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Mexico: Heads Will Roll

By       Message Mark Biskeborn     Permalink
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"The heads were displayed in cages on the four walls of the Alhondiga de Granaditas, where the Spaniards of Guanajuato had been massacred. There they remained for ten years until Mexico won its independence in 1821" (Krauze, Mexico, Biography of Power). Hidalgo led the first battles in Mexico's war of Independence until Spaniards captured and killed him, and then placed his head along with those of his three closest aides in public display as a message to terrorize the insurgents. Despite the buzzing flies swarming around the decaying caged heads hung on the city walls, the War continued under the command of Morelos and his ragtag groups of parish priests, mostly mestizos.

By leading the earliest revolts, Hidalgo became the George Washington of Mexico. These two revolutionary giants shared courage and leadership, yet their differences shine brightly on how the foundations of the two countries contrast in culture and ideologies.

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Once Hidalgo gained popularity, he allowed his followers to treat him as royalty. "He lavishly made official appointments; he lived surrounded by guards; he would walk arm in arm with a lovely young woman and allow himself to be addressed with the title Most Serene Highness" (Enrique Krauze, Mexico, Biography of Power).

Hidalgo replaced the pomp of King Joseph Bonaparte (one of the last Spanish kings to rule over Mexico) with his own. Many considered him the Sun King. Hidalgo showed a dubious interest in religion despite hisbeing a priest. Nevertheless he used the image of the Virgin Mary, the most powerful religious symbol in Mexico, as his military standard in an opportunistic ploy to garner a fervent militia, ready to die for their ardent devotion to Her Lady.

Hidalgo's military successor, Morelos, was a passionate believer in the Virgin as protector of his cause, attributing his victories to the Empress of Guadalupe, as the Zappatistas would do a century later. He used the emblem of the Virgin of Guadalupe as the seal of the Congress of Chilpancingo to which he stated: "New Spain puts less faith in its own efforts than in the power of God and the intercession of its Blessed Mother,"that had come to comfort us, defend us, visibly be our protection." As they did to Hidalgo, the Spanish crushed Morelos, forcing his crumbling rebellion into guerilla warfare.

As a sign of hard times, today's downtrodden peons are showing more faith in the Holy Death (Santa Muerte) than in the Virgin for the same sort of intercessions, only more tailored to fit the needs of the poor, the alienated, the street hookers, criminals, and drug traffickers.

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Mexico Founded on Conservative Religion -- U.S. Founded on Progressive Elitism

A half century earlier, George Washington led an insurgency similar to those waged by Hidalgo and Morelos, but with a much different philosophy. Like Hidalgo, many of Washington's admirers expected him to take the role of king or emperor. He refused for the higher purpose of establishing a constitutional democracy, and when asked to serve a third term as president, he set the custom that a president serves only two terms (later ratified as the 22nd Amendment).

An enthusiast for Thomas Paine's deistic treatise, The Age of Reason, Washington had little interest in any one religion, although baptized at birth in the Church of England, the official church of Virginia before the revolution. He strongly supported the separation of church and state.

"Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society."(George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792; The Great Quotations, G. Seldes, ed.).

Like many European and American philosophers of the time, Washington, a deist, had learned how religious dogma could be exploited to serve nonsense (consider today's creationism) such as the divine right of kings, against which the United States had waged a bloody revolution. The revolutions in France and the United States, however, arose as much from disgust for the whimsical laws of religious faith as from a growing bourgeoisie, educated in empirical philosophy and science. They wanted the entrepreneurial and financial freedoms that were otherwise greatly limited under the British monarchy, whose very authority rested with its assumed privileged communion with God. Frenchmen invented the guillotine as an efficient way to behead the royalists, tyrannical gluttons of financial and political power.

Freedom and Democracy? Or Financial Interests?

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Most of the leaders of the American Revolution lived as members of a liberal bourgeois class. For many years only the white male landowners enjoyed privileges such as the right to vote. After the revolution the "Founding Fathers" and their class of mostly nouveaux riches enjoyed the benefits of social, financial, and religious freedoms, including ownership of slaves. For as much as possible, the fifty white men who were signers of the Constitution, mostly deists, took their destiny into their own hands and relied less on God for whatever providence they might eke out by praying.

"In short, said Beard [an historian] the rich must, in their own interest, either control the government directly or control the laws by which government operates. Beard applied this general idea to the Constitution, by studying the economic backgrounds and political ideas of the fifty men"to draw up the Constitution. He found that a majority of them were lawyers by profession, that most of them were men of wealth, in land, slaves, manufacturing, or shipping, that half of them had money loaned out at interest" (A People's History of the U.S. by Howard Zinn). These fifty "Founding Fathers," were mostly men who took charge, made things happen, and if obstacles arose, they nevertheless found ways to create the country they wanted.

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Mark Biskeborn is a novelist: Mojave Winds, A Sufi's Ghost, Mexican Trade. Short Stories: California & Beyond. Poetry & Essays. For more details: See Mark's stories on or wherever books are (more...)

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