This devotion to religious faith in providence as the cause of events, as Morelos revealed long ago, undermines free will and tends to knock the wind out of a person's lungs. To fill that void, the Catholic Church plays an authoritarian role in Mexican culture to this day, determining almost every aspect of the individual's life, as does the government. A ruling class has always subjugated the working class to such an extent that hardly any middle class has ever existed, while the poor struggle against the elite's status quo.
The colonizing Spaniards took possession of valuable land and later the Haciendas made land grabbing from the peasants a Mexican tradition. The Catholic Church became one of the largest landowners and had no charitable scruple to loosen its grip on its assets for the poor. "The Conservatives were supported by the onerous bureaucracy of the capital city, by the "respectable people,' and of course, by the clergy" (Krauze).
Like the new American aristocrats, the Catholic Church and the landowners in Mexico owned the poor as indentured slaves. The situation created a complicity between the landowner and the priest, at the cost of the peon. As Ocampo wrote, "As in the times of Abraham, the peon and the workers born in the haciendas belong to them and are bartered or claimed and exchanged and sold and inherited as are herds, tools and lands" (Krauze). The forces of the Catholic Church continue to make a large part of the Mexican people docile. Today's peons tolerate their economic plight by the soothing belief that things will be easier in heaven.
Most of human history is a saga about how those in power constrain personal and economic freedom so they can gain more control of wealth, enabling only a few to benefit. The revolutions in Mexico, as anywhere else in history, were motivated not so much by the ideals of democracy and freedom, as by the lack of economic opportunity. The rebellions in both the United States (1770s) and in Mexico (1820s) for independence were motivated by an uproar against economic tyranny. The popular phrase "no taxation without representation" expresses this sentiment.
When Mexico finally did attain independence, it anointed and elected Iturbide as the "Constitutional Emperor of Mexico," meaning that with his coronation on July 21, 1822, he ruled the country by authority of the Catholic Church as well as of the Congress. During his military campaigns, Iturbide gained a reputation of extreme cruelty. He ordered the beheading of women of disloyal fathers, husbands or brothers in order to gain control of the many groups of insurgents by sending a terrorizing message to the entire population. The new and independent Mexican government merely continued Spain's conservative and theocratic position.
Beheading as a Tradition
Throughout Mexico's history, the conservative government and its continuously rebelling groups have often beheaded their enemies as a means to send graphic messages about who is in charge or wants to be. Today's news is filled with reports of police increasingly finding severed heads more frequently in the wake of battles between Mexico's powerful drug cartels and the government. Bloody battles for wealth and power had long ago become a Mexican, and Latin American, tradition. If the United States has become known for its high rate of incarceration, violence, and free trade of assault weapons, Mexico is known as being even more violent, with the help of purchases from unfettered American arms dealers.