Who Was "El Pipila" – Famous Mexican Independence Hero?

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The territory embracing what is now known as México was once one of the richest and most important colonies of Spain's Kingdom. Under the name of the "New Spain" it was the main source of gold and silver for the Kingdom during the 400 years of Spaniard domination of this territory, contributing highly to the emergence of Spain as the great power of its time.

But things were not going very well for the locals in the colony, many of whom were treated as slaves, mainly the Indian and African population; and many others as "second class" and even "third class" citizens of an empire that at the beginning of the XIX century was a decadent shadow of its past greatness.

The new ideas of the French Illustration and the American Revolution had influenced a number of intellectuals and progressive personalities of the colony making them think about gaining independence from Spain and implement a number of reforms that would make the territory a new country under many of the values proclaimed by the Illustration.

Among the people thinking seriously about gaining Independence from Spain, gains great notoriety the figure of Miguel Hidalgo, a non-traditional catholic priest that had been living in the town of "Dolores" in what is now the Mexican state of Guanajuato. He had contributed to the betterment of the native population, making him very popular, by teaching them a number of crafts and to some, even how to write and read. Many of these crafts have survived until our current days; for example, the world famous "Talavera" ceramic pieces that you can find in what is now known as the town of "Dolores Hidalgo". Besides his popularity he was also the lider of the local conspiration against Spain's rule.

It was the year 1810 when the conspiration against Spain was finally mature enough to be implemented. It was in the month of September when, accelerated by the sudden discovery of the conspiration by "Realist authorities", the struggle for Independence was initiated. It was the night of September 15 when Hidalgo and others decided to go ahead and gather the people of Dolores to constitute the first army that would march against Spaniard positions.

The long column of peasants and the few trained officials constituting the "Insurgent Army" marched during a number of days through the region gathering more people and resources. Once they felt strong enough they aimed to the biggest Spaniard post in the zone. The world famous mining town of Guanajuato.

And it's during this episode that the figure of "El Pipila" comes to scene during the first battle of the Independence struggle. Insurgents had put an old grain storage building under siege. All Spaniards had gone into this big building and were using it as a fortress to resist the "Insurgent Army" until some reinforcements could come from the capital or some other post.
Insurgents were desperate. The building seemed to be inexpugnable and they were losing many men trying to approach one of the two doors or climbing the walls. Besides, "Realist" reinforcements could be approaching and they were stuck at that position.

Hidalgo and other officials had come to the conclusion that only by destroying one of the doors they could hope for a victory. But who would do it? Who would dare to approach the door, dodging bullets and put it on fire? … It seemed there was no one willing to take such a high risk to his life. Until "El Pipila" appeared from among the peasants. He approached Hidalgo and told him he was willing to go ahead and burn the door. He had been thinking how to approach the door and he had come to the conclusion he would use a piece of thick stone laced to his back as protection against bullets and then crawl to the door.

And that's how he did it. With the heavy piece of stone on his back and a torch in his hand he slowly crawled under enemy fire until he finally reached the door and with his last forces set fire to the door made of wood allowing the Insurgent Army to enter the building and claiming the first victory of the struggle for independence of the country that is now known as Mexico.

Very few things are known of what happened to 'El Pipila "after this historic episode.

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Source by Omar Ferro

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