either.

A fun fact:  Dolores Hidalgo is known throughout Mexico for its ice cream ("nieve" or snow).  Some of the more interesting flavors:  tequila (delicious), rose petal (too salty), mole (ditto), and beer (well, you can't try them all).


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  • Dolores Hidalgo, Birthplace of Mexico (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/10/14 6:07 AM)
    My compliments John Eipper for his nice post on the city of Dolores Hidalgo (9 April).

    Just keep in mind that in reality Father Hidalgo was not even calling for independence at first; he asked for good government!

    The problem is that such a good government never came.

    And as the first ruler of independent Mexico was none other than Agustín de Iturbide, a Basque, and a former general of the Spanish loyalist troops who had just changed sides, the situation was more of the same. (I hope John will tell that to his Basque son Aritz!)

    My view is that today Spaniards should do the same and start with a cry for revolution, asking for good government.

    Anyway, I loved JE's post, and if you allow me I would like to add that the whole thing started in reality in Mexico when the Spanish King Carlos IV approved the so-called "Real Decreto de Consolidacion" in 1804 for taking over all lands and money belonging to the Catholic Church in Mexico, and the whole of Spanish South America, to provide for financing the war against England.

    That was a terrible mistake, and at the same time, Mexican-born Spaniards were asking for more political representation in Spanish governance, which ultimately led to revolution and independence, when Spaniards didn't want to hear about it.

    That's my view.

    JE comments: Absolutely. Father Hidalgo was not seeking independence, but rather an end to bad government.  One suspects that the criollo elite merely wanted for themselves the privileges previously reserved for "Peninsulares."  As an amusing sidebar, our guide José at the Museum of Mexican Independence told us that the final part of Hidalgo's cry, "Muera el mal gobierno," was omitted from a plaque displayed in the museum, because subsequent governments didn't want to give their citizens any ideas...

    Today we take the five-hour bus to the Mexican capital. The next WAIS posts will come from the world's largest city, México, DF.

    Thank you for your kind words, Anthony!  I'm planning some more "photo essays" from Mexico, which I'll post when time permits.
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  • Museum Photos from Mexico (John Eipper, USA 04/13/14 9:39 AM)

    It's a slow day at WAIS HQ, so there's no better time to share some images from three excellent museums.  Two of them are on the newish side; only Guanajuato's iconic Museo de las Momias has been around since time immemorial.

    Some three years ago, the Museo del Juguete Mexicano (toy museum) opened in the storybook-cute town of San Miguel de Allende (Guanajuato State), a mecca for tourists, artists and American expats.  Another "must see" is the excellent Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City, opened in an old fire station in 2006.

    Diego and Frida, in the "Fridomanía" section of the Museo del Juguete Mexicano

    Hanging with the Mummies:  JE at Museo de las Momias, Guanajuato

    "Heroes of Mexico":  Presidential Figurines in Mexico City's Museo de Arte Popular.  Back row, from left:  Zapata, Villa, Morelos and Hidalgo

    Fridomania indeed:  Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo have become international commodities, and with my lifelong numismatic acumen I note that they now grace Mexico's 500 peso banknote.  (That honor used to belong to Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza, the victor of the Battle of Puebla.)  Diego is on the front and Frida the back.  Their marriage was so tumultuous, that perhaps they thought it prudent to keep them at arm's length.

    I last visited the Mummy Museum in 1984, when there was no glass separating visitor from resident.  Our guide told us that the glass was added in the early 1990s, to keep souvenir hunters from clipping off chunks of hair, clothing, and even digits of the unfortunate inmates.

    Finally, I would love to have a set of those presidential action figures.  Note that the "true" heroes of Mexico are far larger, and loom over their lesser successors.  It is also interesting that many of the presidents are looking down and to the right--especially Peña Nieto, in the front row, left.  I don't know if this is a coincidence or part of a deeper message.

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