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Vicente Guerrero


Vicente Guerrero was born in Tixtla (Guerrero), and belonged to a peasant family of humble origins and Afro-Mexican descent.

Having spent his youth dedicated to working in the fields and muleteering, he joined the insurgency in 1810, under the orders of Hermenegildo Galeana. Thereafter he would participate in some of the most notorious campaigns of the War of Independence, joining José María Morelos in the engagements of Taxco, Izúcar, Puruarán, Jocomatlán, Chinantla, and Acatlán.

Following Morelos’ capture and execution (22 December 1815), Guerrero became the leading insurgent commander in the south and maintained his guerrilla forces active for the next six years even though he suffered defeats such as the battle of Cañada de los Naranjos.

By December 1820, with no end to the war in sight, in a context of exhaustion and uncertainty, negotiations began between Guerrero and the royalist commander Agustín de Iturbide.

The negotiations focused initially on the restoration of the 1812 Constitution. Guerrero was not prepared to surrender and he was not confident about events in Spain. He feared that the liberals who had forced Ferdinand VII to restore the 1812 charter in the wake of Rafael Riego’s revolt, would be overthrown before they could accomplish their aims. After all, the once “desired” King had shown no qualms about closing down the Cortes and revoking the Constitution when he had returned to Spain from his French captivity in 1814.

Guerrero was also keen to point out that the 1812 Constitution did not offer citizenship rights to mulattos like him. Iturbide offered to propose to the Cortes that mulattos were given such rights, in exchange for Guerrero putting down his arms. Guerrero did not believe the Cortes would listen. He was prepared to place himself under Iturbide’s command if he endorsed the cause of independence.

On 24 February 1821, Iturbide opted to run with Guerrero’s proposal, and proclaimed the Plan of Iguala, which Guerrero co-signed. The Plan of Iguala ultimately brought the War of Independence to an end with the rather vague promise of Three Guarantees – religion, independence, and union – (i.e., that Roman Catholicism would be the official religion; that Mexico would be independent; and that all Spaniards could continue to live unharmed in Mexico enjoying equality before the law).

The Plan pleased the Church by guaranteeing the defence of Catholicism as the sole religion of the new nation. It pleased the insurgents who by then knew that they could not win the war on their own. And it appeased the Spanish population in Mexico by guaranteeing their peaceful permanence in the country as integral members of that union.

However, it did not take long for Guerrero to feel slighted by Iturbide’s behaviour once in power, and he eventually rebelled against him in January 1823, declaring his allegiance to the republican Plan of Veracruz of 2 December 1822. In the clash of arms that ensued at the battle of Almolongo he was badly wounded.

Notwithstanding this, his heroic past in the insurgency and his popular appeal as a man of the people led to him being named as one of the reserve members of the Supreme Executive Power also known as the Triumvirate formed in 1823, following Iturbide’s abdication, to oversee the election of a constituent congress charged with drafting a new republican charter.

As a highly-respected brigadier, he was called on twice to quell pronunciamientos that threatened to overthrow the government. In January 1824 Guerrero, together with Antonio López de Santa Anna, was responsible for bringing José María Lobato’s pronunciamiento in Mexico City to an end. In January 1828 he crushed Nicolás Bravo’s rebels of Montaño or Otumba, at the battle of Tulancingo.

Once the First Federal Republic (1824-35) came into being following the implementation of the 1824 Constitution, Guerrero briefly served as governor of the state of Veracruz before becoming, by 1828, the leader and preferred presidential candidate of the more radical yorkinos.

Although he did not actively participate in the Plan of Perote of 12 September 1828 and the pronunciamiento of La Acordada of 30 November 1828 that overthrew the elected president Manuel Gómez Pedraza, he accepted the offer of the presidency and became president in 1829.

His brief term in office was characterised by the radicalism of his cabinet’s reforms, Guerrero’s use of emergency powers, and the conflict that was fought in Tamaulipas against a Spanish expeditionary army that attempted to re-conquer Mexico in the summer of 1829.

It was Vicente Guerrero who abolished slavery in Mexico on 16 September 1829. Despite Guerrero’s best of intentions, the radical economic measures his minister of finance, Lorenzo de Zavala, implemented, together with Guerrero’s use of emergency powers led many to accuse him of being a dictator, and eventually turned a significant number of traditionalist army officers against him.

Disliked by the criollo elites because of his Afro-Mexican origins and despised by the intelligentsia for his lack of education, Guerrero’s overthrow was as much the result of a political backlash as it was of a racial and social rebuttal on the part of Mexico’s white elites.

He was overthrown by Anastasio Bustamente’s pronunciamiento of Jalapa of 4 December 1829. Although Guerrero did not surrender and went on to organise a counterrevolution in the south lasting for most of 1830, he was notoriously and treacherously taken prisoner and executed on 14 February 1831.

With his death, the execution of the other co-signatory of Iguala, Agustín de Iturbide (executed on 19 July 1824) was, in a sense, avenged by a government made up of former royalists and iturbidistas.


Author of
Plan de Chilapa (13 January 1823; Chilapa, Guerrero)

Signatory of
Plan de Iguala (24 February 1821; Iguala, Guerrero)