Father Hidalgo was born into a middle class family in the city of Guanajuato in 1753. "He attended the Jesuit College of San Francisco Javier, received a bachelor's degree from the University of Mexico in 1774, and was ordained into the priesthood in 1778. He soon earned the enmity of the authorities, however, by openly challenging both church doctrine and aspects of Spanish rule by developing Mexican agriculture and industry" (Library of Congress: American Memory).
In 1803, Hidalgo became the priest of a small parish of Dolores in the state of Guanajuato. Between 1803 and 1810, he focused all of his attention on improving the socioeconomic conditions of the Indian and mestizo population by developing local craft industries. He also joined the Academia Literaria, a literary and political group that organized a plot to free the colony of Mexico from Spanish rule.
In the early hours of September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla gathered the congregation --mostly Mestizo and Indian --of his parish church in the pueblo of Dolores and urged them to take up arms and fight for Mexico's independence from Spain. That impassioned speech, known as El Grito de Dolores, or Cry of Dolores, is celebrated and "re-enacted" in Mexico every year on September 16 as Mexican Independence Day (The Library of Congress: American Memory).
In that cry for freedom, he is believed to have said:
My Children, a new dispensation comes to us today…Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once.Library of Congress - American Memory (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html)
El Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores), attributed to Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, September 16, 1810.Father Hidalgo was captured and executed in 1811 and Mexico would not win the war for independence until 1821.
The following video made for the 2010 Bicentenario Mexico (Mexican Bicentennial) tells the story of the 11-year war for Mexican independence.