Mexican Liberator and Mulatto
a mulatto ex-slave,
was the George Washington and Abraham Lincoln combined of Mexico.
He freed his country and then freed its slaves. Guerrero was
born an Ixtla, Mexico, in 1782 of mixed white and Negro parentage
with an Indian strain. His father, Juan Pedro Guerrero, and
his mother, Guadelupe Saldena, were both of humble origin, the
lowest of the low, degraded by law, custom, and prejudice. No
Negro woman could wear any kind of ornamentation, jewels, trinkets,
life as mule driver. Unlike
Abraham Lincoln, he hadn't the slightest opportunity to learn
to read or write. He was nearly forty before he knew a letter
of the alphabet. But within his breast was an unquenchable
desire for freedom and a spirit of love and justice for his
Therefore when the struggle for Mexican Independence
began in 1810, led by a valiant, Hidalgo, he was one of the
first to enlist. The upper-class Mexicans who oppressed by
Spain. They could not trade with foreign countries and Mexican
manufacture was forbidden.
When Hidalgo planted grapevines
to make his own wine, government officials tore them up. Wine
had to be imported from Spain, with a high tax. At this time,
also, Mexico was ordered to pay a tribute of an additional
$45 million to Spain. The grievances of the American colonists
against George III were insignificant compared to those of
Mexico against the King of Spain.
independence, hidalgo had called upon all his countrymen to
follow him. Guerrero distinguished
himself so well in the first battle that he was made a captain.
In the first stage of the struggle the Mexicans were successful,
but Spain, sending reinforcements from home, soon crushed
the insurgents. One by one the leading Mexicans - Hidalgo,
Allende, Aldama, Jiminez, Mina - were slain or made prisoner.
The remainder accepted the king's pardon - all except Guerrero,
who fought on.
of him, "Forsaken by fortune, betrayed, without money,
without arms, with only his willl-power left, he was at this
time of desolation and despair, the only supporter of the
cause of independence, displaying valor, prudence, profound
sagacity, indefatigable activity and heroic constancy." "Even in the darkest
days of the long revolution," says Rives, "he was
the leader of a little body of unconquered men, who kept alive
the cause of independence."
The government, in an effort
to win Guerrero, sent his father Pedro to offer him lands
and wealth. But Guerrero scorned the offer. He had pledged
himself no rest until the hated Spaniard had been driven into
Spain sent her
best general, Iturbide, against him. Guerrero defeated him
in two battles. Itubide,
who secretly had resolved to desert Spain and make himself
master of Mexico and had been winning over the army to himself
by bribes, now made overtures to Guerrero, promising to revolt
against Spain provided he had Guerrero's support. The latter,
not seeing through his duplicity, consented. Joining hands,
the two defeated General Santa Ana, Spanish commander. Iturbide
was named President of Mexico, Guerrero stepping aside though
he was the more popular of the two.
As ruler, Iturbide
showed his true colors. He
proclaimed himself emperor and with the landed classes continued
the exploitation of the masses of ignorant natives who had
born the brunt of the struggle for independence.
declared war against Iturbide, captured him, and had him shot.
Another was elected president with Guerrero as vice president. But the struggle between the landed classes and the masses
went on. The opposing sides carried on their activities through
freemasonry, which had lately been introduced into Mexico.
The rich were in the Scottish rite; the poor, the York rite.
Guerrero was head of the Yorks. At the next presidential election
the candidates were Guerrero and Pedraza, the former bakced
by the common people, the latter by the rich. Pedraza won,
ten electors declaring for him against eight for Guerrero.
the nation followed. The York's issued a proclamation naming
Guerrero president. It
said, "The name of the hero of the South is echoed with indescribable enthusiasm everywhere. His valor and constancy
combined have engraved themselves upon the hearts of the Mexican
people. He is the image of their of their felicity. They wish
to confide to him the delicate and sacred task of the executive
power." Finally the government surrendered and Guerrero
became president in April, 1825.
once set about improving the conditions of the masses, composed
of Indians, half-breeds, and Negroes. He ordered schools to be built, established free libraries
- reading had been forbidden - proclaimed religious liberty,
established a coinage system, suspended the death penalty,
and took other steps far in advance of his time.
His most important
act was the abolition of slavery. Though
inspired by the Constitution of the United States, he went
further than that document. He ordered the immediate release
of every slave in Mexico. The estimated number of Negro slaves
was 10, 595 blacks and 1050 mulattoes, with Guerrero's native
state containing the largest number . The remainder were Indians
and half-breeds, some of whom had a Negro strain.
constitution, which is as liberal a document as has ever been
penned, was much of it the work of Guerrero. One of its clauses read, "All inhabitants, whether White,
African, or Indian, are qualified to hold office." Guerrero's
emanicipation proclamation was put into effect almost without
resistance because it did not entail great economic loss to
the rich, except in one state, namely Texas.
The Texans were
chiefly Americans who had migrated into mexico with their
slaves to escape antislavery agitation in the United States. They made it clear that
they would not give up their slaves without a struggle and
Guerrero, who was busy fighting his enemies in Mexico City,
was forced to leave them alone. Later Texas revolted and joined
the American Union partly because of the emancipation decree
of this Negro president. The Texans knew that the temper of
the Mexican masses was against slavery and that they would
be forced to give in sooner or later.
to the presidency increased the position of the wealthy and
the landed classes and they used every means in their power
to pull him down. Bancroft
says, "They could not bear the power to pull him down.
Bancroft says, "They could not bear the sight of one
of Guerrero's race occupying the presidential chair and ruthlessly
destroyed a government whose only faults were excessive clemency
and liberalism." Strode says, "Because of his lack
of education, his country manners and his reputed Negro blood,
he was held in contempt by the upper-class society of the
capital. The conservatives chose to regard him as a triple-blooded
He might have
won their approval, however, had he been willing to become
their tool and give them a free hand with the masses. This he would not do and tried to win them over to his side
by liberal arguments and generous dealing, which proved a
total failure. Uniting against him, they drove him from office.
in the days when he was fighting for independence, took once
more to the mountains, where for the next four years he defeated
every force sent against him even though his strength had
been determined by a bullet that had lodged in his chest while
his rival, General Bustamente, took him by treachery. He gave
a ship captain, Pucaluga, a friend of Guerrero, $13,000 to
lure Guerrero to his ship. There Guerrero was made prisoner
and executed after a mock trial. His death was followed by
nationwide revolt. Bustamente was driven from the presidency
and saved his life only by flight. Picaluga was executed.
A pension was
paid Guerrero's window; honors were conferred on other members
of his family; and cities and a state were named in his honor. In 1842 his body was removed
to Mexico City and interred there. Parkes says, "Guerrero
was an uneducated man of mixed Spanish, Indian and Negro descent
of a singularly generous and kindly disposition."
"Guerrero," says Bancroft,
was possessed of a gentleness and magnetism that inspired
love among his adherents; while his swarthy face, resonant
voice, and flashing eye made him an object of profound respect
even among his enemies."
Men of Color
by J.A. Rogers