Criollos and Clergy

Mexico Table of Contents

Economic expansion and a certain degree of political relaxation in the 1700s gave rise to greater expectations of autonomy by the colonists, especially after the republican revolutions in the United States (1776), France (1789), and Haiti (1804). Social stratification in New Spain, marked by discrepancies between the rich and the poor and between criollos and peninsulares , however, worked to prevent the necessary social cohesion for a revolutionary undertaking, even though the tensions for a revolution continued to build. Peninsulares from all walks of life believed themselves superior to their American-born counterparts. In reaction to such discrimination, criollos showed pride in things that pertained to Mexico. Criollos considered themselves subjects of the Spanish crown, however, and also abided by the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. More important, criollos did not want an egalitarian society--privileges were fine as long as they benefited from them.

In Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 1808. When French troops entered Madrid, the Habsburg king, Charles IV, abdicated, and Napoleon named his brother Joseph Bonaparte as the new king. Many Spanish patriots in unoccupied parts of Spain declared Ferdinand VII, son of Charles IV, as the new monarch. When the news of Charles IV's abdication reached New Spain, considerable turmoil arose over the question of whether Ferdinand VII or Joseph was the legitimate ruler of the colony. Hoping to be named king of a newly independent country, Viceroy JosÚ de Iturrigaray supported the criollos of New Spain when they proposed a junta to govern the colony. Peninsulares realized the danger of such an association between criollos and the administration and thus orchestrated a coup d'Útat in 1808 to defend their privileges and standing in colonial society. After the coup, Iturrigaray was replaced by a senile puppet Spaniard, Pedro Garibay, much to the despair of the criollos.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress