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Mexico's Father Miguel Hidalgo, a 'father' in more ways than one

September 15, 2010 |  5:18 pm

Miguel hidalgo epa photo

It may not be the best of times for Mexico, but the country is nonetheless facing an enormously symbolic signpost in its history today with a parade and massive public party in Mexico City to celebrate 200 years of independence from Spain. Celebrations are being held across the country and in Mexican communities around the world.

How did it all start? With Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest in the tiny provincial town of Dolores, Guanajuato. In the early-morning hours of Sept. 16, 1810, he rang the bells of his parish and gave the "grito," or call to arms, unleashing a violent uprising against Spanish rule in Mexico that had been building up since 1808.

"Death to the bad government!" Hidalgo cried, in a call that is reenacted late on the night of every Sept. 15 but with less specific cries now of "Viva Mexico!" Today, the "grito" is considered the start of Mexico's 11-year war of independence, Sept. 16 is officially Independence Day, and Hidalgo is considered the "father of the fatherland."

It turns out the priest has more claims on the "father" appellation than is generally known.

Tracy Wilkinson has all the randy historical details, and more, in this feature on Mexico's bicentennial in The Times. Did you know that at least one Mexican "sexologist" has concluded that "Revolutionary icon Pancho Villa probably was impotent, while his cohort Emiliano Zapata just might have been bisexual"?

— Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: A portrait of Father Miguel Hidalgo at the National Palace in Mexico City. Credit: EPA