Facts About the REAL Zorro!

Fact Frenzy - Zorro Miguel Hidalgo y CostillaMiguel Hidalgo y Costilla 1753 – 1811

Was there ever a Mexican hero named “Zorro” in real life? — Yes.

However, he might not be the same exact hero you know from the movies. FactFrenzy.com presents this real story with fascinating facts about the father of Mexican Independence from history.

While he may not be the same type of action hero one may think who brandished a sword to leave a “Z” mark everywhere, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla is still considered a legendary hero.

Real name: Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. He was born in 1753.

He came from a wealthy creole family.

His professors at the Jesuit college in Valladolid, Mexico considered him brilliant.

He was so clever that he was nicknamed “El Zorro” — which means “the fox.”

El Zorro became an ordained priest.

El Zorro taught theology at the college of San Nicolas Obispo. He also became the rector of the school.

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla had an admiration for French culture.

He believed in the Enlightenment ideas about liberty and equality.

He was not satisfied with being successful as a scholar, and remembered his vow to help native Mexicans.

In 1802, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla became the parish priest in Dolores. He began to work to improve conditions for local peasants.

Fact Frenzy - Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla 1905 painting by Antonio Fabrés
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla 1905 painting by Antonio Fabrés

He taught the workers how to plant grapevines, start small handicraft businesses, and improved farming methods.

The Spanish authorities who were in charge of Mexico at the time became very suspicious of Zorro’s activities, as he empowered the peasant with these skills.

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla wanted to help Mexico gain its independence from Spain, after Napoleon’s conquest of Spain in 1808. Mexico’s citizens were split — some wanted to restore the former king, while others accepted the new king — which was Napoleon’s brother.

The Spanish authorities discovered Zorro’s plans in September, 1810 as someone betrayed Zorro and the members of his group.

Some members of the secret rebellion were arrested, and some fled. Hidalgo (Zorro) chose to seize the opportunity to act.

On the morning of September 16th, he rang the church bell, calling the townspeople to rebellion with the battle cry, “el grito de Dolores” (which meant, “the cry of Dolores”).

Zorro waved a banner picturing Mexico’s patron, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Indians and mestizos joined by the thousands and followed Zorro as he carried the banner.

Zorro and his followers were able to overtake towns west of Mexico City from Spanish authorities, such as Guantanamo. However, they made a strategic mistake by not capturing Mexico City itself.

In Guadalajara, Zorro began to work on setting up an independent government.

Unrest began to develop within the movement. Members were divided and unsure about his reform plans and a rebellion consisting of peasants.

Zorro and his followers suffered a defeat during a battle in January, 1811. He was eventually captured by Spanish forces while fleeing north to the United States. He was executed by firing squad on July 30, 1811.

Although Zorro had been killed, his vision finally came true 10 years later as Mexico gained its independence.

Today, Mexico still celebrates their independence day on the anniversary of his famous cry for revolution. Father Miguel Hidalgo, or El Zorro, is considered the father of Mexican Independence.


Fact Sources:

Noll, Arthur Howard; McMahon, Amos Philip (1910). The Life and Times of Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Company. pp. 124

Prentice-Hall, Inc. “Chapter 21 Biography Activity — Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla”