Previously, I delved into some of the history behind México’s independence. This time around I want to go a bit deeper and look at some of the major threads which weave themselves through México’s history. I’ll do this through the lens of Miguel Hidalgo and the war for independence. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Mexican history, and especially Mexican politics, but I hope to highlight these common themes I have come across in my readings. Hopefully it will give you a better understanding of México and its people.
In part one of this blogpost I mentioned three threads, or longstanding issues, in México’s history. I’ll title them thus: (1) A Bloody Birth (2) A Tangled Existence (3) A Mixed Equality
A Bloody Birth
México’s independence, it’s birth as a nation, came about through violence and bloodshed. Of course, many countries have a similar story; México is not unique. But it does point to the ongoing struggle México has had to obtain peaceful governance. Too often in México’s history people have spoken with their pistols and swords, and not with their mouths. This goes all the way back to the birth of Spanish-México and the bloody takeover of the former Aztec empire. This new era in México’s history began with battles and bloodshed. That sad theme presents itself again and again as the Mexican people lived under Spanish rule, fought for independence, struggled against coups and revolts, and suffered from internal corruption. Peace and harmony have been ideals too often out of reach. Even when victory has been won, as in the war for independence, it has been followed with continued revolt and power struggles. Just prior to the Mexican-American War, one newspaper commented:
“We believe that at the present time we are not merely heading for ruin, demoralization, and anarchy; we are approaching the complete dissolution of the nation, and the loss of our territory, our name, and our independence.”
This quote reveals the desperate situation at the time and the bloody cost of México’s turmoil.
A Tangled Existence
México has always existed as a country where religion and politics are intertwined; often in a tangled mess. It is certainly less so today, but the remnants and effects are as evident as the impressive churches and ubiquitous shrines which dot the landscape. When Miguel Hidalgo took up the fight for independence he did so as a Catholic priest. And even more striking, he did so under the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, long revered in México as a symbol of Mexican Catholicism. When independence was finally achieved, one of its three pillars was that México would be Roman Catholic. This was expressed by one of the leaders of Independence when he said:
“we must destroy every plant not planted by God.”
And of course, the only plant planted by God was the Roman Catholic Church. When the Spanish conquistadors landed on the shores of México, they were soon followed by monks who played a vital role in providing some semblance of peace and who often were the only Europeans to defend the rights of the indigenous. But they came for a spiritual conquest of the people as well. Results have been mixed. When the Roman Catholic Church began to lose its place and privilege in the country, many lamented the fact. Whatever one’s understanding of the place of church and state, México cannot be rightly understood without the Roman Catholic Church.
A Mixed Equality
Another of the foundational pillars of independence was equality of rights. Under the heavy hand of the Spanish, it was the poor and indigenous who especially suffered. They were forced into labour and offered few, if any privileges. One Spanish defender of the indigenous commented:
“For the Spaniards care for one thing alone, and that is their advantage, and they give not a rap whether these poor miserable indians live or die though the whole being and welfare of the country depend upon them.”
It is no surprise that there many indigenous, as well as other oppressed peoples, who followed Miguel Hidalgo in the fight for independence.For part of México’s history, one’s blood, skin colour, and wealth determined their place in society and the rights they were entitled to. The rich pureblood Spaniard occupied top spot while African-Mexicans dwelt at the bottom. Mexican Independence brought equality of rights, although there still remained the old way of thinking. In light of this history it is no surprise that heroes such as Benito Juarez (Mexican president of indigenous decent) and the Virgen of Guadalupe (an indigenous apparition of the Virgen Mary) have such a prominent place in the story of México. As in every corner of the globe, the fight for human rights remains a vital part of México’s nationhood.
Prayer and Hope
As I stated previously, México is not alone in its struggles as a nation. There are always a multitude of reasons why a country fails to find peace, justice, and equality and it would be foolish to point to one or two reasons as the determining factors. Nevertheless, it is helpful to identify some of the contributing reasons and attempt to learn from them.
Ultimately, I think learning of any nation’s struggle leads us both to prayer and hope. We pray for a better future; for freedom and peace. We pray for an environment where the gospel can be proclaimed and people are free to follow Christ. And we hope. We hope for the better day when Christ returns and establishes his reign in all its fullness. We hope for the peace, freedom, justice, and equality Christ will bring in perfection. We hope for the day when all tribes and nations caln live together in unity and offer perfect praise to the Triune God.