Morelos y Pavón, José María (1765–1815)

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Morelos y Pavón, José María (1765–1815)

José María Morelos y Pavón (b. 30 September 1765; d. 22 December 1815), foremost Mexican insurgent leader in the struggle for independence. Born in Valladolid, he worked as a scribe and accountant from 1779 to 1790, when he began ecclesiastical studies at the College of San Nicolás, where he met Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753–1811). In 1795 he entered the Tridentine Seminary and presented his bachelor of arts exam at the University in Mexico City. In 1796, he went to Uruapan as an auxiliary priest. He was ordained presbyter in December 1799 and served as parish priest of Churumuco and La Huacana and later of Carácuaro and Nocupétaro. Upon learning of the Hidalgo revolt, he joined the insurgent leader in Charo and Indaparapeo in October 1810. When Hidalgo commissioned him to raise troops in the south, Morelos solicited leave from the See of Valladolid, returned to Carácuaro, and began his first campaign. With twenty-five men, he moved through Nocupétaro, Huetamo, Coahuayutla, Zacatula, and Petatlán, where he obtained men and weapons. In Tecpan, he was joined by Galeanas, including Hermenegildo Galeana (1762–1814), who later became his lieutenant. After obtaining his first cannon there, he then marched toward Acapulco. En route, in Coyuca, he was joined by Juan Álvarez (1790–1867).

In addition to organizing troops, Morelos addressed political and social questions. On 17 November 1810, he issued an order abolishing slavery, the caste system, and cajas de comunidad (community treasury). He also engaged the royalists in battle in various places, among them El Veladero and La Sabana. Unable to capture Acapulco in February 1811, Morelos laid siege to the port. He returned to Tecpan, where he organized the government of that province. He then headed toward Chilpancingo and while still en route sent two commissioners to the United States to seek aid. Joined by the Bravos (Leonardo, Víctor, Máximo, Miguel, and Nicolás) at the Hacienda of Chichihualco, Morelos entered Chilpancingo on 24 May and two days later took Tixtla, where Vicente Guerrero (1783–1831) joined him. There he ordered the creation of a national copper currency and wrote Ignacio Rayón (1773–1832) about forming a governing junta. In August 1811, Morelos sent José Sixto Verduzco as his representative to a meeting convened by Rayón to establish such a junta. At that time he took Chilapa, leaving the south, with the exception of Acapulco, in insurgent hands.

In mid-November, he marched toward Tlapa, thereby initiating his second campaign. He took Chiautla de la Sal and Izúcar, where he was joined by Mariano Matamoros (1770–1814). He proceeded to Cuautla and then to Taxco and Tenan-cingo. In February 1812, he returned to Cuautla, where he was besieged by Félix María Calleja (c. 1755–1828). He successfully defended the town, despite the royalist assault, lack of supplies, and lack of assistance from other insurgents. Forced to break the siege on 2 May, he left for Chiautla, from where he initiated his third campaign on 1 June.

Later that month, La Suprema Junta appointed Morelos captain-general and the fourth member of the body. After assisting Valerio Trujano (1760–1812) in Huajuapan de León, he moved to Tehuacán, where he reorganized his troops. He named Matamoros second in command and appointed Galeana marshall. He also worked on the political organization of the insurgent movement. In October he marched to Ozumba, but was repulsed by the royalists in Ojo de Agua. On 29 October he took Orizaba. Upon his return to Tehuacán he was once again defeated and lost his artillery. But on 25 November he captured Antequera de Oaxaca, where he organized the government of that province, established a mint, and published the paper El Correo Americano del Sur. His fourth campaign began in February 1813 when he marched to Acapulco, which he captured on April 12, and then laid siege to the fortress of San Diego, which capitulated on August 20.

Concerned about the disagreements among the members of the junta, Morelos sought to mediate among them. After realizing that the governing body of the insurgency needed to be completely restructured, he instructed the provinces under insurgent control to designate representatives to the Supremo Congreso Nacional Americano. Meeting in Chilpancingo on 14 September 1813, the body structured itself following the guidelines Morelos set forth in his Reglamento and his Sentimientos de la nación.

After the Congress elected him generalísimo in charge of executive power, he initiated his fifth campaign. On 23 December Ciriaco de Llano and Agustín de Iturbide (1783–1824) defeated him in Valladolid. On 5 January 1814, he suffered defeat once again in Puruarán, where Matamoros was captured. In February, Congress removed him as generalísimo in Tlacotepec, where he was defeated once more and where he also lost his equipment and papers. Congress then sent him to Acapulco to save the artillery at San Diego, and the following March, removed him from the executive. After burning Acapulco, Morelos marched to Tecpan, Petatlán, and Zacatula. He then moved on to Atijo and to Ario, joining the Congress at Tiripitío. From there they moved to Apatzingán, where the Congress proclaimed the Constitution on 22 October 1814 and named an executive consisting of Morelos, José María de Liceaga (1785–1870) and José María Cos y Pérez (d. 1819). During 1815 Morelos remained with the Congress while it wandered, pursued by the royalists. In September Congress decided to move to Tehuacán and charged Morelos with its defense. On 5 November Manuel Concha captured him in Temalaca. He was then taken to Atenango, Cuernavaca, and Mexico City, where he was imprisoned first in the Inquisition and then in the Ciudadela. He was tried, found guilty, and condemned to death after first being defrocked from the priesthood. He was shot in San Cristóbal Ecatepec. His imprisonment and death were the worst blows the insurgent movement received and marked the end of the organized insurgency. In 1823, Morelos was declared Benemérito de la Patria. His native city was named Morelia in 1828; the state that bears his name was formed in 1869.

See alsoChilpancingo, Congress of .


Virginia Guedea, José María Morelos y Pavón, Cronología (1981).

Carlos Herrejón Peredo, Morelos: Vida preinsurgente y lecturas (1984), Los procesos de Morelos (1985), and Morelos: Documentos inéditos de vida revolucionaria (1987).

Ernesto Lemoine, Morelos: Su vida revolucionaria a través de sus escritos y de otros testimonios de la época (1965).

Ernesto Lemoine, Morelos y la revolución de 1810, 2d ed., (1984).

Alfonso Teja Zabre, Vida de Morelos (1959).

Wilbert H. Timmons, Morelos: Priest, Soldier, Statesman of Mexico (1963).

Additional Bibliography

Benítez, Fernando. Morelos. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1998.

González-Polo, Ignacio. La estirpe y el linaje de José María Morelos. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1997.

Hurtado, Alfonso. Morelos. Las Rozas, Madrid: Dastin, 2003.

                                        Virginia Guedea

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Morelos y Pavón, José María (1765–1815)

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