Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the priest known as the "father of Mexican independence," was born on May 8, 1753, at his father's hacienda near Guanajuato, Mexico. He was educated in Valladolid (present Morelia), Mexico, and was ordained a priest in 1779. Until 1809 he pursued his priestly functions and exerted himself to introduce various forms of industry among his parishioners at Dolores. After Napoleon's invasion of Spain in 1808, the colonies, unwilling to accept a French ruler, loudly proclaimed Ferdinand VII as king. The societies they formed professed loyalty to Spain, but authorities suspected they were designed to prepare for the independence of Mexico. Hidalgo and several of his friends engaged in preparations which the authorities considered treasonable.
Warned by the arrest of a friend, Hidalgo gathered several hundred of his parishioners, and on September 16, 1810, they seized the prison at Dolores. This action began the Mexican War of Independence. At first Hidalgo met with some success, but as many of his followers deserted, he lost heart and retreated. His forces were decisively defeated at Aculo on November 7, 1810, and at the bridge of Calderón on Río Santiago on January 17, 1811. Hidalgo was later captured and, after being degraded from the priesthood, was shot as a rebel on July 31 or August 1, 1811.