Ocoyoacac, Mexico (1810 AD)
The Battle of Monte de Las Cruces was one of the decisive battles of the Mexican War of Independence, and arguably the greatest rebel victory of the war. Like the Battle of Saratoga during the American Revolution, it showed that the local populace could muster an army and defeat a major European power in open battle. Although the victory at Las Cruces occurred at the outset of the war, once the Spanish showed that they were vulnerable, the outcome of the conflict was never in doubt. Because of this Monte de Las Cruces is the most honored military victory in Mexican history. The battle is commemorated at Miguel Hidalgo National Park where the fighting took place.
In the wake of the American and Haitian revolutions, which together severely weakened European control over the Americas, and with Spain deeply embroiled in the Napoleanic wars, the Spanish colonies of the New World were ripe for revolution. From South America to California, the rumblings of revolt began to be felt. The storm broke first in 1810 in Mexico, the largest and wealthiest Spanish colony in the New World.
It began in September of that year, when Miguel Hidalgo, a popular priest based near Mexico City, decided to organize a peasant rebellion against the excessive and often brutal Spanish aristocracy. Realizing that Spain’s ability to support its colonies was severely compromised by its struggle with France in Europe, Hidalgo could not have picked a better time to strike.
Along with other conspirators, Hidalgo called upon the people of Dolores to revolt, declaring independence from the pulpit of his church. The town was quickly seized and the local aristocrats put to death. Within days, tens of thousands of peasants from the surrounding area flocked to Hidalgo’s banner. Throughout October, the rebels ravaged the countryside outside of Mexico City, gathering troops, weapons and supplies. Finally, the government sent out a thoroughly insufficient force to stop the rebels.
The two armies met on October 30 at Ocoyoacac, just west of Mexico City. The result was a disaster for the Spanish army. Although far superior in equipment and training, the royal army was outnumbered by as much as thirty to one. After giving a good accounting of themselves, they were simply overwhelmed and suffered very heavy casualties before the survivors fled back to Mexico City. Although the rebels did not have the ability to capitalize on the situation and take the capital, the battle was nevertheless considered to be the pivotal victory of the war.
Most of the battlefield of Monte de Las Cruces has been preserved at Miguel Hidalgo National Park (also know as La Marquesa National Park), although the modern highway running through the park now partially obscures the site of much of the fighting. Nevertheless it is a popular tourism site, and the battle is commemorated by several monuments, including a massive obelisk commemorating Hidalgo. There are also great statues of Hidalgo and other insurgent leaders honoring the battle.
Miguel Hidalgo National Park is located on the road from Mexico City to Toluca, approximately 12 miles west of the city center of the capital. There is no charge for admission. Web: www.visitmexico.com/en/mexicocity (official tourism website of Mexico City).