The Formation of the Federal Republic
WHEN MEXICO achieved its independence in September 1821, few imagined that the country would soon become a republic, much less a federal republic. The autonomists, the members of the national elite who gained power at independence, favored establishing a constitutional monarchy with the king of the Spanish Monarchy or a member of the royal family as sovereign. When the Spanish Monarchy rejected their proposal, and faced with military and popular pressure, the country’s political leaders reluctantly accepted a native, Agustín de Iturbide, as Mexico’s first emperor. Neither the new emperor nor the Mexico City–based national elite realized the degree to which the constitutional revolution and the eleven-year insurgency had transformed the nation. They continued to act as though the old balance of power remained unchanged and that supreme authority resided in the capital despite the emergence of the regional and local bodies created by the Hispanic Constitution of 1812, the provincial deputations, and the constitutional ayuntamientos. As a result, conflict ensued between the newly empowered provincial elites, who sought to institutionalize local control, and the national elite, which insisted on maintaining power in the center.
The Plan of Casa Mata galvanized the civilian and military provincial elites. After generals Victoria and Santa Anna agreed to the Plan on February 3, 1823, in Veracruz, General Echáverri distributed copies of the document to all the provincial deputations, to the ayuntamientos of the capital of each province, and to the military commanders throughout the empire. Within six weeks, all the provincial deputations had accepted the Plan and, together with the ayuntamientos of their capitals, assumed control of their provinces.1 The rapidity with which the provinces approved the Plan of Casa Mata indicates that local leaders were well organized and that the regions of Mexico genuinely desired home rule. Among the most active politicians were Miguel Ramos Arizpe, who had been appointed chantre of the Cathedral of Puebla, and José Mariano Michelena, whose brother Juan José had been elected member of the