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Agustín I
Emperor of Mexico
"Iturbide Emperador" attributed to
Josephus Arias Huerta
Coat of arms of Mexico (1821-1823).svg
Emperor of Mexico
Reign 19 May 1822 – 19 March 1823
Coronation 21 July 1822
Spouse Ana María Josefa Ramona de Huarte y Muñiz
Agustin Jerónimo, Prince Imperial
Princess Sabina
Princess Juana María
Princess Josefa
Prince Ángel
Princess María Isis
Princess María
Prince Salvador
Prince Felipe Andrés María Guadalupe
Prince Agustín Cosme
Full name
Agustín Cosme Damián de Iturbide y Arámburu
House House of Iturbide
Father José Joaquín de Iturbide y Arreguí
Mother María Josefa de Arámburu y Carrillo de Figueroa
Born 27 September 1783(1783-09-27)
Valladolid, Michoacán
Died 19 July 1824 (aged 40)
Padilla, Tamaulipas
Burial Mexico City Cathedral

Agustín Cosme Damián de Iturbide y Aramburu (27 September 1783 – 19 July 1824) was a Mexican Army General who built a successful political and military coalition that was able to march into Mexico City on 27 September 1821; decisively ending the Mexican War of Independence. After the liberation of Mexico was secured, he was proclaimed President of the Regency in 1821 and Constitutional Emperor of the new nation, reigning as Emperor briefly from 19 May 1822 to 19 March 1823, and is generally credited as the original designer of the Mexican flag.[1][2][3]

Although Iturbide’s reign was short, it defined the pre- and post-independence political struggles that Mexico would endure until the 20th century. The two ends of Mexico’s political spectrum, liberals that favored populist representative government and conservatives that favored a more dictatorial regime, would struggle, each gaining the upper hand at various times from Iturbide’s abdication.


Life before the war of independence

Agustín Cosme Damián de Iturbide y Aramburu was born in what was called Valladolid, now Morelia, the provincial capital of Michoacán on 27 September 1783.[4][5] He was baptized with the names of Saints Cosmas and Damian at the cathedral there.[6] He was the fifth child born to his parents but he was the only male to survive and inherit his family’s Basque Iturbide name.[7] Iturbide’s parents were part of the privileged class of Valladolid, owning farmland[4][5] such as the haciendas of Apeo and Guaracha as well as lands in nearby Quirio.[6] Iturbide’s father, Joaquín de Iturbide, came from a Basque noble family who received their title from King Juan II of Aragon. One of his ancestors, Martin de Iturbide, was mayor of Valle de Baztanen in 1432, and thereafter many in the family held political positions in the Basque region from the 15th century on. As Joaquín was not the eldest and would not inherit the family lands in Spain, he moved to New Spain to seek his fortune there.[7] While the noble and Spanish lineage of his father has never been in doubt, there has been some doubt about his mother. Some sources state that his mother was a Mestiza, meaning that she had at least some Indian blood.[1][8][9] Other sources insist that she was of pure Spanish blood born in Mexico, and therefore, a Criolla.[6][7] Others simply state that she came from a high-ranking family in Michoacán.[4][5][10] The reason this is important was that, at that time, one’s political fortunes, including military rank, was severely curtailed for those of mixed or pure Indian blood. Iturbide insisted throughout his life that he was Criollo.[8][9]

Agustin studied at the Catholic seminary called Colegio de San Nicolás in Valladolid, enrolled in the program for secular officials, though he was not a distinguished student.[1][4][7] After that, he worked as an overseer at one of his family’s haciendas for a short time, discovering that he was a very good horseman.[1][4] Still in his teens, Iturbide entered the royalist army, having been accepted as a Criollo.[8] He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the provincial regiment.[4][5] Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to full lieutenant in 1806.[7]

In 1805, when he was twenty-two, Iturbide married Ana María Josefa Ramona de Huarte y Muñiz, who would later become the first empress of Mexico.[4][7] She also came from Vallodolid from a prosperous family of businessmen and landowners.[11] She was the daughter of wealthy and powerful noble Isidro de Huarte, governor of the district and the granddaughter of the Marquis of Altamira. With her dowry of 100,000 pesos, the couple bought the Hacienda of Apeo in the small town of Maravatío.[7]

