In His Own Words

Father Hidalgo

Father Hidalgo in front of the Church of Dolores

Eduardo Carrillo
September 15, 1979

The 44 foot long tile mural entitled, “Father Hidalgo in front of the Church of Dolores,’ is comprised of approximately 300 hand made tiles each measuring 12 inches square by one inch thick, and weighing close to ten pounds. These tiles were produced in a studio set up in Santa Cruz County expressly for this purpose and were fired in electric kilns to a temperature over 2000 degrees.

The mural is a representation of Father Hidalgo y Costilla mustering his insurgent army in front of the Church of Dolores in Guanajuato on the night of September 15, 1810, commonly known as “El Noche Del Grito.” Many of the figures depicted are specific characters who actually participated in the events that evening. Others I have chosen to include because of the enormous contributions they had made to the movement for independence.

In order for this event to be seen in its historical perspective, it should be known that for months prior to this auspicious evening, secret meetings had been taking place in Querretaro and other Mexican cities. Dona Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez ( who is represented to the far right in the mural) was an active participant in these meetings. Her daughter, behind her, was betrothed to Captain Ignacio Allende, an officer in the Queen’s dragoons stationed in San Miguel. (We see Captain Allende on the front horse on the mural’s left side.)

These meetings were attended chiefly by Criollos- people of Spanish ancestry, yet born in America. The Criollos were dissatisfied with Spain’s rule over Mexico; specifically the imposition of high taxes upon them-the funds being used to finance Spain’s alliance with France in battle with the English. Furthermore, Mexicans were no longer allowed to produce such products as wine and olive oil since that would put them in competition with Spain. To emphasize this, Father Hidalgo’s own vineyard was ordered cut down.

The rising dissatisfaction resulted in plans being laid to carry out an armed revolt in October of that year. These plans were thwarted when a cache of arms was discovered by Spain’s Royalist Soldiers in the home of Epimenio Gonzales (Gonzales is pictured in the center with a spear in his left hand). Alarmed, Dona Josefa sent a message to Hidalgo with Ignacio Perez (who is pictured on horseback behind Allende) to alert Hidalgo-who had played an important role in the collecting of arms- of his imminent arrest.

Ignacio Perez arrived in Dolores around midnight, together with Juan Aldana who had accompanied him from San Miguel ( Juan Aldana is center figure with vertical rifle). When Perez and Aldana went to deliver the message to Father Hidalgo , it is said that Hidalgo opened the window of his office and shouted out to the passerby that the only recourse was to commence immediately with war against Spain.

Hidalgo gathered the members of his household, including his younger brother Jose’ Mariano, and Ignacio Allende who was staying with him. They went to the jail and released the prisoners and took some guns from the armory. But the majority of his band was comprised of Indians from near the city of Dolores who had come to town to take part in the feast day of the Virgin of Dolores.
(In the mural, these participants are represented on the far right surrounding the woman making tortillas.) The area of cornstalks to the right symbolizes the Indian culture and religion in pre-hispanic times.

At 5:30 a.m., El Cojo Galvan, the church bell ringer and alter boy, sounded the bell to call the people to church to attend Mass (in the mural he is pictured behind Hidalgo holding a lamp). Hidalgo appeared before the people at the church and summoned them to battle. A replica of this bell has been installed here in the plaza to commemorate this historic night.

The musicians who were in Dolores for the feast day are represented in the mural because they were present at the
Declaration of War. Also they symbolize the importance of music in the everyday life of the Mexican people.

Other significant characters I have chosen to depict include: Dona Maria Tomasa Estevez y Salas, who in 1814 was to become a commissioned officer in the troops of Salamanca and eventually to be captured and beheaded as were many others. She is depicted holding a tilted scale representing the political injustice of the times.

Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon, a mulatto, is pictured in the mural on Hidalgo’s when he was Rector of the University of San Nicolas. He was to distinguish himself as an outstanding officer, taking the City of Acapulco with less than one thousand men, many of whom were mulattos and Negroes. The city of Morelia was named after him.

