Ignacio Allende, The First Insurgent

Ignacio Allende was captain of the Novo-Hispanic militias and sympathized with the country's independence project. He was an assistant to the first secret meetings of the rebellion and fought with Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in the first stage of the War of Independence.

Ignacio Allende, The First Insurgent
Ignacio Allende, captain proudly loyal to his ideals of independence and freedom. Image: Gob.mx

It is customary in Mexican history to recognize Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla as the main executor of the war movement that began in 1810 and which, as a final consequence, granted Mexico its independence eleven years later. There is much wisdom in this assertion. However, it must also be appreciated, in honor of the truth, that the priest of Dolores did not undertake the struggle alone, for, in addition to the enormous and disparate contingent that joined him in that significant eventuality, he had to share the leadership with an important group of Creoles. Among them stood out as a figure of the first order who was baptized with the name of Ignacio José de Jesús Pedro Regalado, known simply in the patriotic annals as Ignacio Allende, a native of San Miguel, then El Grande, in the novo-Hispanic Bajío, where he was born on January 21, 1769.

Member of one of the most distinguished families of the place, he figured during his youth as one of the most courageous sons of the region, showing in each of his actions, whether military or civilian, unusual qualities and guts, which gave him fame among his countrymen. That is why notable people from San Miguel dedicated their narrative efforts to save from oblivion the childhoods of the most illustrious personage born in that land, who is described in those writings, with abundant lucidity, as "the first soldier of the nation"; "initiator of the Independence of Mexico", or "the forgotten hero", in a vindictive outburst that congregated the efforts of his biographers for several generations. From these stories, we briefly extract some episodes that recall his efforts before the belligerence for which he gave his life.

Very little has been said about his youth, and even the details related to his elementary education are questioned, although it is assumed that it was of decent quality, since the documents that are preserved from his pen are prepared with neatness and clear style, as befits a man with knowledge and skills. It is common knowledge to include him among the students of the Colegio de San Francisco de Sales, in the same town of San Miguel. It is also known that, unlike his brothers, he did not go to Mexico City to continue his education. It was evident to the young Allende that his destiny did not lie in religious contemplation or books: from an early age, he understood that he would grow up to be a man of action.

The anecdotes are diverse. They show his predilection for physical effort and for demonstrating to his fellow men that fear did not deter him. It is widely spread the version that he was not afraid of danger and that he even used to put his life at constant risk, many times just for fun. He was often injured in these throws, with scars that marked him physically, especially the traces of a broken nose, caused by having faced a bull in an open field celebration. Notwithstanding this reference, repeated with assiduity by those interested in his career, most of the portraits manufactured after he participates in the independence revolution, do not denote that trace in his features; on the contrary, and with few exceptions, an iconographic idealization of his person conceives him as an immaculate protagonist, without forgetting the long sideburns that used to style among his contemporaries.

As proof of the courage that identified him, he remained in the memory of his neighbors on the occasion when he saved the life of a shopkeeper who had a bad reputation among the population, from whom he lived in perennial estrangement. The old man was well known for his stinginess and avarice, even though he subsisted thanks to the sale of his products, which he distributed at high prices. One day, while he was resting in the back room, he noticed that huge flames were engulfing his establishment. Suddenly he found himself trapped with his possessions in the fire, which grew out of control and prevented him from approaching the exit door to the street. Informed of the incident, Allende went to the aid of the victim, regardless of his background, who he rescued after crossing the flames, ignoring the warnings of others and without even thinking about his safety.

But they were not all extreme situations, in which danger was the constant. It is also remembered that to add a touch of color to the get-togethers organized by the high society of San Miguel in their haciendas, where the most prominent members of the population gathered, to liven up the meetings and make them less solemn and demure, the daring don Ignacio would introduce a live calf at the height of the festivities. The scenes were of wildness and confusion; the animal would cause a lot of raids among the attendants, who would originally have fun with an unusual act.

Beyond these experiences, which are part of the legend forged around him, the testimonies about his character increase from the moment he entered the Novohispanic militia. Named lieutenant by provisional dispatch of the Queen's Dragoon Regiment on October 9, 1795, due to his dedication and vocation he was promoted to captain in 1809. The draft of the proposal to occupy this position, for which he competed against his close friend and fellow countryman Juan Aldama, who accompanied him in the independence adventure, shows the preference he had for his person.

And it was precisely in the panorama of his military responsibilities that he began to show his dissatisfaction with the inequalities that persisted in New Spain. Among other circumstances that summoned the cry for freedom, it is emphasized that the Creole group remained relegated from the government positions, and the lack of interest of some of his comrades in arms to remedy this situation exasperated him too much. It is a well-known story that at a certain moment in January 1808, when his detachment was in the vicinity of Jalapa to carry out maneuvers and drills before Viceroy Iturrigaray, Allende could no longer repress his desire for change and left the following phrase painted on the wall where he was spending the night, which reflects the weariness he wanted to convey to his fellow countrymen: "Independence, you cowardly Creoles!!!" This call, extremely provocative, has been described by its apologists as the seed of the insurrection... and they are not wrong.

As time went by, no one imagined the dawn of September 16, 1810, what such yearnings for transformation would provoke. In the workshops of the Diario de México, a daily New Spain newspaper, while the linotypes were being arranged for that day's edition, a coincidence, minor at first glance, was unintentionally brewing. The sanctoral noted in the first line of the copy that saw the light that morning the devotion corresponding to the previous day: "Los Dolores de Nuestra Señora", and in a town that was dedicated to that representation of the Virgin Mary, that early morning, Mexico was born. Ignacio Allende, the first insurgent of the emancipation movement, was an essential part of that painful birth, which still today has a magnificent resonance in the memory of all Mexicans.

By Carlos Betancourt Cid, Source: INEHRM