Prior to the outbreak of the War of Independence, there was political unrest in New Spain. One of Iturbide’s first military campaigns was to help put down a mutiny headed by Gabriel J. de Yermo.[12] While valiant in combat, he gained a reputation early in his career for using his authority for financial gain.[8] Although a member of the royal army that had suppressed rebellion, he may have been involved in the initial conspiracy to declare independence in 1809 that was headed by José Mariano Michelena in Valladolid.[12][13] Some historians believe that he betrayed Michelena when he was not chosen leader.[1]

Combatting insurgency



After the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla offered Iturbide the rank of general in the insurgent forces. However, Iturbide rejected the offer in order to fight with royalist forces. Over the course of the war, Iturbide would principally find himself up against Generals José María Morelos from 1810 to 1816 and Vicente Guerrero in 1820.[1][5] One of Iturbide’s first encounters with the rebel army was in the Toluca Valley in 1810 as it advanced toward Mexico City from Valladolid. Royalist and rebel forces engaged on the east bank of the Lerma River at the end of October in what is now known as the Battle of Monte de las Cruces. Royalist forces under the command of Colonel Torcuato Trujillo withdrew from the area, allowing rebels to take Toluca.[14] Despite the loss by his side, Iturbide distinguished himself in this battle for valor and tenacity.[4][12] Iturbide’s next major encounter with the rebels would be against Morelos himself and in his native city of Valladolid. Iturbide led the defenders. He demonstrated his tactical skill and horsemanship by breaking Morelos’ siege of the town with a well-executed cavalry charge, causing the insurgent forces to withdraw into the forest”[8] For this action, Iturbide was promoted to captain.[15] As a captain, he pursued rebel forces in the area, managing to capture Albino Licéaga y Rayón, leading to another promotion.[15] In 1813, Viceroy Félix María Calleja promoted Iturbide to colonel and put him in charge of the regiment in Celaya.[10] Then, in 1814, he was named the commander of forces in the Bajío area of Guanajuato where he continued to pursue rebels with vigor,[15] in a strongly contested area,[10] and was Morelos’ principal military opponent from 1813 to 1815.[11] The next major encounter between Morelos and Iturbide occurred in a town called Puruarán, Michoacán,[7] on 5 January 1814. In this battle, rebel forces were soundly defeated by forces under Iturbide, forcing Morelos to retreat to the Hacienda of Santa Lucía and leaving Mariano Matamoros and Ignacio López Rayón in command of the rebel army with over 600 insurgents killed and 700 captured. This marked a turn in the war.[16] Iturbide and other Spanish commanders relentlessly pursued Morelos, capturing and executing him late in 1815.[2]

Relieved of command

Iturbide’s fortunes reversed with the viceroy when a number of accusations of cruelty and corruption surfaced.[11][15] Iturbide’s persistence against the rebels was widely-known as well as his views against their liberal, anti-monarchical politics. In his diary, he refers to the insurgents as “perverse,” “bandits” and “sacrilegious.”[4] In a letter to the viceroy in 1814, he wrote of how he had 300 rebels (to whom he referred as excommunicates) executed to celebrate Good Friday.[17] Iturbide was also criticized for his arbitrariness and his treatment of civilians, in particular his jailing of the mothers, wives and children of known insurgents.[10] As for corruption, the Count of Pérez Galvez extensively testified that profiteering by many royalist officers, of whom Iturbide was the most visible, was draining the effectiveness of the royal army. Iturbide accrued a large personal fortune before 1816 through questionable dealings.[14] Some of these shady practices included creating commercial monopolies in areas he controlled militarily. Other accusations against Iturbide included sacking private property and embezzling military funds.[10] In 1816, the viceroy relieved Iturbide of his command for corruption and cruelty.[2][10][15]

However, one year later, with the support of an auditor named Bataller and staunch monarchists in the viceregal government, these charges were withdrawn. Iturbide’s supporters further convinced the viceroy that he was needed to vanquish the last remaining rebel leader.[2][10][15] However, Iturbide never forgot the humiliation of his dismissal.[10]

Against Guerrero

Iturbide was fully reinstated to military command in November 1820 by viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca.[11] He was reinstated as coronel of the royalist army[12] and general of the south of New Spain. For a couple of years after the defeat of Morelos at Puruarán, the independence movement had diminished significantly. However, Iturbide was given the task of putting down the growing insurrectionist movement southwest of Mexico City led by Vicente Guerrero .[12][15] In spite of regaining command, Iturbide still had to finagle and even steal the funds he needed for the task.[2] Iturbide installed his headquarters at Teloloapan; however, he was never able to defeat Guerrero militarily. Guerrero was a guerrilla leader who had for years lived and fought against the same soldiers who were trying to capture him. Guerrero managed to deliver a number of serious reverses to Iturbide’s troops.[2][12] In particular, on 2 January 1821, his troops suffered a bad defeat, leading Iturbide to conclude that he might not be able to defeat Guerrero.[4]

