SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF MEXICO, ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR, AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THE 211TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE COUNTRY’S INDEPENDENCE.
Due to the singularities of our history, the date that the people of Mexico most celebrate is the date of the beginning of the struggle for independence, the date of the Grito (TN-1), and not the date when national independence was finally won.
Mexicans care more about the person who initiated the struggle, Hidalgo, than Iturbide, who concluded it, because the priest was the defender of the common people and the royalist general represented those at the heights of power and only sought to wear the imperial crown himself.
Hidalgo was something else. It fell to Hidalgo, along with Allende, Aldama, Jiménez and other popular leaders, to confront the dominant oligarchy and proclaim the abolition of slavery.
Hidalgo’s thinking was subversive. Nothing in his personality prevented him from being a revolutionary and he did not beat around the bush. For example, in one of his letters to Military Intendant Juan Antonio Riaño, he wrote: “There is no remedy, Mr. Intendant: the current movement is huge, and much more so when it comes to recovering holy rights, granted by God to the Mexican people, usurped by cruel, bastard, and unjust conquerors, who aided by the ignorance of those below, and accumulating holy and venerable pretexts, went on to usurp their customs and property and vilely converted free men into the degrading condition of slaves.”
At the same time, Hidalgo was a deeply humane man, a true Christian. This is demonstrated by the fact that, in order to avoid the slaughter of thousands of royalist opponents, but also of innocent people, he preferred to stay on the Las Cruces hill and not take Mexico City, which had practically surrendered.
However, his adversaries never forgave him for the audacity of wanting to equalize the poor with the more favored classes. Suffice it to recall his excommunication proceedings and the way in which he was assassinated, his head was cut off and exhibited as a punishment for more than ten years in the main square of Guanajuato.
No leader in the history of Mexico has received more insults than Father Hidalgo. Paco Ignacio Taibo recounts all the insults: “hardened soul, somber academic, monster, devious, false heart, spiteful, priest of ferocious people, Cura Sila, heartless, villain, hypocrite, polished, tyrant over the lands of others, fair-weathered, maximum pretender of rank, crazy, imprudent scholar, thief, bad, the worst, perverted, ignorant Costilla student, esteemed rogue, murderer, shitty, vulgar fool, nincompoop, ass, Satan’s offspring, vile thief, enemy of freedom, poisonous insect, lunatic, crazed American”. (TN-2)
As if that were not enough, in his excommunication proceedings he was called a demagogue, “unnatural and frenzied”.
Hidalgo defended himself by replying that he acted in accordance with his conscience and the phrase he addressed to his accusers is famous: “Open your American eyes, do not let yourselves be seduced by our enemies: they are not Catholics except for political reasons: their God is money and the only object of their appeals is oppression. Do you think that a true Catholic cannot be a Catholic if he is not subordinate to the Spanish despot? In the end, if Hidalgo had not been the real deal, he would not have been sacrificed as viciously as Jesus Christ.
However, Hidalgo, in his final hours, showed exceptional composure and a touching serenity, and even had the unusual kindness of composing a few stanzas of thanks to his jailers for the good treatment they gave him. One of them, dedicated to Corporal Manuel Ortega, reads as follows:
Ortega, your fine upbringing,
your kindly nature and style
will always make you appreciated
even with pilgrims.
You have divine protection
The mercy you have shown
To a poor helpless man
Who tomorrow is going to die,
And cannot repay
any favor received.
What allowed the Father of the Nation to face death with composure and tranquility was his being at peace with his conscience, the certainty that, with fidelity to his principles and values, he had done what was right and what was necessary for the good of the people to whom he was beholden.
When they were going to shoot him, four meters away, the soldiers were trembling, they gave him several shots without killing him and the platoon sergeant had to order two of them to put the muzzles of their rifles directly into his heart. After killing him they cut off his head and together with those of Allende, Aldama and Jiménez, they placed them in each corner of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas building.
We, Mexicans, feel proud of this hero and of many others, because here, as nowhere else, the independence movement did not begin as a result of simple movements and readjustments within the power elite, nor was it born solely out of a nationalist sentiment. Rather, it was the result of a yearning for justice and freedom.
Therefore, the cry for freedom and justice came before that of political independence.
Nevertheless, this profound ideal represented a challenge to the powerful, who managed to contain it and postpone its realization for a hundred years, because it was not until a century after independence that another cry, that of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, began to turn the dreams of the Mexican people into reality, began to turn into reality the dreams and ideals of the priests Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos, of Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, of Leona Vicario, of Juan Aldama, of Ignacio Allende, of José Mariano Jiménez and of many other leaders, women and men, who began the struggle for the authentic emancipation of the people of Mexico.
Today we remember that great historic deed and we celebrate it with the participation of the President of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, who represents a people that has known, like few in the world, how to defend their right to live free and independent with dignity, without allowing any foreign power to interfere in their internal affairs. I have already said and I repeat: we can agree or disagree with the Cuban Revolution and its government, but to have resisted 62 years without being subjugated is an indisputable historical feat.
Therefore, I believe that, due to their struggle in defense of their country’s sovereignty, the people of Cuba deserve the award of dignity and that island should be considered as the new Numantia for its example of resistance. Furthermore, I think that for that very reason it should be declared a world heritage site.
Now I would only add that the government I represent respectfully calls on the government of the United States to lift the blockade of Cuba, because no state has the right to subjugate another people, another country. It is necessary to recall what George Washington said, that nations should not take advantage of the misfortune of other peoples.
To put it frankly, it is wrong for the government of the United States to use the blockade to hinder the well-being of the people of Cuba so that they, forced by necessity, will have to confront their own government. If this perverse strategy were to succeed -something that does not seem likely due to the dignity we have referred to-, I repeat, if it were to succeed, it would become a pyrrhic, vile and despicable victory. It would be one of those stains that cannot be washed away even with all the water of the oceans.
Understanding, mutual respect and freedom without conditions or arrogance is better. Still alive among us is President Jimmy Carter, who knew how to reach an understanding with General Omar Torrijos to return the Canal and its sovereignty to Panama.
Hopefully President Biden, who has great political sensitivity, will act with such greatness and forever put an end to the policy of offenses against Cuba.
The Cuban-American community must also help in the quest for reconciliation, putting aside electoral or partisan interests. We must leave resentments behind, understand the new circumstances, and seek reconciliation. It is time for sister and brotherhood and not confrontation. As José Martí pointed out, clashes can be avoided, “with the exquisite political tact that comes from the majesty of disinterest and the sovereignty of love”.
Long live the Independence of Mexico!
Long live the Independence of Cuba!
Long live the Independence of all the peoples of the world!
Long live universal sister and brotherhood!
Zócalo Square, Mexico City, September 16, 2021
TN-1 – The Cry of Independence was delivered by Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo on the night of September 15, 1810. It is considered to the call that launched the Mexican Revolution, which led to the country’s independence in 1821.
TN-2 – Insults in 18th century Mexican Spanish, most of them not common today.
Translated by Pedro Gellert F.
Mexico City, September 16, 2021