José María Morelos
José María Teclo Morelos y Pavón (September 30, 1765, Valladolid, now Morelia, Michoacán – kjkDecember 22, 1815, San Cristóbal Ecatepec, State of México
Mexico (state)
México , officially: Estado Libre y Soberano de México is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of the United Mexican States. It is divided in 125 municipalities and its capital city is Toluca de Lerdo....

) was a Mexican Roman Catholic priest and revolutionary rebel leader who led the Mexican War of Independence
Mexican War of Independence
The Mexican War of Independence was an armed conflict between the people of Mexico and the Spanish colonial authorities which started on 16 September 1810. The movement, which became known as the Mexican War of Independence, was led by Mexican-born Spaniards, Mestizos and Amerindians who sought...

 movement, assuming its leadership after the execution of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1811. He was later captured by the Spanish colonial authorities and executed for treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 in 1815.

Early years

Morelos was born into a poor Afro-mestizo
Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Latin America, Philippines and Spain for people of mixed European and Native American heritage or descent...

 family in the city of Valladolid, since renamed "Morelia" in his honor, in a house that is today a museum dedicated to his legacy. His father was José Manuel Morelos y Robles, a carpenter originally from Zindurio, a predominantly indigenous village a few kilometers west of Valladolid. His mother was Juana María Guadalupe Pérez Pavón, originally from San Juan Bautista de Apaseo, also near Valladolid. Valladolid was the seat of a bishop and of the government of the colonial Intendency of Michoacán. It was known as the "Garden of the Viceroyalty of New Spain" because of its prosperity.

Insurrection against Spain

On September 15, 1810, Hidalgo y Costilla, the former leader of the College of San Nicolás, then the parish priest of Dolores, Guanajuato (since renamed Dolores Hidalgo
Dolores Hidalgo
Dolores Hidalgo Dolores Hidalgo Dolores Hidalgo (in full, Dolores Hidalgo Cuna de la Independencia Nacional is the name of a city and the surrounding municipality in the north-central part of the Mexican state of Guanajuato....

in his honor), called for armed revolt after the Spanish colonial authorities discovered the Conspiracy of Querétaro. The other conspirators included Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez
Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez
María Josefa Cresencia Ortiz y Girón, popularly known as Doña Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez or La Corregidora was an insurgent and supporter of the Mexican War of Independence, which fought for independence against Spain, in the early 19th century...

, Ignacio Allende
Ignacio Allende
Ignacio José de Allende y Unzaga , born Ignacio Allende y Unzaga, was a captain of the Spanish Army in Mexico who came to sympathize with the Mexican independence movement. He attended the secret meetings organized by Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, where the possibility of an independent New Spain was...

 and Juan Aldama
Juan Aldama
Juan Aldama was a Mexican revolutionary rebel soldier during the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. He was also the brother of Ignacio Aldama....

. Hidalgo y Costilla and his followers rose in open revolt the following day.

After taking all the important cities of the Bajío
The Bajío is a region of Central Mexico that includes the plains south of the Sierra de Guanajuato, in the state of Guanajuato, as well as parts of the states of Querétaro and Michoacán .In general parlance, it is usually associated with the States of Guanajuato and Querétaro, although it only...

 region and being proclaimed captain general
Captain General
Captain general is a high military rank and a gubernatorial title.-History:This term Captain General started to appear in the 14th century, with the meaning of commander in chief of an army in the field, probably the first usage of the term General in military settings...

 of Mexico in Celaya
Celaya is a city and its surrounding municipality in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, located in the southeast quadrant of the state. It is the third most populous city in the state, with a 2005 census population of 310,413. The municipality for which the city serves as municipal seat, had a...

 on September 21, Hidalgo y Costilla advanced as far as Guanajuato
Guanajuato, Guanajuato
Guanajuato is a city and municipality in central Mexico and the capital of the state of the same name. It is located in a narrow valley, which makes the streets of the city narrow and winding. Most are alleys that cars cannot pass through, and some are long sets of stairs up the mountainsides....


There on September 28, the rebels captured the Alhóndiga de Granaditas
Alhóndiga de Granaditas
The Alhóndiga de Granaditas is an old grain storage building in Guanajuato City, Mexico. This historic building was created to replace an old granary near the city's river. Its construction lasted from 1798 to 1809, by orders of Juan Antonio de Riaño y Bárcena, a Spaniard who was the quartermaster...

 in battle, killing more than 700 Spaniards who had taken shelter there. Among the dead was the intendent of Guanajuato, Juan Antonio Riaño, an old friend of Hidalgo y Costilla.

The Mexican revolutionary army was excommunicated by the bishop of Michoacán
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Morelia
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Morelia is a Metropolitan Archdiocese, responsible for the dioceses of Apatzingan, Ciudad Lázaro Cárdenas, Tacámbaro and Zamora...

, Manuel Abad y Queipo
Manuel Abad y Queipo
Manuel Abad y Queipo was a Spanish Roman Catholic bishop of Valladolid in the Viceroyalty of New Spain at the time of the Mexican War of Independence.-Education and early career:...