Switching sides

The Criollo rebellion

From 1810 to 1820, Iturbide had fought against those who sought to overturn the Spanish monarchy and Bourbon dynasty’s right to rule New Spain and replace that regime with a republic. In this, he was solidly aligned with the Criollo class.[2][8][11] However, events in Spain caused problems for this class, as the very monarchy they were fighting for was in serious trouble. The 1812 Cadiz Constitution, that was reinstated in Spain in 1820 after the successful Riego Revolt, established a constitutional monarchy, which greatly limited Ferdinand VII's powers. There was serious concern in Mexico that the Bourbons would be forced to abandon Spain altogether.[12][18] This led to the disintegration of viceregal authority in Mexico City and a political vacuum developed that the Mexican nobility sought to fill, seeking limited representation and autonomy for themselves within the empire.[11] An idea arose among this class that if Mexico became independent or autonomous, and if Ferdinand were deposed, he could become king of Mexico.[18]

Alliance with Guerrero

Posthumous portrait of Vicente Guerrero by Ramón Sagredo (circa 1865).

Iturbide was convinced that independence for Mexico was the only way to protect the country from a republican tide. He decided become the leader of the Criollo independence movement. However, in order to succeed, he would need to put together a very unlikely coalition of Mexican liberal insurgents, landed nobility and the Church. Iturbide held a series of negotiations with Guerrero and made a number of demonstrations of his intentions to form an independent Mexico.[2] Iturbide offered Guerrero a full pardon if he surrendered. Guerrero rejected the pardon but agreed to meet with Iturbide to discuss the independence of Mexico.[4] The two met to discuss a plan for independence drawn up by Iturbide called the “Plan de Iguala”. This meeting is now referred to as the “Embrace of Acatempán," named after the locale where they agreed to implement the plan.[1][2] Iturbide, Guerrero and another insurgent leader, Guadalupe Victoria, announced the plan on 24 February 1821.[2] On 1 March 1821, Iturbide was proclaimed head of the Army of the Three Guarantees.[4]

Plan of Iguala

The plan was a rather vague document that sought the transition of the center of power in New Spain from Madrid to Mexico City. Essentially, the idea was to bring Ferdinand VII to Mexico City to rule. If did not come to Mexico, another member of the Bourbon royal family would be chosen to rule there.[17] To attract the disparate parties involved in this scheme, the plan offered three guarantees: Mexico would be independent from Madrid, Roman Catholicism would be the official religion and all of Spanish blood, whether born in Spain or in the Americas, would be able to live as equals in the new state.[11][18]

The promise of independence convinced the insurgents to accept the proposal. The promise of the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church was offered to the clergy, who were frightened by anti-clerical policies of Spanish Liberalism.[11] The offer of equality between Criollos and the Spanish-born Peninsulares assured the latter that they and their property would be safe in the new state. This was important because the Peninsulares owned a significant part of the valuable real estate and many of the businesses in Mexico. If the Spaniards had left, it would have been disastrous for the Mexican economy.[18]

The plan gained wide support because it demanded independence without attacking the landed classes and did not threaten social dissolution. With this, Iturbide succeeded in bringing together old insurgents and royalist forces to fight against the new Spanish government and what was left of the viceregal government. Military leaders, soldiers, families, villages, and towns that had been fighting against one another for almost ten years, found themselves joining forces to gain Mexican independence. However, their reasons for joining together were very different, and these differences would later foment the turmoil that occurred after independence.[18]

Both the sitting viceroy and Fernando VII rejected the Plan of Iguala.[7][10] The Spanish parliament a new "viceroy," Juan O'Donojú, to Mexico. (Technically, the office of viceroy had been replaced by a "superior political chief" under the 1812 Spanish Constitution.) Although Iturbide tried hard to convince O’Donojú that independence was inevitable, the new political chief refused to yield.[7]


Iturbide's triumphal entrance to Mexico City

To show the military might of this alliance, Iturbide coordinated with associated royalist and insurgent commanders in the provinces, opting for a replay of the strategy of closing in on Mexico City from the periphery which Morelos had unsuccessfully attempted in 1811–14. However, Iturbide had the advantage of having most of the former royalist army on his side.[1][11] Iturbide marched into Mexico City on 27 September 1821, his own birthday, with the Army of the Three Guarantees.[18] The army was received by a jubilant populace who had erected arches of triumph and decorated houses and themselves with the tri-color (red, white and green) of this army.[4] The following day, Mexico was declared an independent empire.

What remained of the royalist army retreated and while Juan de O’Donoju was cornered in the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa,[17] he hastily negotiated a treaty with Iturbide, called the Treaty of Córdoba[14] Similar to the Plan de Iguala, this document guaranteed autonomy for New Spain within the Spanish Empire under the Bourbon dynasty. This successor state would invite Ferdinand VII to rule as emperor, or in default his brother Don Carlos. If both refused, a suitable monarch would be searched for among the various European royal houses. In the meantime, a regency would replace the viceroy. All existing laws, including the 1812 Constitution, would remain in force until a new constitution for Mexico was written.[11]

Iturbide named himself President of the Provisional Governing Junta, which selected the five-person regency that would temporarily govern the newly-independent Mexico.[1] The junta had thirty six members who would have legislative power until the convocation of a congress. Iturbide controlled both the membership of this junta and the matters that it considered.[2] This junta would be responsible for negotiating the offer of the throne of Mexico to a suitable royal.[5][17] Members of the republican insurgent movement were left out of this government.[12]

The new government overwhelmingly consisted of people loyal to Iturbide himself.[10] Opposition groups included the old insurgents as well as a number of progressives and those loyal to Ferdinand VII. Many of the liberals and progressive groups also belonged to Masonic lodges of the Scottish rite, leading these branches of the opposition to be called escoceses (Scots). The independence achieved under the leadership of Iturbide might have surprised both Hidalgo and Morelos. It was a movement more concerned about the preservation of elite status than liberal value of equality of the masses. Only Iturbide and other Criollos really gained power.[2]

Iturbide moved to Mexico City and settled himself in a large palatial home which now bears the name of Palace of Iturbide. This mansion was lent to him by the family that owned it but was not living in it.[19] Iturbide began to live extravagantly, assigning himself a large yearly sum as compensation. He demanded preferences for his army and chosen ministers as well.[17] In the meantime, Ferdinand VII, rejected the offer of the Mexican throne and forbade any of his family from accepting the position and the Spanish parliament rejected the Treaty of Córdoba.[9]

Emperor Agustín I

Half-length portrait as Emperor of Mexico

Shortly after signing the Treaty of Córdoba, the Spanish government reneged.[17] Ferdinand VII had regained the upper hand against the liberals in Spain and increased his influence outside the county. He even had credible plans for the reconquest of the old colony. For these reasons, no European noble would accept the offer of a Mexican crown. Inside Mexico itself, there was no noble family that the populace world accept as royalty.[18] In the meantime, the governing junta that Iturbide headed convened a constituent congress to structure the new government. This new government did have indirect representation, based on the Cadiz model. However, Iturbide did not like such as it restricted the power of the landed elite. He and the junta therefore declared that they would not be bound by the Cadiz Constitution but kept the Congress that was convened.[11] This led to divisiveness which came to a head in February 1822. Congress attributed sovereignty to itself rather than to any incoming monarch as well as considered lowering military pay and decreasing the size of the army. These moved threatened to reduce Itubide’s influence in the current and future governments.[2][11] This led to political destabilization, which was resolved temporarily when Iturbide took the crown of Mexico for himself.[11] However, it is not clear whether he took this crown at the true insistence of the people or whether he simply took advantage of the political situation. Some sources call Iturbide’s decision a coup[2][17] and state that the public support for Itubide was orchestrated by him and his followers.[2][7][11] Others insist that the people’s offer of the throne was sincere, based on the fact that there was no other monarch coming and the people were grateful to him for the liberation of Mexico. The latter accounts stress that Iturbide initially rejected the offer in favor of persuading Fernando VII to change his mind about ruling Mexico but then reluctantly accepted.[6][7]

