Freedom is for Overcomers

 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.- Galatians 5:1

WholyFit on the rooftop!

This week, we are celebrating Independence Day in Mexico. Actually, it is the celebration of the initiation of the War of Independence, which began in the wee hours of September 16, 1810 with the Grito de la Independencia – the cry of freedom.  The whole country dresses up in the colors of the flag: white, red and green.  The colors were chosen for their significance: Red – unity of the people, White – purity of the Catholic faith and Green – independence.  Later, president Benito Juarez (aka the Mexican Abraham Lincoln) changed the significance of the colors: White – unity, Green – hope, Red – the blood of the heroes who gave their lives for the country’s independence.  (more on Mexican History by Taco)

In the year 2010, Mexico celebrated the bicentennial celebration of the war of Independence, and the centennial celebration of the Revolutionary war. The festivities included special routes across the country, highlighting points of interest of the War of Independence and the Revolution – Rutas de la Independencia, and Rutas de la Revolucion, respectively. That year, Mom, my friend Esperanza and I and had ventured to the state of Guanajuato – following the ‘Ruta de la Independencia, where the Independence movement began.   (see excerpt ‘Viva la Independencia..’ from Taco’s Adventures with Ma) 

The hotel we stayed at in the lovely town of Guanajuato had a rooftop you could go out on; I woke up early to work on my routine, on a beautiful, refreshingly crisp morning. The picturesque town around me was the perfect setting for visual focus. At the time, I was studying for my WholyFit Silver Certification, and focusing on the posture ‘Overcomer’.  As I focused on that particular pose, I reflected upon what I had overcome to get to that point in my life – while the statue of El Pipila looked down upon me and the town, holding his torch up and carrying his boulder strapped to his back.

El Pipila looks out over the town of Guanajuato

He, too had been an Overcomer.  He was a martyr for the battle for independence against Spain, overcoming a great physical obstacle with his strength and determination – giving his life for his people who were uprising against oppression and injustice. I do not know if he was a man of faith – but I have been to the Alhondiga – the building where he gave his life – and saw the immense obstacle he had to overcome, and I have to believe that he did have faith, and that was what carried him – and the enormous boulder lit with tar and fire on his back – to victory.  I won’t get into the nasty bloodshed that followed – after all, I am a pacifist – but I certainly side with revolting against evil.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  – Romans 12:21

Fortunately, my spot on the rooftop did not face the Alhondiga to bring to mind the bloody battle; instead my view was of the colorful rooftops and the towering mountains behind them, reminding me of God’s creativity, and I was able to focus on my posture:

Getting into a lunge position, I pictured myself lunging forward in the battle, like a warrior. I will overcome! Next was my core – focus on activating it to help my posture and keep me stable (always stand firm!) as well as protect my lower back (one could say I got my own back!). All set; my core was engaged with strength.

She girds herself with strength…   – Psalm 31:17a

I checked my stance – I made sure it was wide for good balance with feet planted firmly– no enemy can knock this warrior down! As any good warrior should do, I assessed my alignment – working through it a few times to get it right: front knee directly over my ankle I don’t want to leave my ankle weak! Back leg:  straight, bearing weight, muscular energy focus; rear foot pointing to the side – a firm foundation. knees and toes pointing in the same direction – fully aligned!

So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:10b

I checked my squareness (not a tag I would normally put on myself!): hips and shoulders square to the front, confirming my firm foundation and focus.  Oh yes – almost forgot – need to remember to check that my neck is aligned with my back so that my head wouldn’t pop off. Check!   Arms… held up as if making a V for Victory, straight with muscular energy, shoulders down and held in front of my visual field…

And makes her arms strong.   – Psalm 31:17b

Finally, focus on breathing… Inhale…

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Hallelujah!  –  Psalm 150:6

… And focus on what it means to be an overcomer.

I am writing to you, young people, because you have overcome the evil one.  – 1 John 2:13b 

Independence, revolution – two words that constantly echo across the globe, in every country for various reasons, and within our own lives. I feel we are in a battle to become independent from many things, including being physically ‘unfit’, and we are constantly in a revolution against the enemy in his many forms.  We fight to overcome dependence in many ways – whether it be dependence on things, people or a weakness within ourselves, such as fear.  Above all, we fight to overcome evil – the enemy – often without even remembering that battle has already been won.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  – 1 John 5:4 

We live in a world filled with anger, hate, violence and injustice.  It does not matter what country you live it – it is there. Some seem to have evil more prominent than others – but it is still everywhere, just in different forms.  We need to remember to stand firm, gird ourselves with strength, overcome evil with good, be strong in our faith, and be victorious overcomers.

After all, He came, he saw, He conquered and overcame evil.  He paved the path for us to do the same; we just have to follow Him.

  The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. – Luke 4:18-19

Taco’s Mexican History 101: VIVA MEXICO! THE CRY FOR INDEPENDENCE (Excerpt #1 from Taco’s Adventures with Ma in Mexico: 2010)

THE OTHER CONQUEST: COLONIAL MEXICO

Mural in stairwell of the Alhondiga, Guanajuato. The indigenous people – slaves – cry out to Dolores Hidalgo for help.

The Spaniards had conquered; a new era began: Nueva España. Mexico became a viceroyalty of Spain, its capital was built upon the ruins of Tenochtitlán and named ‘México Tenochtitlán’, renamed in 1584 as ‘La Ciudad de México’ – Mexico City.  New laws were instated, such as one stating no cruelty to the indigenous people, but they were not very well enforced.  Some colonial officials such as Nuño de Guzmán became notorious for their cruelty.

