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HISTORY - Victoria Guadalupe: Mexico`s First President

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Elected as Mexico's first President on October 2, 1824 and named Jose Miguel Ramon Aduacto Fernandez Felix at birth, it is widely accepted that Guadalupe Victoria was born in Tamazula on September 29, 1786. It is believed he was orphaned as a young child and raised by his uncle Augustin Fernandez, who was a priest in Tamazula. As part of New Spain's first northern province, Tamazula (now in Durango) was on the western side of Nueva Vizcaya, which covers regions we know today as Durango, Chihuahua and Coahuila. There is a lot of conflicting information about the early life of Jose Miguel, as the popular myth that he was orphaned young and raised by his uncle doesn't match census records that indicate his father, Manuel Fernandez, was a widower in 1803. This would have marked Jose Miguel's 17th year, which would hardly qualify him as an orphan from a young age, though it remains possible that his uncle raised him, in the absence of his father, who is believed to have owned a mine. It has been suggested that Jose Miguel's uncle Augustin opposed his enrollment in school; however, he studied for two years at the Seminary of Durango, and in 1807, relocated to Mexico City after being recommended for a scholarship by the Marquis of Castañiza, to attend the esteemed Colegio de San Ildefonso. There, while obtaining his degree in Canon Law, records show that his father, Manual Fernandez, paid his tuition between 1808-1810. This raises more suspicion around his being orphaned very young, or that he grew up in such dire poverty that he was forced to copy a book of Latin Grammar to sell to his classmates for enough money to buy food. Soon after Jose Miguel moved to Mexico City, a pivotal incident occurred that may have triggered his later involvement with the fight for independence from Spain. Following the abdication of the Spanish King Ferdinand VII for Napoleon, political unrest between the Creoles and Peninsular Spaniards eventually erupted into a coup d'etat, led by Gabriel de Yermo. A wealthy land-owner who was in charge of meat distribution in Mexico City, Yermo and approximately 300 Loyalists arrested Viceroy José de Iturrigaray on September 15, 1808, and tensions between the two groups grew into toxic violence, including conflict within Creole society - those who wanted independence, and those who had financial interest in protecting the wealth of the Spanish-born. Nearly two years later to the day, on September 16, 1810, Father Hidalgo's famous Grito would confirm the start of a bloody power-struggle that resulted in Mexico's Independence from Spain. Perhaps it is romantic to imagine Mexico's first President as a rebel, rags to riches story, and though it is true that he rejected privilege, there is much evidence to prove that he came from a family of privilege. One such revelation was that his grandfather, Augustin Fernandez, was born in Reynos de Castilla Spain, and arrived in Salamanca, Michoacan (now Guanajuato) with enough wealth, that Jose Miguel's father Manuel was able to purchase a mine. Regardless, it is impressive that Victoria fought through so many battles that resulted in the death and execution of his fellow comrades, and yet was able to not only survive, but to rise as Mexico's very first President. Upon his victory, he stated: "Independence will be protected with my blood, and freedom will be lost with my life." After a lifetime of service, Guadalupe Victoria finally met and married María Antonia Bretón y Velázquez in 1841, when he was 55 years old. It was only two years later that he succumbed to an epileptic seizure and died. We will explore more of Guadalupe Victoria's involvement in the movement for independence in future issues - as they are an integral part of Mexico's fascinating history.

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