The struggle for nationhood can also call for a new way of thinking. True independence is complicated processes that can take time as a people not only fight for their liberty but also for the structure of their independence.
In the case of the United States, the kind of self-government to be chosen was more clear-cut than many other places. The colonies wanted a state-based republican governing tool that could facilitate political wishes at a local level.
Even then, it took 8 years from April 19, 1775 to September 3, 1783 and substantial help from the French, at a most critical moment, to win the war and achieve independence. Further, it took another 4 years (to September 17, 1787) and the ratification of the Constitution to find the permanent form of self-government.
As Mexico celebrates its 211th anniversary of its cry for independence on September 16th it is well to observe that the process of independence was more complex and chaotic than that in the founding of America because it not only involved political decisions about how to be governed but also required unprecedented cultural shifts. The Mexican Independence Movement involved the interplay of 3 distinct communities as were the ruling Spaniards and their Criollo off-springs, the Indian population still tied to its pre-Columbian past and the increasing presence of the Mestizo that in the future would become the face of Latin America.
When the war for independence broke out on September 16, 1810 it was the thousands of Indians that joined the priest Miguel Hidalgo to fight under the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Their failure to win the war was caused largely by a decision not to take Mexico City as the thought of the leadership was that the destruction of what still for many was “the Great Tenochtitlan” would be a self-inflicted wound of place and identity.
The match had been lit however and even with the death of Father Hidalgo there was no turning back. Father Jose Maria Morelos y Pavón continued the fight and brought the Mestizo population into the mix.
This development together with changes in the leadership of Spain that saw Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Joseph deposed and Ferdinand VII reinstated to the throne helped make the independence of the country a reality because Ferdinand VII immediately reestablished the old colonial regressive policies that had been, in part, the cause of the independence movement in the first place.
The final phase of the war for independence featured an alliance of all Mestizos including the upper class Criollos (they were also Mestizos) under Agustin de Iturbide who led the Army of the Three Guarantees. The 3 Guarantees were included in an agreement called El Plan de Iguala and stated that Mexico would be a Catholic empire, be independent and be united against all enemies.
So even after independence in 1821, the country had a lot of work left to do such as getting rid of the empire and constructing a federal republic. This was done in 1823 and followed later in 1824 by Mexico’s first Constitution.
In essence, Mexico’s Independence Movement became the instrument by which the country distanced itself from the cultural dominance of its pre-Columbian past as well as overcome the tyranny of a regressive and oppressive Spanish colonial system. This also allowed the Mestizo, a person maligned by both, to flourish and gradually become the backbone of a new Mexican political reality.
The Mexican Independence introduced the Mestizo into its national life. The character continues to grow.