José María Tornel y Mendívil was born on 1 March 1795 in the town of Orizaba, in what was the intendencia of Veracruz, 1 in the mountainous foothills of the highest peak in Mexico, the volcano Citlaltépetl, also known as the peak of Orizaba. 2 The imposing scenery of his childhood was to remain in his memory throughout his life: “Oh Citlaltépetl! Proud mountain of my mother-country!” 3 By all accounts he was born into a relatively comfortable middle-class family. Although his father, Julián Tornel, 4 was a shopkeeper, 5 he was wealthy enough to donate over 2,000 pesos to the insurgents during the war of independence. 6 Moreover, according to the Diario del Gobierno, in what was perhaps a somewhat exaggerated statement, since the newspaper was defending Tornel from the accusations that had appeared in El Cosmopolita, in the fall of 1836, which claimed he was using the funds for the Texan war to purchase a suitably comfortable house: “Tornel is not a wealthy man today; however, he was born surrounded by opulence; and it is possible that what remains of his father’s fortune is what has paid for his family’s modest home.” 7 At a time when higher education was largely a privilege of the aristocracy and prosperous Creole families, Tornel’s extensive knowledge of the classics, his own literary use of rhetoric, and the ease with which he translated English and French texts into Spanish suggest that he must have come from a family that could at least afford the luxury of culture. 8 As Brian Hamnett rightly pointed out, shopkeepers in late colonial Mexico belonged to a profession
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Publication information: Book title: Tornel and Santa Anna:The Writer and the Caudillo, Mexico, 1795-1853. Contributors: Will Fowler - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 1.
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