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Today, 200 Years Since Slavery Abolished in Mexico

By: David Real | Real Acapulco News - 19 October, 2010

On October 19, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo published his decree abolishing the institution of slavery and manumitting every slave on Mexican soil. Violators would be subject to the confiscation of all their goods and even to loss of life. Unlike the emancipation that took place 53 years later in the United States, which freed only those slaves living in the Confederacy and reserved the questions of the right to vote or be citizens, Hidalgo’s decree was unconditional and universal. It was based on a concept of the universal rights of man. Like Lincoln, however, Hidalgo did not control all the territory in which the decree took effect, as the country was in a struggle for its independence. Under Mexico’s abolition, all former slaves, regardless of origin or race, immediately enjoyed all the rights of citizenship. The degree was announced in the city of Valladolid, which today is Morelia. It was reiterated twice more in Guadalajara later in the year, due to military circumstances associated with the ongoing struggle for independence.

The decree brought about a reversal of legal tradition, as Mexico had inherited from Spain, via the Napoleonic conquest, the traditional body of Roman law, which formally recognized that human beings could be the private property of others. In its second paragraph, the decree went to the trouble of specifying that attempts at legal transfers were null, and that not only was it no longer legal to have slaves, but commerce in slaves would be equally punished. Considered the father of Mexican independence, Hidalgo was captured in March of the following year and executed in July of 1811. Full independence was not formally established until 1821.