Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The “Soul” of Mexican Independence

Afro-Mexican Liberator & President

I refer to him as Mexico's George Washington (in a military sense), Mexico's Abraham Lincoln (in a political sense), and Mexico's Barack Obama (in an ethnic sense). September 16 marks Mexico's anniversary of her Independence from Spain. If you visit Mexico's resort city of Acapulco, you will find that Acapulco is in Mexico's state of Guerrero, named in honor of Mexico's liberator, Vicente Guerrero; the “Soul” of Mexican independence.

He was the son of Juan Pedro Guerrero, a humble Mestizo peasant and María Guadalupe Saldaña, an African slave.

Vicente Guerrero was born in 1782 in a town about 60 miles inland from the Port of Acapulco. He was the son of Juan Pedro Guerrero, a humble Mestizo peasant and María Guadalupe Saldaña, an African slave. Guerrero, who did not receive a formal education, was forced to earn a living as a mule driver. When he joined the Mexican revolution, he distinguished himself in major battles, achieving the rank of captain, then colonel, and finally general showing superior tactical ability and outstanding courage. With weapons and supplies captured from Spanish forces, Guerrero took his rag-tag gang of less than 100 men and built it into a strong military force of over 1,000.

One by one the leading Mexican revolutionaries like Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, Mariano Jimenez, and Javier Mina were slain or made prisoner. The rest accepted the king's pardon. But General Vicente Guerrero remained the only major rebel leader still at large and became the "Soul" of Mexican Independence.

On April 1, 1829, Guerrero, with the aid of a general and a politician staged a coup d'état and became Mexico's second president. He was a harsh opponent of social and economic inequalities. Guerrero at once set about improving the conditions of the indigenous, blacks, and bi racial people of Mexico. In case you are surprised by the mention of blacks; according to the late anthropologist and professor at the University of Vera Cruz in Mexico, Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, who also wrote the book La Población Negra de México (the Black Population of Mexico), 500,000 slaves had been brought in from Africa by the year of 1810. When you factor in interracial marriages and relationships over the centuries, the African presence in Mexico is much less obvious today than in countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or hell, even Perú.

Though Vicente Guerrero was inspired by the Constitution of the United States, he went further than that by ordering the immediate release of every slave in Mexico, be they black or indigenous. Guerrero's emancipation proclamation was put into effect almost without resistance because it did not entail great economic loss to the rich, except in one state, Texas (a part of Mexico at that time) where American immigrants, legal and illegal, who came with their slaves to escape antislavery agitation in the United States. They made it clear that they would not give up their slaves without a struggle. Later Texas revolted against Mexico and joined the American Union partly because of Vicente Guerrero's emancipation proclamation.

Someone knowledgeable of Mexican history told me that Vicente Guerrero was a great liberator but a bad politician. Guerrero himself learned that to govern was more difficult than to fight. He was too generous with his opponents, pardoning many of them. His appeals to patriotism and bipartisanship failed. Because of his lack of formal education, his countrified manners, and his reputed African blood, he was held in contempt by the upper-class, and opposition to the Guerrero administration increased and became bitter.

Early in 1830, the conservative Vice-President Anastasio Bustamante staged a revolt driving Guerrero into the mountains. But early in 1831, Vicente Guerrero was enticed on board an Italian ship at Acapulco and was betrayed by the captain, who turned him over to the Mexican government allegedly for 50,000 pesos. Guerrero was declared mentally incapable, convicted of treason, and put to death. Mexicans who were loyal to Guerrero revolted, driving Bustamante from his presidency and forcing him to flee for his life. Honors were conferred on surviving members of Guerrero's family, and a pension was paid to his widow.

Today, we have a country with more billionaires than any other country on the face of the earth with severe economic problems that is driving so many of their poor for greener pastures across the border. I can't help but wonder if this scenario would be the same if Vicente Guerrero not only stayed in office but was succeeded by one president after another, who like him, cared for all Mexicans, regardless of income, color, or ethnicity. But when I meet immigrants from from Mexico's state of Guerrero, I am quick to declare my admiration for Vicente Ramon Guerrero Saldaña----the “Soul” of Mexican independence.


  1. And what is so fascinating, Mr./Ms Anonymous? :-)

  2. Wrong claim. Vicente Guerrero's parents were both free. Both were mestizos with all three ancestries, African, Native and European, as was common in Tixla.

  3. Thanks, Jaime. I'm going to look into the part about Guerrero's mother being free and never have been a slave. However, if both were mestizos as you claim, then why was Vicente Guerrero hassled by other politicians because of his color, his African bloodline? Why was he referred to as “El Negro?”

  4. Jaime Andres, it's almost a week since I responded to your comment. If you are going to present an opposing point of view, at least have the wherewithal to back it up with facts!

  5. I grew up knowing of the influence of the African culture in Mexico. The influence in the music, food and history. It is truly facinating how diverse our culture really is.
    Thank you for your research because indeed it is a side the a lot of "mexicanos" ignore.
    By the way not the same "anonymous"


  6. Thank You So Much For Your Research. It Really Hepls To Refresh Of Our Roots In Hard Times Like Today, When There Is Too Much Hate For Other Raza! Again Thank You! Mr. W Bill Smith.


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