The Mexican Revolution represented a major change for the region not only politically, but socially as well. The Mexican people, being oppressed under a 300 year rule from Spain, had to contend with intense persecution within minority populations due to a Spanish imposed caste system which encouraged genocide, abuse, and division of Mexican Solidarity. Eventually, as discussed in this sample research paper, the people would successfully overthrow this rule in an eleven year war which was led by the key figure Vicente Guerrero.
Guerrero’s political and militaristic success helped him to rise to the prestigious position of Mexican president making him the first Black-Indian president in the Americas. His journey to presidency and time as president represent a crucially important step in the development of racial equality free from the indifferent shackles of historical oppression. Unfortunately, the gain was short lived as he was killed by his enemies who persecuted him mostly likely due to the color of his skin and ethnicity. Nevertheless, his sacrifice would continue to fuel the flames of racial freedom for years to come.
Vincente Guerrero growing up
Vicente Guerrero hailed from the small village of Tixla in the state of Guerrero. Born in 1783 to parents Pedro Guerrero and Guadalupe Saldana, he possessed both African Mexican and Indian Blood (Rivera). The Spanish caste system prevented him from aspiring beyond the peasantry of his parents and formal education was not an available to Vicente Guerremo (Vicente Guerrero). As a young man he held the humble position of mule runner for his father’s business.
Through mule running he journeyed across Mexico which brought him into contact with the gestating ideals of Mexican independence. On one such travel he met Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon, rebel general for the anti-Spanish forces (Rivera). Jose Maria Morelos was known to lead mobs of Indians across the Mexican countryside looting, killing, proclaiming independence, and a position in the society so controlled by the Spanish aristocracy (Vicente Guerrero). Guerrero appraised Morelos’ mission well and joined his forces.
The war for Independence
When the Mexican War for independence broke out in 1810, led by Father Hildago, Guerrero distinguished himself with superior tactical ability and incredible courage (Vicente Guerrero). Soon, he was promoted to rank of Capitan which gave him the responsibility of an army. Through the commandeering of enemy weapons and supplies, he was able to stage numerous attacks on the Spanish forces which proved successful to Hildago’s revolutionary forces.
This brought him to the rank of Colonel in the army and raised his charge from a haggard crew of less than one hundred to a military force of more than a thousand (Vicente Guerrero). Guerrero would soon become commander and chief of the army when Hildago’s capture by the Spainards ended with execution in 1815.
As the new leader of the revolutionary forces, his luck, strategy, and morale was hard pressed. Many of his associate revolutionary leaders had been taken, converted, or disabled by the Spanish. Guerrero himself was abandoned by his own troops yet still he persevered for six years in the Mexican South through use of Guerrilla war tactics (Tuck).
The Spanish army, fearing his power, used any tactics available to deter Guerrero’s assault including the use of his own father. Apodaca persuaded the elder Guerrero to beg his son to surrender by crawling at his knees. To this day, a plaque is hung on Guerrero house in Tixtla reading his infamous
“Companeros, this old man is my father. He has come to offer me rewards in the name of the Spaniards. I have always respected my father but my country comes first” (Tuck).
When Apodaca failed to induce Guerrero’s surrender this way, he sent Agustin de Iturbide, a younger and eager general, to command an opposing force. Unfortunately for Apodaca, Iturbide saw the validity of Guerrero’s nationalism and joined forces with the revolutionaries through a letter proposing Mexican independence be delivered under the ‘three guarantees’.
The first was that Mexico be made an independent constitutional monarchy; that no distinction was to be made between the mestizos, Indians, Creoles, and Spaniards, and that Catholicism be made the state religion (Tuck). These three guarantees would form the foundation of the Mexican Revolution’s new name the Trigarante Army.
An independent Mexico
With the backing of Iturbide, Apodaca was forced to renounce Spain’s dominion over Mexico and leave its rule to the Trigarante Army in 1821 as they marched their way into Mexico’s capital. Iturbide took the opportunity to claim himself as Emperor of the new nation with the title “Emperor Agustin I” at the beckoning of a ‘spontaneous’ demonstration by a troop of handpicked soldiers from his army (Tuck).
Though initially Guerrero was in favor of Iturbide’s rule, he was in revolt within two years with the assistance of Nicolas Bravo and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Realizing his imminent defeat, Iturbide abdicated his control and fled to European exile in 1983 (Vicente Guerrero).
Mexico, without the control of Itrubide, needed a new leader. Two factions had split the country in half between the liberalists, known as federalists, in favor of little government, and the conservatives, who favored more government, known as centralists (Tuck).
The Mexican government adopted a presidential election style that was then similar to the U.S.’s wherein the president would be chosen from one party while the vice-president came from the other. In 1824, liberal president Guadalupe Victoria and conservative vice-president General Nicolas Bravo took office. 3 years into the term of office Bravo staged a revolt and was successfully sent into exile by Guerrero (Tuck).
When Victoria’s term ended, the time for Guerrero’s turn in office had come. As a liberalist, he was pitted against Genderal Gomez Pedraza and General Anastasio Bustamante in the 1828 election. The official results indicated that Pedraza won the election but Guerrero seriously doubted such results in the wake of the revolt he himself had put down just a few years before (Tuck).