On Hidalgo’s left is the standard of the Virgin of the Virgin of Guadelupe which was removed from the Church of Atotonilco in a nearby town on the following day to be used as a banner in the campaign to rally Indian enthusiasm. It is interesting to note that a couple of centuries earlier, Hernando Cortez had made use of a similar banner of the Virgin Mary in his march to Tenochitlan.
Finally, Father Hidalgo, the key figure in the mural, is standing just to the right of center with Aldana pointing to him. He is holding a letter in his right hand symbolizing his authority as a learned man, a man with great depth of understanding of social problems and a powerful ability to express himself both in letters and in his speeches. He became the leader of the independence movement and though he had no military experience, was named Captain General. Hidalgo’s army grew to 80,000 before finally being dispersed upon attempting to enter Mexico City. A few months later, Hidalgo, along with Allende, Aldana, and Jose Mariano were captured on their way to Texas where they had hoped to regroup their army. They were all shot to death, Hidalgo first being excommunicated. While Aldama shifted the blame to Hidalgo, Allende begged for mercy. Hidalgo never asked for forgiveness, realizing that time would verify his actions. The heads of these four soldiers were cut off and were placed on the corners of the Alondiga de Granaditas (granary) in Guanajuanto.

Nowhere in America is history manifested in quite such an explosive and violent form. At the same time, the issues and intricacies of the developments of 1810 were so cloudy that the true contributions of Hidalgo and his colleagues remained unverified and unacknowledged for fifty years thereafter.

Artist Statement

Four x Four Artist Statement
Santa Cruz Art League
Santa Cruz, CA
August 3, 1993

My first memory of seeing painting, stained glass and sculpture statuary of religious imagery was in churches while growing up in Los Angeles. Later as an undergraduate at UCLA I took a leave and went to live in Madrid for over a year. There I developed an understanding of the Spanish Colonial Baroque which has had an impact on my painting. I also painted to scale a copy of Hieronymous Bosch’s “Temptation of St. Anthony” from the original at the Prado Museum.

Further influences on my work came from my cultural heritage rooted in Baja California. Dona Maria Leree, my grandmother, moved from Malege to San Ignacio as a young girl. My mother Rebecca was born in San Ignacio. The town is dominated by the Mission of San Ignacio de Kadakamen which was situated on higher ground above a large seasonal riverbed cultivated with a million date palms. The Mission was established in 1738 as part of a network of missions of the Spanish empire. About twice a year I visit my studio there which overlooks the town on a piece of land my mother left me. Back in the early sixties I painted the Four Evangelists in the Mission. The paintings are after El Greco. When the new highway was inaugurated by President Echeverria in 1969 he had one of the paintings taken to Mexico City presumably for authentication; it was returned to San Ignacio some time later.

During the late sixties when I lived in La Paz I became more aware of Indian cultures. I worked for three years establishing a Regional Art Center with Daniel Zenteno, a potter descended from the Zapotecs. Through Daniel’s pottery forms I learned of the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs and through visits to Mexico and its pre-columbian sites I gained a basic understanding of indigenous cultures of Mexico. Through the seventies I kept looking at myself for some evidence of some indigenous blood. I looked at my skin, my hands and feet. Was my 4’10” grandmother part Indian? Where did my features come from? As well I had these green eyes of a European ancestor. A jump ship off the Cabos? Pirates? I mused. In 1976 I painted a mural in the Palomar Arcade (17″x40″x8″) entitled “Birth, Death and Regeneration” which was the work in which I best synthesized the Spanish and Indian cultures. This mural was unfortunately destroyed in 1979.

In 1979 I received a commission to create a tile mural for Plazita de Dolores in Los Angeles commemorating the populist revolutionary movement led by Father Miguel Hildalgo in 1810. Hildalgo is represented in front of the Church of Dolores on the morning when he assembled the beginnings of his raging army. Under the aegis of the Virgin of Guadalupe he followed a mercurial career as a revolutionary leader of an essentially Indian army before being shot by a firing squad in 1812. This mural, painted with oxides and glazes and fired on one foot square tiles was also an opportunity to deal with figure composition.

I would like to draw your attention to the painting “Another Last Supper”. In the process of painting I found that many questions, trials and reflections took place within me. First of all it’s a painting, an allegory of the creative act of transformation of one thing to another, it is about illusion to the point of deception (in the case of Judas). There was also the experience of trust between the sitter and painter. Many of my friends came to sit. Their figures were modeled by professionals, as surrogates for friends I had in mind as apostles, but who did not model either because they did not have time, they were too big for the painting or could not hold still for the required time. There are lots of elbows knocking the space around. Lots of consideration of intensities of light and limited range of color. Lots of moments of special significance. I leave it to the viewer to come upon them in their own time, not being one to give away all my secrets. Often I felt empty and wanted to quit, putting the painting face to the wall. Yet I am glad when I return to it and bring it to a new level of resolution. I have always felt an enrichment of the spirit through the practice of painting and I am happy on this occasion of this exhibition to share these works with you.