Most historical accounts mention the crowd that gathered outside of what is now the Palace of Iturbide in Mexico City to shout "Viva Iturbide!” and insist that he take the throne of Mexico in May 1822. This crowd included Iturbide’s old regiment from Celaya. Some historians insist that this demonstration was orchestrated and staged by Iturbide himself or by his loyalists. From a balcony of the palace Iturbide repeatedly denied his desire for the throne but some historians doubt that he was sincere in this.[2][5][10] One interesting twist to this story is reported by Mexico City daily La Jornada which states that Iturbide held the first popular referendum in Mexico. According to this article, Iturbide sent out a questionnaire to military and civilian leaders as to whether the people wanted to live in a republic or in a monarchy. Supposedly, the answer came back in favor of a monarchy.[20] After Iturbide accepted the crowd’s offer of the throne, he went to the congress the next day to have his appointment confirmed. Iturbide's supporters filled the balconies overlooking the chamber. The congress confirmed him and his title of Agustín I, Constitutional Emperor of Mexico, by a vast majority.[1][2]

Iturbide’s coronation was held at the Mexico City Cathedral on 21 July 1822, with his wife, Ana María, crowned empress, in an elaborate ceremony.[2] It was attended by the bishops of Puebla, Guadalajara, Durango and Oaxaca and presided over by Archbishop of Mexico Fonte.[10] Similar to Napoleon, Iturbide chose to place the crown of the empire upon his own head.[7] The new emperor had congress decree the heredity of the crown with the title of “Prince of the Union”. As emperor, Iturbide had sovereignty over lands bordered by Panama in the south to the Oregon Country in the north, including the current countries of Central America and the U.S. states of California, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.[21]


Not everyone was happy with Iturbide as emperor. While the clergy supported him,[17] Iturbide’s coronation both dashed republican hopes and broke with the Plan of Iguala and the Treaty of Córdoba. Many of the landed classes supported Iturbide and these documents because they offered a sense of continuity with what had always been. Iturbide’s self-appointment as emperor broke with Spanish and colonial practices, which caused discontent among the most traditional of Iturbide’s supporters.[18]

The strongest opposition to Iturbide’s reign came from the congress. A significant number of this congress supported republican ideas.[15] A significant number of these members also belonged to Masonic lodges, which were introduced to Mexico in the 1780s and they found a voice when Manuel Cordorniu founded the newspaper El Sol, essentially becoming the in-house publication for the Scottish Rite lodge in their struggle against Iturbide.[1] Gorka Rosainz claims that these lodges also received support from the United States, who wanted to see European influence decreased in the Americas.[6] To combat the resistance, Iturbide closed down the congress on 31 October 1822, and created a new junta to legislate in its place, answering only to him.[15][18] He persecuted his enemies, arresting and jailing between nineteen and twenty-six former members of the congress, but this did not bring peace.[1][2][12] In fact, a number of prominent politicians and military, many of whom initially supported Agustín as emperor, turned against him, for having “made a mockery of national representation.”[18]

During this time, Mexico suffered as an independent country. Ferdinand’s resurgence as a ruler in Spain meant that no European nation was willing to recognize Mexico’s independence and most broke off economic ties with the new state. Mexico was also under the threat of reconquest by Spain. Iturbide’s economic policies were draining resources as well. To increase his popularity, he abolished a number of colonial-era taxes. However, he still insisted on a large and very-well-paid army and lived extravagantly himself.[18]

This would not last long. Soon Iturbide was unable to pay his army, forming discontent in a significant portion of his power base. When criticism of the government grew strong, Iturbide censored the press — an act that backfired against him. Opposition groups began to band together against the emperor.[2] Leaders like Valentín Gómez Farías, Gertrudis Bocanegra, and Santa Anna began to conspire against the imperial concept altogether and became convinced that a republican model was needed to combat despotism.[18]

Santa Anna publicly announced his opposition to Iturbide in December 1822[2] with the support of Colonel José Antonio Echavarri and other military officers.[18] The emperor tried to stop Santa Anna by inviting him to Mexico City. Recognizing the danger of such an invitation, in early spring 1823 Santa Anna responded with his Plan de Casa Mata, which called for Iturbide to abdicate the throne, for the end of the empire, and for the formation of a republic governed by a written constitution.[2] Iturbide’s enemy-turned-ally, Vicente Guerrero, turned to enemy again when he supported Santa Anna’s plan”[8] In addition to opposition to Emperor Agustín I within what is now Mexico, much of the area now known as Central America declared its opposition to Mexico City’s rule. In 1823, authorities in what are now El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras convened a Congress to declare themselves independent from Mexico and Spain as the “United Provinces of Central America.”[17] Santa Anna’s army marched toward Mexico City, winning small victories along the way.[1] Iturbide gathered and sent troops to combat Santa Anna, but the effort was not very strong. The two leaders met on 1 February 1823 to sign Santa Anna’s plan which called for the reinstatement of congress, Iturbide’s abdication and his exile.[17] Iturbide did as he promised and personally reopened the same congress he closed in March 1823 to present his abdication to this body. However, congress refused to accept it, arguing that such would imply that the existence of said throne was legitimate. Instead they nullified their own election of Iturbide as emperor.[17] Iturbide left for Europe soon afterwards.[10][17] Leadership of the country was passed on to what was called the “triumvirate,” made up of generals Guadalupe Victoria, Nicolás Bravo and Pedro Celestino Negrete.[18]


