Mexican Independence Day is approaching- 16 de Septiembre. In light of this holiday,* I thought I would try to post these next few days regarding it. Sometimes it will not be much, or just random musings of mine. But some days I will try to post some more historical information and the like, in an effort, mostly, to educate myself.
Today I’d like to talk about some about Padre Hidalgo. He is remembered as calling for the war of independence against the colonialist Spain. His Grito** de Dolores is infamous (even if no one can accurately determine what it was he originally said): “Mexicanos Viva Mexico!” At some point “Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!” seems to have been added to the grito. The army he raised made it all the way to Mexico City but he then retreated, although the war continued until 1821 when Spain granted Mexico its independence.
Now, according to wikipedia, Hidalgo was a criollo, a Mexican of Spanish descent, with no native or African ancestors. This is in contrast to gachupines, those who were native Spaniards and who had cultural, political authority over criollos, mestizos (literally, those of mixed descent, Spanish and native indian), and indian and who had cruelly oppressed them for a long time. So Hidalgo was “white.” However, in this image I found, Hidalgo is presented as very much being “colored,” especially since there is another man in the painting who is “white.”
Hidalgo, on the left, is crowning la patria Mexicana. Now, I think you can agree with me that’s one dark dude! I doubt that Padre Hidalgo was that dark, especially since in all other depictions that I’ve seen of him he looks much more European, for example:
So it got me to thinking, why might the artist of the first image above chosen to paint Hidalgo so much darker than he may have been. And I think it’s a significant choice. The war of independence was basically fought for (and with) the native Indians and mestizos who were the most brutally treated by the Spanish. While the criollos were probably not treated well, I’m guessing the Indians and the mestizos bore most of the brunt of Spanish institutionalized racism. And so to depict this hero of the War of Independence as at least mestizo seems to say that Hidalgo was a honorarily mestizo or Indio. And it would seem to me to give him more authenticity as a man of la raza rather than one of a race that was dominant in that time (what am I saying, Anglo-Europeans are dominant in this time too!).
*Frankly most Americans don’t know much about the 16 de Septiembre. Many erroneously think that 5 de Mayo is the Mexican Independence, but that’s a whole ‘nother post! And to confuse things more, there are other revolutions within Mexican history as well…
**Update. The sqvirrel pointed out that not everyone might know what a grito is. It’s a shout. Here, there is a bit of a pun, Grito de Dolores literally means Shout from/of Dolores, since Dolores is the town where Hidalgo was. But Dolores also means pain, so shout of pain- the pain of the people under Spanish colonization.