By Dr. Lino García, Jr.
Rio Grande Guardian
Ever wonder why Tejanos and other residents celebrate “El Grito” of September 16, 1810 on Texas soil?
Simply because “El Grito” falls within the historical context of what was then called “La Nueva España” – 1521-1821 – and thus the “El Grito” of 1810 also liberated Tejanos living in this state, as well as other Hispanics living in what was then the Spanish Southwest.
Later, in 1845, it became part of the United States of America.
When Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz in 1519, he immediately claimed the land a Spanish possession, starting colonization in the year 1521. During this period of colonization and implementation of the Spanish culture, with all its grandeur, there were, however, throughout the following decades certain abuses by the Spaniards that concerned the citizens of México and the Tejanos.
The time was ready for some type of action. It developed into the Independence Movement of September 16, 1810 that was headed by Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla of the Parish of Dolores Hidalgo. By that year, unrest had swept over all of New Spain.
Tejanos also felt ignored by the Spanish Crown, their rights sometimes abused, such as the prohibition of certain trade practices, and property such as cattle decreed as owned by the Spanish Crown.
Other events were occurring in the world at the time and certain ideas of freedom expressed during the American Revolution of 1776, traveled first to France helping to ignite the French Revolution of 1789, promoted by Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Voltaire.
These sentiments of freedom from tyranny arrived also in New Spain, and these ideas impacted Padre Hidalgo and his associates. Individuals spoke of being free from Spain and eventually all of this led to “El Grito” of September 1810 that resonated throughout the Spanish Southwest that included Texas also.
At dawn on September 16, 1810, the residents of the Dolores Hidalgo answered Hidalgo’s call for independence from the forces of Spain, and the struggle for freedom started. From then on the “Mestizo” (of mixed Indian and Spanish), the Indian and “Criollos” (of Spanish heritage, but born in America) started the Independence Movement and after winning a few skirmishes against powerful Spanish forces, Hidalgo and his group were defeated near Guadalajara and were forced to retreat, and the Independence Movement that he advocated was defeated momentarily.
México would have to wait until 1821 when its citizens and the Tejanos would be free from Spanish rule. Therefore, not only México and its people were freed from the mother country, but so were the Tejanos, many of whom had fought in two rebellions on Texas soil.
One was “the de las Casas Revolt of 1811” in San Antonio. The other was the “Battle of Medina of 1813,” when close to one thousand Tejanos perished in support of Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and his “El Grito.”
These two rebellions culminated in sentiment and framework leading to the Battle of the Alamo of 1836, where Tejanos played a major role against the military forces of General José Antonio de Santa Ana.
One must remember that the Tejanos were the original non-Native American settlers of Texas, and, thus, at that time, along with the Native Americans, comprised the only residents of Texas, as Esteban F. Austin and his colonists of non-Hispanics were allowed to settle on Texas soil by the then controlled Mexican Texas in 1824, exactly 14 years after “El Grito” resonated throughout “La Nueva España.”
Let us now connect the historical dots.
The American Revolution of 1776 helped to ignite the French Revolution of 1789 and the ideas of freedom expressed by the French philosophers Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot and Montesquieu arrived in New Spain setting the stage for “El Grito” on September 16, 1810 (Mexican Independence from Spain).
This, then, led to two Tejano skirmishes on Texas soil in support of “El Grito – “the de las Casas Revolt 1811 in San Antonio” and “the Battle of Medina in 1813.” These, in turn, led to the Battle of the Alamo of 1836.
That is why in Texas the “El Grito” is celebrated as part of the seamless pre-1836 Colonial Spanish Texas History that had its beginning in 1528 and that ended when Texas joined the USA in 1845.
All historical events that occurred on Texas soil before 1845 fall within the realm of Mexican History, and not Texas or USA History. This buries the “John Wayne a la Hollywood” version of freedom loving Americans fighting an invading Mexican Army, a distorted view that for decades has damaged the Tejano psyche; since Tejanos look like the enemy, speak like the enemy, therefore they are the enemy, and one does not give aid nor comfort to the enemy, a view that for a long time prevailed in certain quarters of this state.
No longer! Proceed!
Dr. Lino García, Jr., holds the Chair of Professor Emeritus at UTPA and can be reached at: LGarcia@UTPA.Edu