Tag Archives: independence

A Muffled Cry for Independence

By Kary Vannice

Several years ago, at midnight on September 15th, I stood misty eyed in the zócalo of San Miguel de Allende as thousands of Mexicans reenacted “el Grito,” the cry for independence that occurred in Dolores de Hidalgo in 1810, just 40 kilometers from where I stood. This famous “call to arms” to rise up against Spanish rule is acted out in cities and towns all across Mexico annually.

And this was exactly what brought tears to my eyes, the effect of thousands of Mexicans joyously singing their national anthem. I had never before felt that kind of national pride. My countrymen have long since turned their Independence Day into a commercial affair and an excuse to party with pyrotechnics. It has lost its meaning to capitalism and the almighty dollar. In all my years, never once have I experienced Americans singing the Star Spangled Banner in unison on the Fourth of July.

This year, once again, I found myself in San Miguel de Allende on el Día de la Independencia. But this year, because of COVID-19, it was a very different scene here, and all over Mexico. The town square was blocked off and police were posted at all the entrances. No one would be portraying “el Grito” in a public venue in 2020.

In Mexico City, where last year’s presidential address was nearly drowned out by more than 130,000 red, white and green clad revelers, the president’s words hollowly echoed off the facades of the Metropolitan Cathedral and surrounding buildings with only the local riot police there to hear them. Everyone else was watching the address from their televisions, safely at home.

Perhaps this is the highest demonstration of national pride, to put aside one’s own individual desire to take to the streets and celebrate en masse and instead stay home to protect others from a deadly virus that has yet to be fully understood or controlled.

For the safety of all, Mexicans did not come together by the thousands to celebrate their patriotism, but instead opted for a muffled “grito” from behind a cubreboca (face mask) in small groups or family gatherings, demonstrating that independence is not so much an individual ideal, but a collective one here in Mexico, more of an “it takes a village” approach than one of personal liberties.

Unlike its neighbor to the north, where individuals are being encouraged to gather in large public venues, with no measures of safety or control, to support the current administration’s bid to maintain office, Mexican officials are encouraging and enforcing social distancing and safety protocols to diminish the spread of COVID-19. And given the current state of affairs, it is essential that the public comply for the sake of the collective.

As of Independence Day, a reported 71,049 Mexicans had died of COVID-19. On September 24, just over a week later, that number passed 75,000,out of 710,000 confirmed cases. Yes, that’s a 10% death rate, the third highest in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, despite the restrictions on large public gatherings.

The 10% death rate, coupled with Mexico’s being in the top ten countries with the most reported cases, makes it the 12th deadliest country in the world where COVID-19 is concerned, as reported by CNN Health (Sept. 24).

Why is Mexico suffering so much? There is much speculation, and some would say absolute quantifiable proof, to answer that question. On September 3, Forbes published an article by a Latin American-focused political analyst, Nathaniel Parish Flannery, who wrote “In Mexico, Covid-19 patients are dying because public hospitals are failing to save them. … According to Mexico’s publicly available epidemiological oversight database, only 20% of the country’s Covid-19 patients who died were intubated. An astounding 51,924 Covid-19 patients never received ventilator treatment before they died.”

He goes on to say, “the official death toll in Mexico is only a fraction of the real total. Tens of thousands of patients in Mexico never seek help, never get tested, and go unaccounted for.”

Flannery points the finger at the current administration for failing to manage the pandemic and for not focusing sufficient energy and resources on saving citizens’ lives.

There are few who would argue that numerous positive cases and deaths go unreported as millions of people in rural areas have little access to testing or adequate treatment if infected. It is likely that the true death toll will never be known.

Where does this leave the Mexican people? Well, quite frankly, bearing the brunt of responsibility to slow the spread of the virus themselves – which most are taking on willingly, as there were virtually no reports of any backlash to Independence Day celebrations being cancelled and the majority of Mexicans continue to wear facemasks in stores, on the street and especially in crowded areas.

If the government is indeed doing little more than handing down rules and regulations for the public to follow in an effort to stem the increasing death toll, individuals are left to shore up the public safety void by setting individual freedoms aside in deference to the survival of el pueblo.

It seems the “it takes a village” approach to overcoming COVID-19 may be Mexico’s best hope of celebrating el Grito in the town square next year and for years to come.