On 11 May 1823, the ex-emperor boarded the English ship Rawlins, en route to Livorno, Italy (then part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany,[4] accompanied by his wife, children and some servants. There he rented a small country house and began to write his memoirs. However, Spain pressured Tuscany to expel Iturbide, which it did, and the Iturbide family moved to England.[7] Here, he published his autobiography “Statement of Some of the Principal Events in the Public Life of Agustín de Iturbide” When he was exiled, Iturbide was given a government pension, but Congress also declared him a traitor and “outside of the law,” to be killed if he ever returned to Mexico. Whether he was aware of this second part is in dispute.[2][4][9][10][12]

After his departure, the situation in Mexico continued to worsen. Reports of a probable Spanish attempt to retake Mexico reached Iturbide in England.[8][9] He continued to receive reports from Mexico as well as advice from supporters that if he returned he would be hailed as a liberator and a potential leader against the Spanish invasion.[9] Iturbide sent word to congress in Mexico City on 13 February 1824 offering his services in the event of Spanish attack. Congress never replied.[17] More conservative political factions in Mexico finally convinced Iturbide to return. ”[5][8]


Declaration to the World by Agustin de Iturbide or rather Notes for History, a manuscript tinged with his blood and found between his sash and shirt after his execution.

Iturbide returned to Mexico on 14 July 1824,[2] accompanied by his wife, two children and a chaplain.[17] He landed at the port of Soto la Marina on the coast of Nuevo Santander (the modern-day state of Tamaulipas). They were initially greeted enthusiastically, but soon they were arrested and escorted by General Felipe de la Garza, the local military commander, to the nearby village of Padilla.[6][10] The local legislature held a trial and sentenced Iturbide to death. When a local priest administered last rites, Iturbide supposedly said,"Mexicans! I die with honor, not as a traitor; do not leave this stain on my children and my legacy. I am not a traitor, no."[10] He was executed by firing squad on 19 July 1824.[5] Three bullets hit him, one of which killed him.

His body was buried and abandoned at the parish church of Padilla[10] until 1833. In that year, then-President Santa Anna decided to rehabilitate the memory of Iturbide, ordering that his remains be transferred to the capital with honors. However, it was not until 1838, during the presidency of Anastasio Bustamante that this order was confirmed and carried out. His ashes were received in Mexico City with much pomp and ceremony, and the same Congress that had been against him for so many years gave him honor as a primary hero of the War of Independence.[12]

His remains were placed in an urn on 27 October 1839 in the Chapel of San Felipe de Jesús in the Mexico City Cathedral where they still are. On the stand is an inscription in Spanish that translates to “Agustín de Iturbide, author of the Independence of Mexico. Compatriot, cry for him; passerby, admire him. This monument guards the ashes of a hero. May his soul rest in the bosom of God.”[6]

Iturbide’s role in history

While Iturbide’s reign lasted less than a year, it was the result of and further defined the struggle between republican and traditional ideals that were fighting for supremacy, not only in Mexico, but also in Europe. For a number Mexican autonomists, a constitutionally-sanctioned monarchy seemed a logical solution to the problem of creating a new state as it seemed to be a compromise between those who pushed for a representative form of government and those who wished to keep Mexico’s monarchist traditions. If viewed in this light, historian Eric Van Young states that Iturbide’s seizure of the crown “seems less cynical and idiosyncratic when it comes along at the end of the independence struggle.”[14] However, the rest of the 19th century would be marked as vacillation between the two political extremes, with each side gaining the upper hand at one point or another. The old Mexican nobility kept their titles and coats-of-arms close at hand, ready for a comeback. Members of the Iturbide family intrigued against Mexican government in Madrid, New York City, Paris, and Rome as late as the 1890s.[22]

