About Museo Casa de Hidalgo

Women and Independence in Latin AmericaMuseo Casa de Hidalgo, which is housed in a large late eighteenth-century building, was the dwelling place of Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. The Creole priest, who lived in the town of Dolores in the early nineteenth century, is widely viewed as the ‘Father of Independence’ in Mexico. The house has now been turned into a museum devoted to his life.

In 1810, Hidalgo y Costilla was living in the small parish of Dolores. The priest had been rector of the prestigious college of San Nicolás in Valladolid (now Morelia), but he had had fallen foul of the Royal authorities, both for his interest in Enlightenment ideas and due to his distinctly non-celibate personal life. Hidalgo y Costilla, who lived openly with the mother of his two children, was subsequently assigned by his bishop to Dolores near Querétaro, where he worked among Indians and mestizos (people of mixed Indian and Spanish origin).

In 1810, in the wake of Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and the fragmentation of Royal authority across Spanish America, Hidalgo y Costilla joined a conspiracy of wealthy creoles to set up a revolutionary junta.

On the night of 15 September 1810, he and some of his fellow conspirators, warned by messengers from Querétaro that their intention to raise a rebellion against the Spanish had been discovered, decided to bring the plan forward. At dawn on 16 September, Hidalgo, tolling the church bell, addressed his parishioners from the church balcony, calling for a general uprising against the Spanish. His speech ended in the ‘Grito de Independencia’ (Cry of Independence): ‘¡Méxicanos, Viva Mexico!’ (Mexicans! Long live Mexico!). He issued his cry in the name of Fernando VII (the Spanish monarch deposed by Napoleon) and the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Hidalgo’s Independence rebellion, whose goals included the abolition of the Indian tribute, was markedly different from other risings across Spanish America because it came from outside the Creole elite. Although he was executed by the Royalists in March 1811, before Mexican Independence from Spain became a reality, he now occupies a legendary position in the Mexican collective imagination. At midnight on 15 September, his cry is repeated every year by the president in Mexico City and by politicians all over the country, as the starting point for Independence Day celebrations; 16 September also remains the one day of the year when the bell in Dolores Hidalgo´s parish church is rung.

Among then museum’s exhibits are numerous written tributes from different writers and groups to Mexico’s ‘Father of Independence’. The museum also contains copies of correspondence written, sent and received by Hidalgo, including the priest’s letter of excommunication from the Inquisition, which was issued less than a month after he uttered his ‘Cry of Independence’. Visitors can also see Hidalgo’s priestly cassocks, a banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the first declaration of the abolition of slavery.

The museum is just a short walk from the Museo de la Independencia Nacional (Museum of National Independence) which contains artefacts and murals related to the era of the Independence struggle. This fascinating site features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions of Mexico.

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