José María Morelos y Pavón

José María Teclo Morelos y Pavón (September 30, 1765, Valladolid, now Morelia, Michoacán – December 22, 1815, San Cristóbal Ecatepec, State of México) was a Mexican Roman Catholic priest and revolutionary rebel leader who led the Mexican War of Independence movement, assuming its leadership after the execution of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1811.

Morelos was born into a poor family in the city of Valladolid. He was a mestizo of mixed Amerindian, and Spanish ancestry. His father was Manuel Morelos, a carpenter originally from Zindurio, a predominantly indigenous village a few kilometers west of Valladolid. His mother was Juana María Guadalupe Pérez Pavón, originally from San Juan Bautista de Apaseo, also near Valladolid. Valladolid was the seat of a bishop and of the government of the colonial Intendency of Michoacán.

By 1790, he had saved enough money to enter the College of San Nicolás in Valladolid, where Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was rector, intending to become a priest. After further study at the Seminario Tridentino in Valladolid, in 1795 he traveled to the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico to take his examinations and receive a Bachelor Of Arts degree. In 1797 he was ordained, at the age of 33 years old. In 1799, he became parish priest in Carácuaro, remaining there until 1810.

On September 15, 1810, Hidalgo y Costilla, the former leader of the College of San Nicolás, then the parish priest of Dolores, Guanajuato, called for armed revolt after the Spanish colonial authorities discovered the Conspiracy of Querétaro. The other conspirators included Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama. Hidalgo y Costilla and his followers rose in open revolt the following day.

In Tacámbaro Hidalgo y Costilla was proclaimed general, and Allende captain general. Hidalgo y Costilla ordered a rest for his troops in Charo, where a few minutes before their departure, Morelos, who had read about his excommunication and his triumphs, found him. Still serving as the parish priest of Cuarácuaro, Hidalgo y Costilla asked Morelos to join the army. Morelos was promoted as colonel of the revolution army, ordering him to raise troops in the south and capture Acapulco, to disrupt the commerce and trade with the Philippine Islands.

Morelos soon showed himself to be a talented strategist, and became one of the greatest revolutionary military commanders of the war. In his first nine months, he won 22 victories, annihilating the armies of three Spanish royalist leaders and dominating almost all of what is now the state of Guerrero. In December, he captured Acapulco for the first time, except for the fortress of San Diego. Spanish reinforcements forced him to raise the siege in January. By quick marches, he was able to capture most of the Spanish possessions on the Pacific coast of what are now Michoacán and Guerrero. On May 24, 1811 he occupied Chilpancingo and on May 26 he took Tixtla.

In his second campaign, Morelos divided his army into three groups. The most important engagement of this campaign was at Cuautla, where his forces were besieged by the Spanish army under general Félix María Calleja del Rey. On May 2, 1812, after 58 days, Morelos broke through the siege, and started his third campaign.

Major victories on this third campaign were at Citlala on June 8, 1812, Tehuacán on August 10, 1812, Orizaba, Oaxaca and Acapulco. Morelos arrived at Orizaba with 10,000 soldiers on October 28, 1812. The city was defended by 600 Spanish soldiers. Negotiation led to a surrender without bloodshed. He entered Oaxaca in triumph on November 25, 1812. Acapulco fell on April 12, 1813, forcing the Spanish army to take refuge in Fort Baltimore after.

According to the legend, general Napoleón Bonaparte, emperor of France exclaimed, during the 1812 campaign: “With five generals as Morelos I would conquer the world”.

Morelos is a national hero of Mexico. In his honor, the state of Morelos and city of Morelia is named after him. Morelos' legacy has been portrayed on the 50 peso note since 1947; 1 peso coins during the 1940's, 1970s and 1980s.

Maximiliano emperor of Habsburg, decreed that in 1865, centennial one of its birth, an equestrian statue in Morelia would be elevated to him, that still today remains there. Between 1947 and 1970 its efigie appeared in bills of 50 pesos.

During World War II, an American ship military was named in its honor as “USS Morelos”.

(Source: Wikipedia)