September is here and with it comes the annual celebration that is National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began on Sept. 15th. The month-long celebration began under President Lyndon Johnson as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and was expanded to a month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
The reasoning behind the date is that all Central American countries (with the exception of Panama), Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence from European colonization in September. So, without further ado, we present a brief guide to the history of those countries independence days.
Belize – September 21, 1981
That’s not a typo. Belize gained its independence just under two weeks shy of my birthdate. Coincidence or cosmic connection? Whatever the case, the country changed hands repeatedly between the Spanish and English after English and Scottish Baymen settled on the territory’s coastline in the early 17th century. The British took over the country in 1798 after the Battle of St. George’s Caye, which began on Sept. 3 and ended seven days later on the 10th. Oligarchs ruled Belize until 1862 when the British declared the territory to be a British Crown Colony and named it British Honduras. The country became a self-governing entity in 1964 and was renamed Belize in 1973. Its path to independence was hampered by Guatemala, which claimed Belize as Guatemalan territory despite the terms of the Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty of 1859. Belize attained full independence on Sept. 21, 1981 (no revolution necessary!) and Guatemalan president Jorge Serrano Elías recognized Belize’s independent status in 1992.
Chile – September 18, 1810
Chile became part of the Spanish Empire in the mid-16th century but the native Mapuche weren’t having any of that colonization bullshit. Revolts and insurrections by the Mapuche were frequent and typically successful. The Spanish Crown decided to keep an expensive, Lord Of The Rings-sized army in the colony to protect it from the Mapuche as well as its European enemies including English explorer/pirate Sir Francis Drake. Ferdinand VII was overthrown by Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, and he and the Government Junta of Chile (a.k.a. Government Assembly of the Kingdom of Chile) declared the territory to be an autonomous republic on Sept. 18th, 1810. The declaration preceded the Chilean War of Independence (1810 – 1826) led by a handful of badasses including brothers José Miguel, Luis, and Juan José Carrera, Bernardo O’Higgins and José de San Martín, whose collective exploits and disagreements would make a great war telenovela, for complete independence from Spain.
Mexico – September 16, 1810
Because it must be repeated: Cinco De Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day. That day is celebrated on Sept. 16th thanks to the exploits of renegade priest Miguel Hidalgo. Hidalgo arrived at Dolores, Guanajuato in 1803. His activities supporting the pueblo’s poor were frowned upon by the Spanish Crown who saw a pueblo of self- reliant mestizos and indios as a threat. On Sept. 15th, 1810, Hidalgo ordered his brother Mauricio , Spanish turncoat Ignacio Allende and a group of armed men to free as many inmates in the town as possible. The following morning, Hidalgo lead morning mass and delivered El Grito De Dolores, a call to arms for freedom from Spain. El Grito launched the Mexican War of Independence (not to be confused with the Mexican Revolution featuring Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata), which ended on Sept. 27th, 1821 when army general Agustín de Iturbide marched into Mexico City on his birthday (how pimp is that?!), months after signing the Plan De Iguala peace treaty with Vicente Guerrero as well as its extension, the Tratados de Córdoba, with Juan O’Donojú. Iturbide was crowned emperor of the short-lived First Mexican Empire (1821 – 1823) the following year, which leads us to…
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua OR the territories formerly known as The Federal Republic of Central America (República Federal de Centroamérica) – September 15, 1821
Most of the territory that makes up Central America today was originally known as The Captaincy General of Guatemala by the Spanish Crown. Calls for independence were influenced by the Plan De Iguala and, on Sept. 14th, the Captain General invoked a General Assembly in Guatemala City to discuss the issue of independence. Apparently, they got stuck in traffic and never made it to the meeting because they were superseded by a Popular Assembly that drafted and signed the Acta De Indepencia that same day and proclaimed independence on the 15th. The region, which briefly included a portion of Chiapas, Mexico, was freed from Spanish rule days and was annexed by the First Mexican Empire. The region peacefully seceded from Iturbide’s empire, which was riddled with its own problems, in 1823 and became the República Federal de Centroamérica, which dissolved in 1838. Important figures from the republic’s reign include: Manuel José Arce, whose deposition of governor Juan Barrundia led to a civil war that lasted three years; Francisco Morazán, who served two terms as president during the region’s most turbulent times; and Rafael Carrera, who was the Joker to Morazán’s Batman.
Honorable Mention: Brazil – September 7, 1822
Brazil would’ve been included in Hispanic Heritage Month but it missed the cutoff date by eight days. Neymar’s response: