The Grito de Hidalgo is the act that begins the War of Independence and therefore, the most decisive moment in the conformation of the Mexican state, but… what exactly happened at dawn on September 16?

The official story ensures that during the early morning of September 16, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla he rang the bells of Dolores and called for the people’s uprising to fight for their Independence from the Spanish Crown.

The birth of a tradition

The first ‘Scream’ that commemorated the feat started by Hidalgo occurred in 1812, a year after the death of the priest, Aldama, Allende and the pioneers in the struggle for Independence. The event was organized by Ignacio López Rayón (Secretary of Hidalgo, military and politician who lived through the entire War of Independence) and took place in Huichapan, Hidalgo.

«Hidalgo», José Clemente Orozco (1937), Mexico

A year later, José María Morelos y Pavón wrote in the Feelings of the Nation his desire to “solemnize September 16 every year, as the anniversary day on which the voice of Independence was raised and our holy Liberty began.”

The power of the image of Hidalgo haranguing the people is such that every year since 1824 a representation of the ‘Grito’ has been carried out in public squares throughout the country. The event is one of the most important public appearances of the President of Mexico and for decades, it was the only one in which the head of the Executive appeared before a crowd.

What did Miguel Hidalgo yell in September 1810?

However, there are no direct historical sources of witnesses who recorded their presence in the early morning of September 16 in front of the Parish of the town of Dolores. Hence, this peak moment for Mexicans feeds on countless myths, conflicting versions, and contradictions that make up what happened that morning. a real mystery.

Hidalgo's cryPhoto: Plaza de Dolores, 19th century oil on canvas, JJ del Moral / Wikimedia

And although the most popular versions agree that the Hidalgo’s cry occurred at dawn on September 16, the evidence suggests that it was not one, but up to three short speeches that Miguel Hidalgo gave shortly before dawn, the first at his home and another, the most cited, on the steps of the atrium of the Parish.

Therefore, the mission to reconstruct Hidalgo’s harangue is almost an impossible mission. The version of Juan Aldama, probably the closest, assures that the cry did not include Fernando VII or the Virgin of Guadalupe and instead, the priest shouted:

“Long live America! Long live religion and let the bad government die!”

One more, presented by Fray Diego de Bringas, assures that after a few sentences to explain the oppression of the Creoles and the prevailing need for liberation, Hidalgo declared his fervor for Santa María de Guadalupe and accompanied him with a:

“Long live America! Long live Fernando VII! Long live religion and die the gachupines!”

That day the cowbell rang (not the bell) earlier than usual; However, the crowd celebrating the patronal feast of the Virgin of Dolores it did not gather quickly as if it were a pre-arranged rally. In fact, it is more likely that with the sound of the cowbell, as mass time approached and as the morning dawned, more and more people would approach the Church to find out what was happening.

According to Paco Ignacio Taibo II, uprising (which by then reached about 600 troops, mostly armed with sticks, stones and machetes) left Dolores at around 11 in the morning for San Miguel, where the sympathizers multiplied and headed toward Celaya. The rest is history.

Now read:

Independence of Mexico: everything you need to know