Miguel Hidalgo was a Mexican priest, who would go on to become a leader in the Mexican War of Independence.
Born a criollo in 1754, he began his studies alongside his brothers with the Jesuits. The Jesuits were banned from Mexico in 1767, and he went on to study in the diocesan College of San Nicolás. He was intellectually oriented and was essentially a lifelong member of the academic community. He was ordained in 1789 as a priest, and from 1792 until 1810 served as parish priest in a string of churches.
His attention soon turned to more socioeconomic issues, and he launched local craft industries with the well-being of the indigenous people in mind. As Spain was dealing with Napoleon's invasion, friendships with other prominent criollos from throughout the area introduced him to a group planning to take advantage of Spain's military issues at home and formulate a plan to achieve independence. Hidalgo, well-spoken and well-informed, quickly rose to a leadership role within the group.
In September of 1810, the group was betrayed and they had to carry out their revolt ahead of time. Hidalgo called the people to action with his famous and passionate Grito de Dolores speech. Thousands of indigenous people and mestizos joined him and together they took control of Guanajuato and other cities before marching on with his group of roughly 100,000 revolutionaries to Mexico City.
Once in Mexico City, Hidalgo hesitated and opted to retreat instead of going on to attack the capital, as fellow general Allende wanted. Hidalgo may have feared debilitating losses and his troops' lack of discipline when facing opposition. Hidalgo opted to change his course and move to the north towards Guadalajara; at this point, many of his fellow rebels began to abandon the cause and by the time he reached Guadalajara his followers had dwindled. He occupied Guadalajara but his meager control there led to the city being retaken by Spanish forces in 1811. Hidalgo was excommunicated and charged by the Inquisition with a long list of crimes.
He was officially defrocked and excommunicated in July of 1811, after which he was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. He was executed by firing squad on July 30, 1811.
While Hidalgo did not make it to see Mexican Independence, which was achieved officially in 1821, he was and is hailed as the Father of the Nation.