The Akumalian

Akumal's Newsletter for its Extended Global Community
Quintana Roo, Mexico

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 September 2003 Issue 11


The Akumalian never expected that there would be so much going on at this time of the year to warrant as many issues as we have seen over the past two weeks or so, but that is the way it is here in Akumal, feast or famine, news wise.  And, you know a lot of the GOOD "STUFF" is not even getting any ink - too sensitive.  But anyway, here is another issue, albeit a tad shorter than the last two, and this is being driven by events that are taking place in the next week and a half.  FYI......


            The WTO (World Trade Organization) is meeting in Cancun on September 10 to 14, and  President Vicente Fox of host Mexico will open the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference at the Cancun Convention Centre at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 September 2003,

With the U.S. economy recovering only slowly, Europe sluggish and Japan still in a slump, crucial trade talks in Mexico this week could give the world economy a ray of hope.  The WTO will try to solve thorny trade issues that have prevented its 146 member nations from striking a comprehensive world trade deal as planned by the end of next year.  In the long-term, a successful deal to liberalize trade could lift 144 million people who earn less than $2 a day out of poverty and increase personal incomes worldwide by up to $520 billion by the year 2015, the World Bank said in a report last week.

But a planned global trade pact by the end of 2004 is by no means guaranteed and the Cancun talks are already shaping up as a battle between rich countries and mostly poor nations.  Agriculture is the toughest issue with nations like Mexico, India, China and Brazil seeking deep cuts in the $300 billion of farming subsidies given out annually, particularly the in United States and the European Union.

Mexican officials say security will be tight at the Cancun Convention Center in the heart of the Hotel Zone.  Mexican warships are patrolling offshore and police are turning out in numbers to prevent a repeat of the street violence that marred a similar WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999.  Road blocks are already in place at all the entrances to the Hotel Zone, and security around the airport is very tight.

Popular movements in Mexico and their international allies will mark these meetings with massive demonstrations to demand a world that puts democracy and human dignity ahead of corporate profits.  Solidarity actions around the world will focus on Saturday, September 13 as a Worldwide Day of Action Against Corporate Globalization and War.  Cancun might not be a good place to be on Saturday, the 13th.


El Grito September 16, Independence Day in MexicoIn the early hours of September 16, 1810, father Don Miguel Hidalgo, Father of Mexico's Independence, accompanied by several conspirators - including Iganacio Allende and Dona Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez - rang the bell of his little church, and gave the famed grito ("shout") from his pulpit at 11 p.m. of September 15.  This was the beginning of the Independence War, which lasted 10 years.  And, every 16th of September this event is re-enacted in every plaza or zocalo of Mexico, and commemorated by Mexicans all over the world.

Everywhere in the country, streets, houses, buildings and cars are decorated, and on every street corner there are vendors selling flags, balloons, sombreros and rehiletes, all with the national colors of green, white and red.  Flags wave from practically every house and building.

Lighted decorations are set up in every city, and the most spectacular are those of the Zocalo, main plaza, in Mexico City.  The main plaza of every town and city is the place where the great 16 De Septiembre celebrations take place.  People of all ages come to this fiesta, to take part in the celebration.

Food is a very important part of these festivities.  Literarily hundreds of stands are set up several days before, and they offer the traditional antojitos, most aptly described as a variety of finger foods, Mexican candies, and punch.  Punch, ponche, is a drink made of fruits that are in season, like guayabas, sugarcane, raisins and apples, and the aroma is delicious.

During September, Mes de la Patria, the month of the nation as it is called in Mexico, restaurants serve traditional Mexican dishes, such as Mole Poblano, Chiles en Nogada, Guacamole and chips.

During the evening of September 15, people start gathering in the zocalo.  Many people walk around dressed in typical Mexican dress: men as Charros and women as China Poblanas, or indigenous dresses.  Those who don't own a typical outfit, at least find something to wear in the colors of the flag.

Mariachi bands play to the delight of the crowd, and there are photography stands where you can have a picture taken, attired with a sombrero sitting atop a wooden horse.  The euphoria is contagious and all are prepared to shout, yell and make as much noise as possible with trumpets, noisemakers and whistles.

As the evening advances, the plaza gradually fills with more and more people; until there is practically no room to move.  Excitement and euphoria reach a crescendo at the culminating moment - 11:00 p.m. - when a government official arrives in the zocalo to give the grito, or cry of Independence.  This ritual represents the moment when Father Hidalgo gathered his followers in Dolores Guanajuato.