A Revolutionary Woman: Josepha Ortiz de Dominguez

By Julie Etra

Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez was an intelligent, formidable, and outspoken woman, exceptional even given the time and place. She was a leader, along with her husband Miguel Dominguez, in Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain, which began in 1810 and lasted 11 years.

She was born in 1768 in Morelia, Michoacán, to a middle-class family of Spanish descent, and was thus by definition a criolla. Her father, a regiment captain, was killed in battle when she was very young. After the death of her mother, also when she was young, her sister took charge of Josepha’s education and enrolled her in the Colegio de San Ignacio de Loyola, where she learned to read and write, along with the basics of mathematics. As was typical for the era and in preparation for an inevitable role as a future ama de la casa (soul of the household), she also learned household responsibilities and skills, such as embroidery.

In 1791, at the age of 23, she married Miguel Domínguez, who at the time served as an official of the government of New Spain. He was appointed Corregidor of Querétaro in 1802, a local administrative and judicial official (based on Roman law). As a representative of the crown, he provided an essential, respected, and powerful link between the territorial government and the Spanish crown.
Following their marriage, Josepha, now called La Corregidora, joined her husband in the growing conspiracy to overthrow the Spanish crown. Organizational meetings were held in the couple’s house, under the pretense of being tertulias, or intellectual gatherings, which, due to his position, Don Dominguez did not attend in person. Although passionate about and committed to the cause, Josepha continued with her duties as head of the household, customary and expected, and included the education of her two adopted children (his first wife had died) and their additional eleven children. Their marriage endured until Miguel Dominguez died in in 1830.

Back to the clandestine meetings – Josefa increasingly aligned herself with radical groups, and although risky, the organizational meetings in the Domínguez household continued. Ironically, Don Dominguez was directed to intervene on behalf of Spain. Pretending to carry out their orders, but aware of the impending danger, he confined his vocal and opinionated wife to her room in an attempt to limit her communication with the other co-conspirators. His family was in jeopardy. His wife’s strong beliefs, however, were already known to the authorities.

In early September 1810, she prepared a letter, disguising her handwriting, and managed to get it to co-conspirator Ignacio Pérez in the house next door. She meant it for publication by the newspapers to warn her co-conspirators that their plans had been discovered, and that the crown was aware that they had been amassing arms. On September 15, however, Pérez rode first to San Miguel, where there was another conspiracy to promote independence, and then to Dolores, where he delivered the news to Father Miguel Hidalgo, who was located in the town of Dolores (now known as Dolores Hidalgo and the “Cradle of National Independence”), about 70 miles (112 km) north of Querétaro.

Father Hidalgo decided to expedite the insurrection, and issued the Grito de Dolores (the Cry of Dolores) for the revolution to begin at dawn on September 16, 1810. Thus, the long, painful, and bloody process of the emancipation of Mexico began; it would not be achieved until 1821.

Thanks to Josepha’s warning, many conspirators escaped arrest, but she and her husband were arrested the very same day as the Grito de Dolores. Josepha was incarcerated in the convent of Santa Clara in Querétaro, while Don Miguel was incarcerated in the convent La Cruz. He was judged first; all charges against him were dismissed, in part thanks to local support.

She was not so lucky and was transferred to Mexico City in 1814, to be incarcerated in the convent of Santa Teresa. Despite the efforts of her husband, who served as her defense lawyer, she was convicted of treason, and in 1814 was sent to the convent of Santa Catalina de Sena, considered stricter than Santa Clara. The financial situation of the large Domínguez family was dire during those years, since Miguel Domínguez, seriously ill, had no income to support their many children. Spousal visits were also rare. Finally, Spanish Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca recognized the services of Don Domínguez and restored his salary and released Josefa in June of 1817, after seven long years of imprisonment.

She was principled throughout her entire life. In 1822, just one year following independence, Agustín de Iturbide proclaimed himself emperor of Mexico and Josefa was invited to appear in the court as a maid of honor for his wife, Ana Duarte de Iturbide. She emphatically declined the invitation as intolerable mockery, since the concept of an empire was totally contrary to the ideals for which she had fought. Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez shunned fame and recognition, believing she had done nothing more than fulfill her responsibilities.