, another former friend of Hidalgo y Costilla. Hidalgo y Costilla and his army marched on to Valladolid, where the locals feared that the slaughter of Guanajuato would be repeated, prompting many people to abandon the region, particularly the rich and middle class society. However, Valladolid was taken peacefully on October 17, 1810.

In Tacámbaro Hidalgo y Costilla was proclaimed general, and Allende captain general. Hidalgo y Costilla ordered a rest for his troops in Indaparapeo, where a few minutes before their departure, Morelos, who had read about his excommunication and his triumphs, found him. Still serving as the parish priest of Cuarácuaro, Hidalgo y Costilla asked Morelos to join the army. Morelos was promoted as colonel of the revolution army, ordering him to raise troops in the south and capture Acapulco
Acapulco is a city, municipality and major sea port in the state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast of Mexico, southwest from Mexico City. Acapulco is located on a deep, semi-circular bay and has been a port since the early colonial period of Mexico’s history...

, to disrupt the commerce and trade with the Philippine Islands.

His campaigns

Morelos soon showed himself to be a talented strategist, and became one of the greatest revolutionary military commanders of the war. In his first nine months, he won 22 victories, annihilating the armies of three Spanish royalist leaders and dominating almost all of what is now the state of Guerrero
Guerrero officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Guerrero is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 81 municipalities and its capital city is Chilpancingo....

. In December, he captured Acapulco for the first time, except for the fortress of San Diego. Spanish reinforcements forced him to raise the siege in January. By quick marches, he was able to capture most of the Spanish possessions on the Pacific coast of what are now Michoacán and Guerrero. On May 24, 1811 he occupied Chilpancingo
Chilpancingo de los Bravo is the capital and second-largest city of the state of Guerrero, Mexico. It is located at . In the 2005 census the population of the city was 166,796. Its surrounding municipality, of which it is municipal seat, had a population of 214,219 persons...

 and on May 26 he took Tixtla
Tixtla is a town and seat of the municipality of Tixtla de Guerrero in the Mexican state of Guerrero.The name is Nahuatl, and means either "maize dough" from textli; "our valley" from to ixtla; or "temple by the water" from teoixtlen.The municipality stands between 17°20' & 17°43' N and 99°15'...


In his second campaign, Morelos divided his army into three groups. The most important engagement of this campaign was at Cuautla
Cuautla, Morelos
Cuautla , officially La heroica e histórica Cuautla de Morelos, or H. H. Cuautla de Morelos, is a city and municipality in the Mexican state of Morelos. In the 2005 census the city population was 145,482 and the municipality population was 160,285. The municipality covers 153.651 km²...

. On Christmas Eve 1811 the townspeople welcomed Morelos in Cuautla
Cuautla may refer to:*Cuautla, Jalisco, Mexico*Cuautla, Morelos, Mexico...

. The next year his forces were besieged by the Spanish army under general Félix María Calleja del Rey
Félix María Calleja del Rey, 1st Count of Calderón
Félix María Calleja del Rey, 1st Count of Calderón was a Spanish military officer and viceroy of New Spain from March 4, 1813, to September 20, 1816, during Mexico's War of Independence.-Before the insurrection of 1810:Captain Calleja del Rey accompanied the Count of Revillagigedo to New Spain in...

. On May 2, 1812, after 58 days, Morelos broke through the siege, and started his third campaign.

Major victories on this third campaign were at Citlala on June 8, 1812, Tehuacán
Tehuacán is the second largest city in the Mexican state of Puebla, nestled in the Southeast Valley of Tehuacán, bordering the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz. The 2010 census reported a population of 248,716 in the city and 274,906 in its surrounding municipality of the same name, of which it serves...

 on August 10, 1812, Orizaba
Orizaba is a city and municipality in the Mexican state of Veracruz. It is located 20 km west of its sister city Córdoba, and is adjacent to Río Blanco and Ixtaczoquitlán, on Federal Highways 180 and 190. The city had a 2005 census population of 117,273 and is almost coextensive with its small...

, Oaxaca
Oaxaca, Oaxaca
The city and municipality of Oaxaca de Juárez, or simply Oaxaca, is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of the same name . It is located in the Centro District in the Central Valleys region of the state, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre at the base of the Cerro del Fortín...

 and Acapulco. Morelos arrived at Orizaba with 10,000 soldiers on October 28, 1812. The city was defended by 600 Spanish soldiers. Negotiation led to a surrender without bloodshed. He entered Oaxaca in triumph on November 25, 1812. Acapulco fell on April 12, 1813, forcing the Spanish army to take refuge in Fort Baltimore after.

The Congress of Chilpancingo

In 1813, Morelos called the National Constituent Congress of Chilpancingo
Congress of Chilpancingo
The Congress of Chilpancingo was a meeting held in Chilpancingo, in what is the modern-day Mexican state of Guerrero, from September to November 1813. The result of this meeting was that Mexico formally declared itself to be independent of Spain and what was later to become the first national...