It is customary for the Mexican President to deliver the grito in Mexico City’s zocalo.  In the plaza, the original bell rung by Hidalgo is placed atop Palacio Nacional, the National Palace - where the President's offices are located, and this is the bell that is rung during the cry for Independence.  VIVA MEXICO!  Mexico might be a good place to be on the 16th.



Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla had the unique distinction of being a father in three senses of the word: a priestly father in the Roman Catholic Church, a biological father who produced illegitimate children in defiance of his clerical vows, and the father of his country.  Though Guadalupe Victoria was, like Washington, his country's first president, Hidalgo was, like Washington, the man who launched a colonial independence struggle against a European mother country that had become excessively oppressive.

Hidalgo was born on the Corralejo hacienda near Penjamo, Guanajuato, on May 8, 1753.  His father, don Cristobal, was of middle-class creole background and served as the hacienda's administrator.  Sent to the Colegio San Nicolas in Valladolid, Hidalgo received his bachelor's degree in theology in 1773 and was ordained in 1778.

But he never took his priestly vows too seriously.  He fathered two daughters out of wedlock, read the anti-clerical works of the French Encyclopedic philosophers and seemed to regard the Church as a sort of sinecure which would provide him with a regular income. Among classmates he was known el zorro, "the fox."

Miguel HidalgoHidalgo's two outstanding characteristics were as an entrepreneur and a humanitarian, with the roles inextricably intertwined.  After ordination, he steadily mounted the hierarchical ladder, each time serving in a richer and more desirable parish.  In 1803, at the age of fifty, he arrived in the Guanajuato town of Dolores accompanied by an entourage that included a younger brother, a cousin, two half sisters and two illegitimate daughters.  His elder brother, a man of influence, had helped him attain this coveted parish, which brought in between eight and nine thousand pesos revenue annually.

Once ensconced in Dolores, Hidalgo turned over most of the clerical duties to one of his vicars, Father Francisco Iglesias, and devoted himself almost exclusively to business, intellectual pursuits and humanitarian activity.

In a strenuous effort to improve the economic well-being of his parishioners, Hidalgo turned his house into a night school for local artisans.  He started a pottery factory, ran a leather curing process, grew mulberry trees for the nourishment of silkworms, cultivated vineyards and olive groves, and established workshops for carpentry, harness making, blacksmithing and weaving wool.

Hidalgo's political and intellectual growth was nurtured by membership in the literary societies that were so prevalent in colonial Mexico in the early 19th century.  These literary circles, which soon became political circles, were the true incubators of the independence movement in Mexico.

Hidalgo's impulse toward freedom for his people was also fed by a strong egalitarian instinct.  At both Dolores and San Felipe, his previous parish, Hidalgo opened his house not only to Frenchified creole intellectuals from whom he derived many of his ideas but also to downtrodden Indians and mestizos.  It was Hidalgo's empathy with the masses that would be both his great asset and fatal flaw once the independence movement got started.

An intellectual comrade -- later to become a comrade in arms -- was a young captain named Ignacio Allende.  Allende headed one of the political-literary circles in Queretaro and he and Hidalgo soon became active co-conspirators against Spanish rule.      This spirit intensified in 1808, when Napoleon installed his brother Joseph as king of Spain.  Though the rebellious creoles in Mexico shared with Napoleon the ideals of the French Enlightenment, they believed that by now Napoleon had become a power-hungry despot and they had no wish to pledge allegiance to his brother.  So, they originally rallied to the cause of the deposed Bourbon king Ferdinand VII, who later turned out to be an ultra-reactionary.

Hidalgo and Allende had originally planned the rising for December 8, 1810, but there were leaks among the conspirators and plans for the rebellion were sniffed out by the magistrate of Queretaro.  Fortunately for the conspirators, his wife, Josefa Ortiz, was a strong supporter of the rebellion, and though the magistrate locked her in her room, she signaled her next door neighbor, Ignacio Perez, to come over.  Through the keyhole she told Perez, a fellow conspirator, that her husband planned to arrest Allende, but Allende had already left to confer with Hidalgo and decide what to do to meet the emergency.

The result was Hidalgo's famed grito ("shout") from his pulpit at 11 p.m. of September 15.  Though the grito is hailed today as a declaration of independence from Spain, is reality it was a declaration of defiance against Joseph Bonaparte and the Spaniards resident in Mexico as well as a declaration of allegiance to the very undeserving Ferdinand VII.

Gathering together a Peter-the-Hermit force that was as much a mob as an army, Hidalgo and Allende at first swept everything before them.  Gathering adherents like a snowball rolling downhill, this mob-army numbered several hundred when it captured San Miguel (today San Miguel de Allende), 6,000 when it entered Celaya, 20,000 when it rolled into Guanajuato, 50,000 when it overran parroquia de la virgen dolores in dolores hidalgo, guanajuato, mexicoValladolid and 82,000 as it engulfed Toluca and menaced Mexico City.

