Mexican War of Independence: Summary & Timeline

Mexican War of Independence: Summary & Timeline
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  • 0:03 Buildup to the Revolution
  • 0:46 Timeline of Events
  • 3:22 Aftermath of the Revolution
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Matthew Helmer

Matt is an upcoming Ph.D. graduate and archaeologist. He has taught Anthropology, Geography, and Art History at the university level.

The Mexican War of Independence began the ripple effect of the independence movement throughout Latin America. Learn about the causes of the war, timeline of important events, and the historical legacy of the war today.

Buildup to the Revolution

Mexico is a unique country that traces its roots back to the Aztec Empire, long before the arrival of the Spanish. Because of its strategic location between North and South America, the Spanish realized that Mexico was the key to controlling the Americas. After colonization in the early 16th century, the Spanish held firm control over Mexico and most of Latin America for over three centuries. By the dawn of the 19th century, however, Spain was becoming overshadowed by the colonies, and its grip on power began to weaken. Mexico was one of the first colonies to rebel, creating a ripple effect throughout Latin America and launched a revolution that would last over a decade.

Timeline of Events

The year 1808 saw the French Invasion of Spain. Believe it or not, internal events within Spain were the main factors leading to the Mexican Revolution. Napolean Bonaparte, the famous French general, invaded Portugal and Spain, crippling the powers of the Iberian Peninsula. At the time, Mexico was the center of New Spain, a large colony that extended throughout Mexico, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean. New Spain took advantage of Spain's precarious position during the Napoleonic Wars, making decisive moves toward independence.

On September 16, 1810, a Catholic priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, led a call for revolution from the town of Dolores, officially starting the Mexican Revolution. Today, September 16th is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day. The exact words of Hidalgo's speech are contested, but he appealed to ideas of independence, fear of Napoleon, and to Mexico's indigenous roots against Spanish oppressors.

Hidalgo led a series of successful revolts, killing Spaniards throughout Mexico and nearly claiming victory within the year before being pushed back, defeated, and executed in 1811. His remains were publicly displayed to detract against any further revolution, but this only helped to fuel the continuation of the movement. Guerrilla warfare continued throughout Mexico for nearly a decade against royalist forces.

In Mexico, February 21, 1821, is the day attributed to the Army of the Three Guarantees. The Mexican Revolution took a decisive turn in favor of the Mexican rebels in 1821, when the Spanish General Agustin de Iturbide defected and joined forces with the rebels. The resultant army became known as the Army of the Three Guarantees, who swept across Mexico in the coming months. The Battle of Azcapotzalco was the last major battle of the Mexican Revolution, which led to the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba, declaring the independence of the Mexican empire. However, the Spanish crown refused to recognize the treaty, and the fighting continued.

September 28, 1821, saw the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican empire. By September, all resistance to the revolution had effectively ended after the rebels took firm control of Mexico City. At this time, the contents of the Treaty of Cordoba became ratified as the Mexican Declaration of Independence.

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