You walk down them every day, you say their names all the time, but do you know what they mean? This is the new section of Que Pasa Oaxaca where we explore the story behind Oaxaca’s street names!
We may as well start with Miguel Hidalgo, or the street better known as Hidalgo, as it is the most common street name in Mexico. Hidalgo was a priest, academic and something of a renaissance man who dabbled in beekeeping and raising silkworms. Oh, and leading rebellions.
It was Hidalgo who delivered the famous ‘Cry of Dolores’ speech in 1810, the one which ends with “Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico!” This historical occasion took place on 16 September in the town of Dolores, Guanajauto, and is considered the start of the Mexican War of Independence. In fact Hidalgo is often referred to as ‘The Father of Mexico’. This day is now marked in Mexico as Independence Day. September 16, NOT Cinco de Mayo, but you knew that right?
After delivering his epic speech, Hidalgo – who it’s worth noting was a middle aged man with no military experience – marched towards the capital with an ever growing crew of disillusioned villagers who wanted to challenge the government.
Despite his impressive army, and the fact that they successfully took the city of Valladolid, upon approach of the Capital….Hidalgo choked. No one knows why, but he decided not to take the capital, and instead wound up in Guadelajara by the end of November, with just a fraction of his men.
Though Hidalgo did not hold power in Guadelajara for very long, he did instate some pretty sweet policies including ending slavery, and abolishing taxes for alcohol and tobacco. He even had time to start a newspaper called ‘American Wake Up Call’.
This was short lived however. By the time the Royalist Army arrived to challenge him at the end of January 1911, Hidalgo had amassed an army of nearly 100,000 but they were swiftly defeated by the 6,000 much better trained men.
Hidalgo took flight and was eventually captured and taken to Chihuahua. Though he was subsequently defrocked, excommunicated, charged with treason and executed, the movement he kickstarted would eventually succeed ten years later when Mexico gained its independence. Also, he didn’t go out without delivering some excellent parting words: “Though I may die, I shall be remembered forever; you all will soon be forgotten”.
With at least 14,000 streets currently named after him in Mexico, he was not wrong.
I dream of the day when there are STREET SIGNS on EVERY street corner in Oaxaca, to go with all the stories.