The Spanish crown sent the Catholic church to the new land and convert the pagans; churches went up left and right, using indigenous people as workers (some would say slaves).  Along with it went the Spanish Inquisition and the auto de fé – public ceremonies of the Inquisition kind that included hangings and burnings of the heathen.  This went on from 1571 to 1850 – when the very last auto de fé took place.  That is not to say that all clergy were evil; there were a few, such as Vasco de Quiroga. who defended the indigenous people and truly did portray love.

The indigenous people may have been protected, but they had no rights in the eyes of the Crown.  Three centuries of this can leave a bad taste…

VIVA MEXICO! THE CRY FOR INDEPENDENCE

We now arrive in 1810. The encomienda system is in place: land, property and slaves are given to high-ranking Spaniards: appointed officials, military and the rich; the Catholic church controls the rest.

Put yourself in their sandals.  Imagine yourself as an indigenous person of Mexico: Your people were once under the cruel Mexica/Azteca dominion. Your people thought they were finally free of domination; your people even assisted Cortés and his cronies to usurp the Mexicas!  Along comes the Catholic church, telling you about their just, all-loving God, convincing you- more often than not by force- to convert to Catholicism – or die. You were made slaves by the very people you thought came to set you free. The church which talked about love does not even allow you entrance into the churches your people labored to build.  You are not allowed to own land or horses- those are privileges given only to those with pure Spanish blood.

Try another pair of shoes on. Picture yourself as a Meztizo (part Spanish, part indigenous).  While Spanish blood flows through your veins, your blood is ‘tainted’ and therefore your rights are limited; you are considered to be above indigenous; below Criollo.

Change shoes: now you are a Criollo– a person of pure Spanish blood, but born in Mexico. Sure, you’re pure-blooded, but still considered lower than the high-ranking Peninsulares: those born in Spain. While some Criollos have positions of power, the Peninsulares (AKA by derogatory term, Gachupines) are given preference by the Crown.  You are highly-educated, well-read and familiar with the ‘Enlightenment’; freedom, democracy and Utopia are discussed in your circle.  Many ‘enlightened’ circles speak of discontent, with talk of overthrowing the Gachupines and ending the privileges that are making nobles and the church richer.    Think about it. Unless you are a Gachupín, you can understand why a revolt is inevitable.

Secret meetings were held all over New Spain, although it was treason to even whisper of freedom from the Crown.  These groups were not exclusively male; highly-educated Criollo women also partook in discussions. One of Mexico’s greatest heroines, Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez (AKA La Corregidora/magistrate), was such a woman.  She and her magistrate husband were sympathizers; she convinced him to allow political meetings in their home (the Querétaro Conspiracy). Attendees included Captains Aldama and Allende (sympathizer priest Miguel Hidalgo in nearby Dolores was later informed).

A revolution was planned for December, but early morning September 16th, the Gachupín authorities discovered the conspiracy and ordered the magistrate to apprehend the rebel leaders. He locked up Josefa in her room to keep her from informing anyone; she found a way to get word out, and the leaders fled.  Hidalgo, enraged at the discovery, took matters into his hands. History says he freed local prisoners, imprisoned the Gachupines, rang the church bells and called his underprivileged parishioners to arms:

Dolores Hidalgo – Grito de la Independencia

“Viva Fernando Séptimo! Muera el mal gobierno! Mueran los Gachupines!”  (Long live Fernando VII, death to bad government, death to the Gachupines!)

Truthfully, what the ‘Grito’ included is disputed; the above is the most consistent of the many versions.  But no matter what- it was pretty radical- coming from a priest of Spanish blood!

Statue of Hidalgo calling the people to arms; the church in the background is where it all began.

The first Mexican Constitution was signed on October 22nd, 1814. The war raged until September 27, 1821.  Independence was finally won.

INDEPENDENCE?

The next 80 years were anything but dull on the Mexican calendar. It began with an emperor ( Agustín de Iturbide), who ruled for less than a year. A presidency was finally agreed upon, but with supreme Executive Power (1823-1824). Then came the 1st Republic of Mexico (1824-1864), which saw many presidents, including the 1st – Guadalupe Victoria, war of independence hero Vicente Guerrero, and the not-so-well-beloved-in-history General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, aka the Napoleon of the West, who was president of Mexico on 11 non-consecutive terms. He was in charge when the 13-day siege of Texas took place in 1836 (Remember the Alamo!) and Tejas gained independence from Mexico, as well as during The Mexican-American War (1846-1848), after which Mexico lost to the USA the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

Next came hero Benito Juarez (the Mexican Abraham Lincoln) with the struggle for liberal reform and abolishment of slavery – the Reform War (1858-1867), followed by the French Intervention and the Second Mexican Empire (1861-1867), in which Napoleon sent his cousin Maximillian and Carlota to rule his new Mexican Empire from Chapultapec Park in Mexico City.  The Battle of Pueblo took place during this time, on Cinco de Mayo, 1862. Maximillian was captured by Juarez’ troops in 1867, the Republic was restored and Juarez took power once more.  The Republic was restored, but along came dictator Porfirio Díaz, and an era known as the Porfiriato (1876-1911).  Health services and education improved greatly; the railway and telegraph were brought in across the country. Foreign investment and increased taxes helped bring industrialization to Mexico, but the wealth did not trickle down to the masses.  The rich got richer; the rest wanted a revolution…