How many of you are familiar with Vicente Guerrero? He was born in 1782 in a small village named Tixla located in the state of Guerrero. Born to Pedro Guerrero an African Mexican father and Guadalupe Saldana an Indian mother. His family was devout supporters of Spanish rule, but Guerrero expressed anti-colonialist sentiment from early on.
Vicente came from humble beginnings and as a young man, he started out by working as a mule driver on his father’s mule run, which allowed him to travel extensively to many different parts of Mexico. Throughout his younger days, he would constantly hear rumors, whispers, and discussions about independence which only confirmed his own sentiments for which he held dear to his heart.
While working as a gunsmith Guerrero met a General by the name of Jose Maria Morelos Y Pavon, who was a revolutionist. Guerrero joined the revolution and enlisted in José María Morelos‘s insurgent army of the south in December 1810.
Morelos was eventually assassinated for what he stood for, fought for and eventually died for by the Spaniards. Having strong convictions of his own, Guerrero took the position as Commander in Chief. As Commander in Chief, Guerrero made a deal with the General Agustin de Iturbide.
A story that Guerrero will always be known for in history took place in 1819, after approximately 11 years of fighting. His father now an elderly man, begged his son to go the viceroy of New Spain and offer his sword in surrender. Guerrero response to his father in front of his men was: “Compañeros, this old man is my father. He has come to offer me rewards in the name of the Spaniards. I have always respected my father, but my Motherland comes first.” Today, the line, “My Motherland comes first,” is the motto for the southern state of Guerrero, named after him after his death
General Augustin de Iturbi and Vicente became allies and together they formed El Plan De Iguala (The Plan of Three Guarantees), which was a revolutionary proclamation signed on February 24, 1821.
El Plan De Iguala would only allow civil rights to be extended to Indians, but not African Mexicans or Mulattos. Guerrero would not sign The Plan unless it gave equal rights to the African Mexicans and Mulattos. He stood his ground and The Plan was changed and Clause 12 was then added. It now read, “All inhabitants . . . without distinction of their European, African or Indian origins are citizens . . . with full freedom to pursue their livelihoods according to their merits and virtues.”
At the signing of the proclamation, both men were unaware as to where their paths would eventually lead them. Augustín de Iturbide would later go on to become Emperor of Mexico and Vicente Guerrero would rise even higher to become President of Mexico.
Once Iturbide became Emperor of Mexico by Congress he went back on his promises to favor policies toward the elite landowners. Commanding the country as he had commanded the army, he dissolved the Congress and ordered dissidents imprisoned.
When Guerrero ran for president against Manuel Gómez Pedraza, the upper-class Pedraza won the popular vote. There were many demonstrations against him by the military, which was led by Santa Anna, and as a result, he ended up renouncing the position and fled Mexico to Europe. Guerrero was then instilled as the country’s President on April 1, 1829.
Even though very short lived as president of the then independent Mexico, Guerrero, as head of the “People’s Party,” called for public schools, land title reforms, and other programs of a liberal nature. Guerrero was elected the second president of Mexico in 1829. As president, Guerrero went on to champion the cause not only of the racially oppressed but also of the economically oppressed.
What’s important to note, Guerrero abolished slavery in Mexico on September 16th, 1829. This declaration, however, was very unfortunate for Guerrero, his actions would prove to be the beginning of the end for which he would pay with his life.
Texas currently was part of Mexico’s territory. The white American upper and middle-class citizens who were slave owners threatened to revolt. Guerrero later made Texas territory an exception of his declaration. Further dissatisfaction against Guerrero grew from other ambitious military leaders, such as Santa Anna.
It became so unbearable for members of Guerrero’s appointed cabinet from conservative political factions that his minister of war chose to resign. A revolt was staged against Guerrero in December 1830 and he was removed from office. He returned to the southern states with intentions to devise another rebellion in response to all the vicious and underhanded tactics directed towards him and what he stood for, but sadly the rebellion would never materialize.
The new minister of war, José Antonio Facio, maliciously paid a Genoese captain fifty thousand pesos to invite Guerrero aboard his vessel in Acapulco. Once on board, Guerrero was kidnapped and taken into custody in Oaxaca for trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to be executed in front of a firing squad, which commenced on February 14th, 1831.
It is clear to see that despite Guerrero’s popularity and the love of his people; Guerrero’s demise was a result of racial and class fears of the time.
Guerrero’s political discourse was one of the civil rights for all, but especially for African Mexicans. Mexicans with hearts full of pride call him the “greatest man of color.”