In response, he through a revolt of his own which was successfully carried out with the assistance of Leonardo Zavala, a radical journalist from the Yucatan with political experience (Tuck). In April of 1829, when Guerrero took his term of office, he instated Bustamante as vice-president to appease the centralist factions.
Vincente Guerrero as President
Guerrero’s presidency was tragically brief given the loyalty and service he had delivered the burgeoning Mexican nation on its road to independence. As a military leader his skill was superb, yet as a political figure his stature was left wanting. To support his presidency he relied heavily on Zavala and a gringo diplomat named Poinsett (Tuck).
The centralists heavily criticized Guerrero’s associates and through a smear-campaign successfully ousted the two from the Mexican government. Soon Bustamante had started another conservative revolt and was able to oust Guerrero as well.
Fleeing to his home town of Tixtla, he prepared to launch his second insurrection. Though he and his forces were making way against the Bustamante regime, Guerrero himself was captured through a trick set up by minster of war and marine, Jose Antonio Facio (Sprague). Facio paid Captain Miguel Gonzeles 50,000 pesos to invite Guerrero on board his ship for a surprise capture of Guerrero in 1831.
Once on board the ship Guerrero was held by a militia force commanded by a sub-lieutenant of Acapulco, Guerrero’s former enemy. The ship then sailed to Oaxaca for Guerrero to answer to 6 charges claimed of him by the Mexican government. Accounts of plundering, conspiracy, murder of surrendered Texas officers, and violation of Acapulco’s surrender, though presented with flimsy evidence and entirely denied by Guerrero, were sufficient to incriminate Guerrero and lead to death sentence at the hands of the Mexican government. In the town Cuilapa, Guerrero met his death kneeling blindfolded in front of a firing squad (Sprague)
Vincente Guerrero’s legacy
Guerrero’s treatment as president from his enemies was a substantial deviation from the normal course other key political Mexican figures had received since its revolution. Those who revolted or dissented were generally exiled or set in prison, not killed. One Mexican historian offers some insight into why his life ended so tragically. He writes that the Guerrero’s enemies were elites who feared social and racial changes that Guerrero’s occupancy as president would surely bring as he was a person of mixed blood. The execution of the imminent Mexican general may have been an early warning sign to people of ‘inferior’ race throughout Mexico to be wary of trying to ‘rise above their ranks’ (Tuck).
Guerrero’s enemies only partially succeeded in their mission. Killing a national war hero like Guerrero blew up in their face as spreading news of Guerrero’s death contributed to the ousting of Bustamante from his presidency (Sprague). Guerrero became a martyr for the Jalapa party which expanded the liberal movement throughout Mexico.
Indeed, to this day some scholars assert the Guerrero is a sort of Mexican Washington or Lincoln who died in the service of freedom (Stevens 153). The allusion to Lincoln is credible since it was he who issued the decree which ended slavery in Mexico (Vincent 258). He also petitioned for greater equality between the classes through moving addresses to the Mexican Congress and the levying of taxes on the rich to improve the lives of the poor. He said unto Congress
“we have a republic, and she will be conserved by the universal suffrage of a people solid, free and happy” (Katz).
Furthermore he embodied an example of freedom which he stated comes from
“living with a knowledge that no one is above anyone else, and that there is no title more honored than that of the citizen”
and that this applies to every person regardless of occupation or origin (Katz).
From humble beginnings the man Vicente Guerrero made steady strides towards an independent Mexican state. At one point with a little less than 100 people in his army, he rose to power as commander and chief of the Trigarante army which successfully overthrew the Spaniards and brought Mexico its’ longed for independence. After serving as military support and advisor for Mexico’s first president, he himself took up office though not for long.
Repeated revolts within the new Mexico state made politics a deadly game Guerrero was fated to loose an account of the color of his skin and race of origin. Fortunately, before his death he managed to abolish slavery and inspire countless Mexicans to live a life of equality and economic justice. It is sad that this heroic figure died so prematurely. His contribution to Mexico is legendary and likely to be remembered into time immemorial.
“Vicente Guerrero.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 4 Mar. 2015
Katz, William Loren. “The Legacy of Vicente Guerrero, President.” WilliamKatz.com, 2006. Accessed Mar. 5, 2015.
Rivera, Alicia. “Guerrero, Vicente”. BlackPast.org, 2015. Accessed Mar. 4, 2015.
Sprague, William Forrest. Vicente Guerrero: Mexican Liberator: A Study in Patriotism. Wallace L. McKeehan, 2005. Accessed Mar. 4, 2015.
Stevens, Donald Fithian. “Patriots, Poverty, Taxes, and Death: Recent Work on Mexican History, 1750-1850.” Latin American Research Review 40.2 (2005): 150-165.
Tuck, Jim. Vicente Guerrero: A study in triumph and tragedy (1782-1831). Mexconnect, 2001. Web. Accessed, Mar. 4, 2015.
Vincent, Ted. “The blacks who freed Mexico.” Journal of Negro History (1994): 257-276.