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Home ARTICLES The Consummation of Independence

September 27, 1821: A Triumphal Entry The Consummation of Independence

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M
exico’s war of independence was one of the longest in Latin America. In 1821, the conflict had already gone on for 11 years, during which time the many deaths, defeats and arrests had reduced the original movement to a guerrilla war that was kept going by the tenacity and bravery of men such as Vicente Guerrero. The erosion of the movement and the pardon offered by Viceroy Apodaca led some rebel leaders to abandon the fight. While this was going on in New Spain, conditions in Spain were undergoing major changes as well. Very much against his will, Fernando VII was forced to accept the Constitution of Cádiz that limited his power, granted freedom of the press and expanded protection of individual rights.

          

The same Spaniards who had fought the rebels now joined them in the so-called Profesa conspiracy for independence, to avoid the application of the new Constitution in New Spain. Headed by a priest, Canon Monteagudo, the Profesa group got Apodaca to name Agustín de Iturbide as commander of the southern royalist forces. Instead of following his orders and attacking Guerrero, Iturbide, with his finely-honed political skills, decided to issue the Plan of Iguala, which declared Mexico an independent, Catholic country and home to all ‘Europeans, Africans and Indians’, equally. Both the Spanish troops and the rebels allied themselves with the Plan of Iguala. The Army of the Three Guarantees was the result of the union of forces between Guerrero and Iturbide; it rapidly gained control of New Spain.

          

Apodaca, removed from power by his own troops, returned to Spain. Iturbide made alliances with the rebel leaders and persuaded a good number of the royalist troops, as well, to join his cause. The new viceroy, Juan de O’Donojú, arrived only to sign the Treaty of Cordoba that recognized Mexico’s independence. O’Donojú also acted as an intermediary so that the city could be surrendered without bloodshed. He negotiated with General Novella, who recognized O’Donojú’s authority and who gave the viceroy command of the garrison on September 13th. After the treaty was signed, the Spanish army that had been defending the capital retreated to Veracruz, and the Army of the Three Guarantees with Iturbide at its head made its triumphal entry into Mexico City on September 27, 1821, consummating Mexico’s independence.

 

The parade was spectacular.  At least that is how it was described in the accounts and pictures of the day: the green, white and red diagonal stripes of the flag of the three guarantees (symbolizing the purity of the Catholic religion, independence and the unity between Mexicans and Spaniards) could be seen waving above the army comprised of a combination of rebel and ex-royalist troops. They marched on a road hung with flags, banners and decorated with triumphal arches of the same colors and blazoned with the eagle as the coat of arms. The next day, September 28, 1821, the Act of Independence of the Mexican Empire, stating “The Mexican nation, which for three hundred years has had neither its own will nor free use of its voice, today leaves behind the oppression in which it has lived,” would be signed.

 

For the first time, a sense of nationhood, unity, belonging and self-determination would illuminate the sentiments of the Mexican nation. The capital welcomed the victors with a glad cacophony of sound: bells pealed, drums beat and trumpets sounded, rockets exploded in air and the crowd shouted enthusiastically.

 

Rich and poor, whites, Indians and mestizos alike all filled the streets to celebrate the birth of the nation.  The plan was for the Army of the Three Guarantees to march from the Tlaxpana down San Cosme to the viceregal palace. However, Iturbide made a detour so that one person in particular could see the parade from her balcony: María Ignacia Rodríguez de Velasco, the mythical Güera Rodríguez, who, they say, had vanquished both royalists and rebels with her beauty and charm. It is said that she had in her hands the letter signed by Fernando VII from which the principles of the Plan of Iguala would be taken, and that she gave it to Iturbide.

 

Artemio del Valle Arizpe relates that, on that date, Agustín de Iturbide took one of the three-colored feathers that adorned his hat and sent it to la Güera, and that “she took it delicately between her index finger and thumb and with magnificent impudence stroked her face with it several times, slowly and gently caressing it with voluptuous enjoyment.”

 

Iturbide was made the president of the provisional governing body and, when Spain repudiated the Treaty of Cordoba, he was crowned emperor and entered into conflict with Congress. For many, by doing this he betrayed the ideals of the rebel cause. Perhaps, enveloped by the joy of the Mexican people celebrating their independence, he believed that it was feasible to become the first Mexican monarch. Regardless, the subsequent events cannot cloud this day of jubilation and joy for our country and for Mexico City.

 


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