Every September 15th, Mexico turns into a massive party where most people dress in their best traditional attire, gather around with the family to eat delicious food, and dance to our folkloric and patriotic songs, all while waiting for “El Grito” (the cry) that takes place in every state and municipality in the country at midnight. Now, you might be asking what is that “grito” stuff? Basically, the president appears before the people in a representation of the call to war Father Miguel Hidalgo did in 1810 and that sparked the Independence revolution. Through this, they name and honor each of the heroes of the Independence, accompanied with a loud and enthusiastic “Viva Mexico!”
However, the Independence is much more than a celebration or a call to war. The problem with these important episodes in the history of Mexico is that they were romanticized in their official version. To this day, schools still teach children the story of Hidalgo as the pious priest who wanted to fight for his country and gave his all to do so. Not that he didn’t do anything, but everyone knows that Father Miguel Hidalgo was far from being a pious figure. He was actually a very lascivious person with very dubious moral standards. What really motivated people to stand against the colonial government was the fact that the criollos (like Hidalgo) weren’t allowed to climb the social ladder. They weren’t that interested in fighting for the indigenous people who had been forced into slavery and so many other unfair treatments, they were watching out for their best interests.
But apart from that, I’ve always found it really troubling how, besides our first woman on the list, all the heroes of our country are men. As you’ll see, the movement would have never succeeded without the work of these women, who, in my opinion, did much more than many of the ones we celebrate every year.
Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez
Known as the “Corregidora,” Maria Josefa Ortiz was a very well-educated woman who was ahead of the standards of womanhood of Colonial Mexico. The Independence movement started through literary gatherings, where the main ideas of the Enlightenment were shared, and Josefa was the one who organized the one that actually led to the insurrection. However, that’s not where her collaboration in the movement ended. The group had planned the uprising for October, but their plans were leaked. Fearing for the future of his wife, the Corregidor decided to lock her up to prevent her from meeting the others, but she was very committed to the cause and managed to warn them about the government’s plan to capture all of them, and thus, the revolution was rushed that same night. If it hadn’t been for her, all the conspirators would’ve been captured and the movement would’ve been over. When the revolution started, she was taken to a nunnery where she secretly kept supporting the movement.
Like Josefa, Ana was one of the many women who organized literary gatherings to share the Enlightenment’s political views that had sparked other revolutions in the world. She was also the founder of the “Patriotas Marina,” the first secular all-women organization in the New World that fought for their political rights (it had about 2,500 women). Through her organization, she managed to get information from Spain that ended up being crucial to the movement and the different political schemes that were adopted in Independent Mexico.
Bocanegra was a middle-class criolla woman who became an avid reader at a young age. In particular, she read texts from the Enlightenment, which she thought had the values that the country needed. When the Independence war started, she saw it as her best chance to escape social standards and use her knowledge for the greater good. She soon designed an effective communication network between the different insurgent groups, mainly in the state of Michoacán. She was also one of the leaders sent to take over the city of Pátzcuaro, but she was arrested and tortured for information, which she kept to herself no matter the horrors inflicted upon her. She was condemned for treason and executed in 1817, so she didn’t see her country becoming independent in 1821.
Mariana Rodríguez Del Toro
This is a name you rarely hear in the celebrations of the Independence. To be honest, I only learned about her quite recently, and it’s a shame since she was really a strong and decisive woman capable of inspiring and making the hard decisions. When the news that the most important leaders of the movement (including Hidalgo) had been betrayed and captured, people in Mexico City were starting to lose faith in the movement. So, she gathered the Insurgent supporters and encouraged them to do something by themselves. She planned on capturing the viceroy and hanging him publicly. Sadly, the secret got out, and she was arrested and tortured as well, but she didn’t reveal anything. She remained imprisoned until 1820, and died some months later.
Last on our list, Camacho is a unique character who will probably never appear in the official textbooks. Camacho was a gorgeous woman who was well aware of the power of her charms and decided to use them to help the independence movement. It’s said that Camacho would attend the taverns and inns that soldiers frequented to charm them. Once they were hooked, she would persuade them to leave the army and join the independence movement promising them lands in the new Independent Mexico. Her strategies were discovered after an important number of desertions, and she was imprisoned (probably executed as well).
These are just five of the thousands of women who took part in the Independence movement in one way or another. Some of them did their part by being directly involved in the fight accompanying their families, while others were the intellectual force that kindled and ended up winning our independence. Women have always been left behind the shadow of “great and pious” men, but in fact, there have always been warriors willing to risk it all for the things they believe in.