May 8 is an official civic holiday in Mexico, although no one in our area seems to know that. There is even a street in Uriangato (el 8 de mayo) in honor of this holiday, but no one could tell me what was so special about this day that it got its own street name.
But, doing a little research, I found that May 8 is the birthday of Miguel Hidalgo, a revolutionary priest born in 1753, and the day Mexico and the day the US first engaged in battle in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). Fancy that!
Don Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo-Costilla y Gallaga Mandarte Villaseñor holds the dubious triple title of Father. Once as a priest in the Catholic church, secondly, as a biological father since he had at least 5 illegitimate children with two different women while serving as a priest and third as the Father of Mexico, although he didn’t live to see Mexican independence. Despite his less than orthodox lifestyle (he liked to drink and gamble too), Hidalgo was a champion of class equality and worked tirelessly to better the lives of the oppressed indigenous and mestizo people of Mexico.
For his efforts, he was betrayed and sent to the bishop of Durango who defrocked and excommunicated Hidalgo in 1811. He was then tried by a military court, found guilty of treason and executed. His body, along with the bodies of military leaders Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, and Jose Mariano Jimenez, was decapitated. The heads were displayed on the four corners of the Ahondiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato for 10 years.
For more information about the life of Miguel Hidalgo, watch the movie
Hidalgo--la historia jamas contada
The movie does a good job of portraying the humanity rather than sainthood of Hidalgo.
The second historic event was the first major battle of the Mexican-American War, although the U.S. did not officially declare war on Mexico until May 13. On May 8, 1846, Zachary Taylor and 2,400 U.S. troops arrived at Fort Texas. The Mexican forces were defeated and forced north of the Rio Grande. This war resulted from the refusal of Mexico to recognize Texas as part of the United States
Mexico refers to this war as La Intervención Estadounidense (The United States Invasion) and did not acknowledge the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845. After all, Mexico had claimed this area from the Spanish Empire after the Revolution in 1821, and more than 80,000 Mexicans lived in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Mexico felt the annexation was a hostile action against its borders and declared war on the United States.
Like I mentioned, no one seems to know about these particular events in our area, much less make a big festive deal about them, although I am sure that both events are thoroughly covered in history class.
May is quite the month here in Mexico. Every time you turn around there is another celebration! For other Mexican May holidays see: El Día de Los Trabajadores, Conmemoración del Escuadron de Pelea 201, El Dia de la Santa Cruz y El Dia del Albañil, La Batalla de Puebla, Natalicio de Miguel Hidalgo, El Dia de las Madres, El Jueves de la Ascensiónn, Pascua de Pentecostés, El Día del Maestro, and El Dia del Estudiante
Learn about other people in Mexican history!