Though Hidalgo and Allende were excommunicated September 24 by the bishop of Michoacan, this didn't seem to bother a man who seemed daily to be thinking of himself more as a general than as a priest.  On October 19, as his large but ragtag force was preparing to march on Mexico City, Hidalgo was named generalissimo of all rebel forces and outfitted with a garish blue, scarlet, black and gold uniform that made him resemble a Roxy usher.

Hidalgo's peasant army, in the tradition of the jacquerie of 14th century France, settled scores against the ruling elite with vengeful brutality.  San Miguel, Celaya and Guanajuato were all sacked, with peaceful citizens the victims of mob violence.  In Valladolid, the courageous canon of the cathedral went unarmed to meet Hidalgo and exacted a promise that the atrocities of San Miguel, Celaya and Guanajuato would not be repeated.  The canon achieved a partial victory.  Though wholesale destruction was not repeated, Hidalgo was furious when he found the cathedral locked - he had wanted to say a prayer of thanksgiving - so he locked up all the Spaniards, replaced city officials with his own and looted the city treasury before marching off toward Mexico City.

While Hidalgo didn't order the violence, he seems to have been powerless to control it.  This brought him into conflict with Allende, a disciplined and orderly professional.  Friction between the two started as early as the initial engagement at San Miguel.  When a mob ran through the town, Allende tried to calm its members down by striking at them with the flat of his sword.  The brought a rebuke from Hidalgo, on grounds that Allende was mistreating the people.  This was the first of many quarrels, disputes that would inevitably take their toll.

Hidalgo, in truth, was even less qualified to be a general than he was to be a priest.  With Mexico City almost in his grasp, he inexplicably turned back toward Guadalajara.  His army began to melt away and was down to about 40,000 when he was defeated at Aculco on November 7 by the able royalist general Felix Calleja.

However, Hidalgo entered Guadalajara in triumph and was able to raise his force to 100,000.  All the city's dignitaries and officials still believed that Hidalgo represented the wave of the future.  The excommunicated priest was hailed as a liberator, fiestas were given in his honor, and he was accorded the title of Supreme Highness.

All the while, Calleja was marching on Guadalajara.  Against Allende's advice, on January 14, 1811, Hidalgo concentrated his entire force at Calderon bridge at the eastern outskirts of the city.  There the bunched up peasant army was systematically butchered by Calleja's smaller force of seasoned campaigners.  Particularly damaging to Hidalgo was the fact that a royalist canon ball hit his munitions dump and set off a holocaust behind the lines.

Calleja entered Guadalajara, and Hidalgo and Allende regrouped their forces at Zacatecas.  Angered by Hidalgo's ineptitude, Allende assumed supreme command and demoted Hidalgo to a civilian post in charge of political affairs.  Having heard of a new rebellion in San Antonio de Bejar (today, San Antonio, Texas), they moved north to join it, but on March 21, in the mountains of Coahuila, they were ambushed by a traitor and turned over to the Spanish authorities.

Because he was a priest, albeit an excommunicated one, Hidalgo was turned over to the bishop of Durango for an official defrocking.  On July 30, 1811, he was shot in Chihuahua.  With a gallantry that impressed all, Hidalgo calmly instructed members of the firing squad to aim for the right hand that he placed over his heart.

Despite his failings as a priest and a general, Miguel Hidalgo was still a great man.  His compassion for the underdog, his hatred of injustice and his intelligent and creative approach to economic development all contribute to his well-deserved title as father of his country.


            Please be advised that the La Lunita Restaurant, one of the most popular places in Akumal for dinner, is scheduled to be closed from September 15th to October 1st.   Watch for news of the re-opening - 984 875-9068, or at



            Please be advised that there are a couple of "new" owners in the Akumal community, and we hope to see more of them around town as time goes on.

            Lynn and Cate Lowman have just purchased Casa Savasana from Francys, Chris and Butch, and they were in town with their daughter to finalize the purchase during the first week of September.  Francys, Butch and Chris quickly indoctrinated Lynn and Cate into Happy Hour at the Beach Bar and Casa Cenote on Sunday.  If you want to wish them a friendly "welcome" you can do so at

            On the other side of town, at Aventuras Akumal Condominiums, Larry and Camie Sands have bought into the Fenton's unit in Building C.  Like Don & Gloria Fenton, Larry and Camie live in San Miguel de Allende, and they are planning on being in town for the latter part of September.  You can send your 'welcome' to Larry & Camie at .

DID YOU KNOW?                      Doonesbury 9/7/03


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