Mexico’s fight against colonial rule launched in 1810

By Brian Williams
October 4, 2021
Mexico’s fight against colonial rule launched in 1810
Detail with Miguel Hidalgo in mural by Juan O’Gorman

El Grito de Dolores is celebrated Sept. 16 as a national holiday in Mexico and by Mexicans around the world. It marks the opening of the independence struggle against Spanish colonial rule in 1810. On that day Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo called together his parishioners in the town of Dolores and urged them to revolt, to fight for racial equality and redistribution of the land. 

Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and his forces invaded Mexico in 1517, 25 years after Christopher Columbus first opened the possibility of interaction between Europe and the Americas. As former Cuban Minister of Culture Armando Hart explained, Columbus’ discovery was “historic” and opened the door for culture and progress, but at the same time was blighted as “the Spanish feudal classes took control of the discovery and began to loot, steal and violently carry out the conquest.” 

The Spanish rulers savagely suppressed and exploited the native population, introduced slavery and looted Mexico’s vast riches. 

Joined by thousands of Indians and mestizos, Hidalgo marched from Dolores and captured the city of Guanajuato and other major cities north and west of Mexico City. The rebels fought their way to the gates of the capital, but then hesitated, giving Spanish Royalists and their supporters time to regroup and suppress the rebellion. Hidalgo was captured and later executed on July 30, 1811. 

But the fight for independence continued over the next decade, with Mexico gaining freedom from Spanish colonial rule in 1821.