Liberal or republican ideas were and would continue to be embraced by creoles outside of the Mexico City elite. These came out of Bourbon reforms in Europe that were based on the Enlightenment. Attacks on the Church by liberals in Spain and elsewhere in Europe would be repeated in Mexico during the La Reforma period. Ideals of the Constitution of Cadiz would find expression in the 1824 Constitution of Mexico. An interesting fact is that this constitution would influence political thought on both sides of the Mexican political spectrum, with even Iturbide bending to it when he created the first congress of an independent Mexico. After Iturbide, there was wide general consensus, even among the landed elite, that some form of representative government was needed. The question was how much power would be in legislative hands and how much in an executive.[18]

Iturbide’s empire was replaced with the First Republic which was soon usurped by Santa Anna’s regime. This regime would be overthrown with the War of the Reform, which reimposed republican ideals. Porfirio Díaz in the late 19th century would impose one-man rule more successfully than either Iturbide or Santa Anna ever did. He would be overthrown with the Mexican Revolution.[11] Early in the independence period of Mexico’s history, even the day used to mark Independence would be based on which side you were on. Traditionalists favored 27 September to celebrate when Iturbide rode into Mexico, but more liberal politicians favored 16 September to celebrate Father Hidalgo’s call for rebellion against Spain.[22]

In modern-day Mexico, the liberalist tendency has dominated, to the extent that the conservative movements are academically and politically almost ignored. When they are treated, it is with a strong partisan interpretive slant. This is true of much of the writing about Iturbide, being portrayed as a “traitor” of 19th century Mexico. This is particularly true in history textbooks used by Mexican schoolchildren, in which liberal heroes like Hidalgo and Morelos are lauded and Iturbide is portrayed as a villain.[18]

Iturbide’s strategy of defining a plan and using the military to back it up started a trend in Mexican politics that would dominate until the 20th century. He can also been seen as the first “caudillo” or charismatic dictator who used a combination of widespread popularity and threat of violence toward opposition to rule and would be followed by the likes of Antonio López de Santa Anna and Porfirio Díaz.[2]

Another legacy that Iturbide left to Mexico was its modern flag, creating the flag known today. The three colors of red, white and green originally represented the three guarantees of the Plan of Iguala. In the place of the Spanish emblem for Mexico, he resurrected the old Tenochtitlan symbol for Mexico City, an eagle perched on a nopal cactus holding a snake in its beak. With it he hoped to link the upcoming Mexican Empire with the old Aztec one.[3][6]


Agustín was married on 27 February 1805 to Ana María Josefa Ramona de Huarte y Muñiz (1786 - 1861); they had 10 children:

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Vazquez-Gomez, Juana (1997). Dictionary of Mexican Rulers 1325-1997. Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated,. ISBN 9780313300493.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Kirkwood, Burton (2000). History of Mexico. Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated. ISBN 9780313303517.  
  3. ^ a b Ibañez, Alvaro (2005-02-12). "Mexico en sus Banderas/Bandera del Imperio de Iturbide" (in Spanish). Notimex. Mexico City: Reforma.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Hamue-Medina, Rocio Elena. "Agustin Iturbide". Retrieved 2008-11-10.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Agustin de Iturbide (1783-1824)". Retrieved 2008-11-10.  
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  13. ^ "Arts and History – Agustin Iturbide". Retrieved 2008-11-10.  
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External links

Agustín de Iturbide
Born: 27 September 1784 Died: 19 July 1824
Regnal titles
New title
Independence from Spain
Empire declared
Emperor of Mexico
19 May 1822 –19 March 1823
Monarchy abolished
Title next held by
Maximiliano I
Political offices
Title last held by
Juan O'Donojú
Mexican head of state
as Emperor of Mexico

19 May 1822 – 19 March 1823
Title next held by
Guadalupe Victoria
Titles in pretence
New title — TITULAR —
Emperor of Mexico
19 March 1823 – 19 July 1824
Succeeded by
Prince Agustín Jerónimo
Pretenders to the Mexican
throne since 1823
First Empire

Emperor Agustín I (1823-1824)
Prince Imperial Agustín (1824-1864)

Second Empire

Emperor Maximilian I (1867)
Prince Agustín (1867-1925)
Princess Maria (1925-1949)
Prince Maximilian (1949-)

See also House of Habsburg-Itúrbide


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