Having said all that I think that if you take six expat Gringos and Canucks in Mexico and ask them about Mexican history they will no doubt give you six different versions depending upon their depth of study, the places that they have visited, and the books that they may have read. It reminds me of John Godfrey Saxe´s poem about the blind men and the elephant. Every time that I think I may be getting closer to true enlightenment I find myself groping around like a blind man and I hit a wall. I feel like Charlie Brown getting very close to kicking the football only to have Lucy snatch it away at the last moment and just like Charlie Brown I find myself flat on my “arse”.
One thing that I have learned is that the history of Mexico is actually part of a bigger history involving Europe, the Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchs and the divine right of kings, the Protestant Reformation, the Spanish Inquisition, The Masonic movement, the Indigenous peoples of Mexico, the Arab peoples, the Jewish people, the birth of modern democracy and the evolution of technology. Each one of these topics is like a gear that is part of a big complicated tapestry weaving machine. If you don't understand how the gears fit together you can't really understand how the machine weaves. The best that you can do is to tug on little threads on the edge of the resulting tapestry and let them lead you into the weave like a little bug.
As a result of my foray into the jungle of the Mexican past I have identified a number of heroic figures who, whether they are true heroes or not, have nevertheless cast their spell upon me. One of these figures is Miguel Hidalgo, the father of Mexican Independence. Fortunately I live in the “Cuna de Independencia Mexicana”, the “Cradle of Mexican Independence”. I live not far from Corralejo Hidalgo near Pénjamo, at the base of San Grigorio, where Miguel Hidalgo was born on May 8th, 1753 and I have visited that location several times. I have also visited “La Francia Chiquita”, his house in San Felipe Torres Mochas where he read and discussed literature that sprung from the French Revolution. I have been to his house in Dolores Hidalgo where he gave the shout called “El Grito de Dolores” on the night of September 15th, 1810 and set off to lead the fight for Mexican independence. I have been to Atontonilco where he adopted the flag of Our Lady of Guadalupe as his standard and finally I have stood at the corner of the Alhondiga in Guanajuato and stared at the actual hook where his head hung in a cage for 13 years after he was captured by Spanish troops and executed by firing squad.
If one were to begin studying Mexican history I suggest that the fight for Mexican Independence is as good a place as any to start. I suppose that if you have some kind of compulsive disorder and insist on starting at the beginning I will understand but it is almost impossible to know where the beginning is. I guess you could start at about AD1000 (1000 CE) and work your way up from there but that is pretty boring stuff unless you are an anthropologist and like reading things like the “begats” of the Old Testament. You could also start with Hernán Cortes in 1519 and I guarantee that it is a fascinating story but since this is the “Mes de Patria” (Month of the Fatherland) when we celebrate the heroes of the fight for Mexican Independence it would be as good a time as any to begin learning about some of the events that shaped the Mexico that we know today.
It is very interesting to note that at the time of the “El Grito de Dolores”, the people of Dolores referred to themselves as Americans to differentiate themselves from the Spaniards because at that time the the name of the country was “Nueva España” or “New Spain” and word “Mexico” had not yet come into vogue. The exact details of the actual shout have long been debated by historians but a popular consensus is that it went something like this:
¡Viva la Independencia!
Long live Independence!
Long live America!
¡Muera el mal gobierno!
Death to bad government!
Of course nowadays they shout “¡Viva México!” Instead of “¡Viva America!” but how ironic it is that the third line of the shout is “Death to bad government!”. It seems like this cry is just as apropos today all over the world the same as it was in Mexico almost two hundred years ago.