José María Morelos (Sep-tember 30, 1765 – December 22, 1815) was a Mexican priest and revolutionary. He was in overall military command of Mexico’s Independence movement in 1811-1815 before he was captured, tried and executed by the Spanish. He is considered one of the greatest heroes of Mexico and countless things are named after him, including the State of Morelos and the city of Morelia.
José María was born into a lower-class family (his father was a carpenter) in the city of Valladolid, in 1765. He worked as a farm hand, muleteer and menial laborer until entering the seminary. The director of his school was none other than Miguel Hidalgo, who must have left an impression on the young Morelos.
He was ordained as a priest in 1797 and served in the towns of Churumuco and Carácuaro. His career as a priest was solid and he enjoyed the favor of his superiors: unlike Hidalgo, he showed no propensity for “dangerous thoughts” before the revolution of 1810.
On September 16, 1810, Hidalgo issued the famous “Cry of Dolores”, kicking off Mexico’s struggle for independence. Hidalgo was soon joined by others, including former royal officer Ignacio Allende and they raised an army of liberation. Morelos made his way to the rebel army and met with Hidalgo, who made him a lieutenant and ordered him to raise an army in the south and march on Acapulco. After the meeting, they went their separate ways. Hidalgo would get close to Mexico City but was eventually defeated at the Battle of Calderon Bridge, captured shortly thereafter and executed for treason. Morelos, however, was just getting started.
He began rounding up men and marching west. Unlike Hidalgo, Morelos preferred a small, well-armed, well-disciplined army that could move fast and strike without warning. Often, he would reject recruits who worked the fields, telling them instead to raise food to feed the army in the days to come. By November he had an army of 2,000 men and on November 12 he occupied the medium-sized town of Aguacatillo, near Acapulco.
Morelos was crushed to learn of the capture of Hidalgo and Allende in early 1811. Still, he fought on, laying an abortive siege to Acapulco before taking the city of Oaxaca in December of 1812. Meanwhile, politics had entered the struggle for Mexican independence in the form of a congress presided over by Ignacio López Rayón, once a member of Hidalgo’s inner circle. Morelos was often in the field, but always had representatives at the meetings of congress, where they pushed on his behalf for formal independence, equal rights for all Mexicans and continued privilege of the Catholic Church in Mexican affairs. Morelos was an interesting mixture of the best characteristics of Hidalgo and Allende and the perfect man to carry the torch they had dropped. Like Hidalgo, he was very charismatic and emotional, and like Allende, he preferred a small, well-trained army over a massive rabble. He notched up several key victories and ensured that the revolution would live on with or without him.
Until tomorrow: Quality is not an act, it is a habit.