, composed of representatives of the provinces under his control, to consider a political and social program which he outlined in a document entitled "Sentimientos de la Nación
Sentimientos de la Nación
Sentimientos de la Nación was a document presented by José María Morelos y Pavón, leader of the insurgents in the Mexican War of Independence, to the National Constituent Congress in Chilpancingo on 14 September 1813.The document set out, in 23 points, Morelos's vision of the future...

" (Sentiments of the Nation). The Congress called itself the Congress of Anáhuac, referring poetically to the ancient Aztecs.

On September 13, 1813, the Congress, with Morelos present, endorsed the "Sentiments of the Nation". This document declared Mexican independence from Spain, established the Roman Catholic religion and created the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. It declared respect for property and confiscated the productions of the Spanish colonial government. It abolished slavery and racial social distinctions in favor of the title "American" for all native-born individuals. Torture, monopolies and the system of tributes were also abolished Morelos was offered the title "Generalissimo" with the style of address "Your Highness", but he refused these and asked to be called "Siervo de la Nación" (Servant of the Nation). On November 6, 1813 the Congress declared independence.

After several military defeats, the Congress organized a meeting in Apatzingán
Apatzingán is a city and its surrounding municipality. It's located in the hot Tierra Caliente valley, in the west-central part of the Mexican state of Michoacán. The city is the fourth-largest in Michoacán , with a 2005 census population of 93,180 persons...

, and on October 22 promulgated the "Decreto Constitucional para la Libertad de la América Mexicana" (Constitutional Decree for the Liberty of Mexican America). This established a weak executive and a powerful legislature, the opposite of what Morelos had called for. He nevertheless conceded that it was the best he could hope for under the circumstances.

Capture and execution

Shortly thereafter, Morelos began his fourth military campaign, a series of disasters beginning at Valladolid in late 1813. While escorting the new insurgent Congress in November 1815, he was defeated in Tezmalaca. He was taken prisoner and brought to Mexico City in chains. He was tried and executed for treason. José María Morelos y Pavón was executed by firing squad on December 22, 1815 in San Cristóbal Ecatepec, north of Mexico City in order that his execution not provoke a dangerous public reaction . He was later judged to be reconciled to the church, lifting his excommunication, as he was seen praying on his way to his execution (Marron, cited below). After his death, his lieutenant, Vicente Guerrero
Vicente Guerrero
Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña was one of the leading revolutionary generals of the Mexican War of Independence, who fought against Spain for independence in the early 19th century, and served briefly as President of Mexico...

, continued the war of independence.


Morelos is considered a national hero
A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

 of Mexico. In his honor, the state of Morelos
Morelos officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Morelos is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 33 municipalities and its capital city is Cuernavaca....

 and city of Morelia
Morelia is a city and municipality in the north central part of the state of Michoacán in central Mexico. The city is in the Guayangareo Valley and is the capital of the state. The main pre-Hispanic cultures here were the P'urhépecha and the Matlatzinca, but no major cities were founded in the...

 are named after him. Morelos' legacy has been portrayed on the 50 peso
Mexican peso
The peso is the currency of Mexico. Modern peso and dollar currencies have a common origin in the 15th–19th century Spanish dollar, most continuing to use its sign, "$". The Mexican peso is the 12th most traded currency in the world, the third most traded in the Americas, and by far the most...

 note since 1997; 1 peso coins during the 1940s, 1970s and 1980s. Also the Estadio Morelos
Estadio Morelos
Estadio Morelos is a football stadium located along Periférico Independencia, in the Independencia sector, in the foot of the Cerro del Quinceo in northwest Morelia, Michoacán, México. It's the site of professional football teams, Monarcas Morelia in the top division of Mexican football and...

 in Morelia, Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos is a town and sea port in Quintana Roo, Mexico's easternmost state, on the Yucatán Peninsula. The town is at the southern end of the municipality of Benito Juárez in the northeast of the state, about 36 km south of the resort city of Cancún...

 in the state of Quintana Roo
Quintana Roo
Quintana Roo officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Quintana Roo is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 10 municipalities and its capital city is Chetumal....

, the Morelos Station
Metro Morelos
Morelos is a station on the Mexico City Metro. It is locatedin Venustiano Carranza borough, in the north of Mexico City. The station logo depicts the profile of José María Morelos y Pavón, second instigator of the War of Independence of 1810...

in Mexico's City Metro System
Mexico City Metro
The Mexico City Metro , officially called Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, is a metro system that serves the metropolitan area of Mexico City...

, Ecatepec
Ecatepec de Morelos Municipality
Ecatepec de Morelos Municipality borders with Tecámac, Nezahualcóyotl, Acolman, San Salvador Atenco, Tlalnepantla and Distrito Federal. The area of this municipality is 155 km² ....

 the city in Mexico State where he was executed and the Morelos Satellite from the Communications company Satmex
Satmex is a commercial company from Mexico that operates space satellites that provide services to the Americas.-History:...

are named after him

Further reading

  • Wilbert H. Timmons, "Morelos: Priest, Soldier, Statesman of Mexico", revised edition, 1970

External links

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