Two months ago, I traveled around Peru with twelve teenagers. We visited churches and underground crypts filled with artistic displays of human bones. We got altitude sickness and chewed a lot of coca leaves. We were tourists who had to stop and take pictures in front of every beautiful plant or succulent we saw. My fellow teacher, another Emily, and I tried to get kids to put down their phones and appreciate ancient rope art and oversized nose rings. We played with guinea pigs that would soon be someone’s dinner. We cooked with locals, learned to salsa dance, and decorated our own pottery. I brought twelve teenagers to Peru and they all came back alive. We survived and this is my story.
Early in the morning on September 16, 1810, a priest was warned that he would soon be arrested by Spanish officials. His brother and a band of followers took immediate action. They went to the local jail and freed dozens of prisoners, behind bars because, like the priest, they had also been planning to fight the Spanish.
That morning, the priest rang the bell of the local church, gathered his followers and addressed them from his pulpit. He called upon them to overthrow the Spanish empire, using a derogatory term for the Spanish peninsulares: “Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe, death to bad government, death to the gachupines!”
This speech, the “Grito de Dolores” named after the small town of Dolores in the state of Guanajuato where the priest was from, instigated the Mexican War for Independence. And although he was arrested and executed less than one year after his speech, and the fighting would continue for another 10 years, Father Miguel de Hidalgo is remembered as the father of Mexico.