Juan O'Donojú

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Juan O'Donojú
Escudo de Carlos III de España Toisón y su Orden variante leones de gules.svg
Jefe Político Superior
In office
3 August de 1821 – 27 September 1821
Preceded by Juan Ruiz de Apodaca
Succeeded by Agustín de Iturbide (President of the Regency of the Mexican Empire)
Regent of the Mexican Empire
In office
28 September 1821 – 8 October 1821
Preceded by Himself
(as Jefe Político Superior)
Succeeded by Agustín I of Mexico
Personal details
Born 1762
Seville, Spain
Died October 8, 1821
Mexico City, First Mexican Empire

Juan de O'Donojú y O'Ryan (1762, Seville, Spain – October 8, 1821, Mexico City) was a Spanish military officer and Jefe Político Superior (often translated as viceroy) of New Spain from July 21, 1821 to September 28, 1821, during Mexico's war of independence. He was the last Spanish ruler of the colony.


Born in Seville of Irish descent (O'Donoghue[1]), O'Donojú joined the army at a young age. He served with distinction in the Peninsular War, also known as the Spanish War of Independence.

He was chief of staff to General Gregorio García de la Cuesta during the Battle of Talavera on 27–28 July 1809. In a somewhat strained meeting on 11 July, O'Donojú served as interpreter between Cuesta and the British commander Sir Arthur Wellesley, later known as Wellington. As the two generals worked out a plan of campaign, Cuesta answered many of Wellesley's questions with a simple yes or no, which O'Donojú tactfully explained to the Irishman (Wellesley was born in Ireland).[2]

In 1814 he was named minister of war by the Regency. With the return of King Ferdinand VII, he became aide de camp of the king.

O'Donojú was a liberal, and a friend of the liberal rebel Rafael de Riego. At the time of the reestablishment of the Spanish Constitution of 1812 in 1820, he was captain general of Andalusia. He reached the rank of lieutenant general, and was a high officer in the Spanish Freemasons. In 1821 the Cortes Generales appointed him captain general and jefe político superior, which gave him the authority (but not the official title) of the former viceroys. At the time O'Donojú left for New Spain, the Cortes was considering greatly expanding the autonomy granted to the overseas Spanish possessions under the restored Constitution.

He was sworn into his new offices upon his arrival in Veracruz on July 21, 1821. He found that the entire country except for Veracruz, Mexico City and Acapulco supported the Plan de Iguala and rebel general Agustín de Iturbide.

Still in Veracruz, on August 3, 1821 he issued a proclamation of his liberal principles to the people of Mexico. He wrote to Iturbide, inviting the latter to a conference in a location of his choosing. Iturbide designated the city of Córdoba as the meeting place. O'Donojú, accompanied by Colonel Antonio López de Santa Anna, arrived there on August 23, and the following day the meeting occurred. They reached agreement and signed an accord, the Treaty of Córdoba, based on the Plan de Iguala. The only part of the Plan de Iguala that was amended was Article 4, concerning the functions of the governmental junta. The new Article 4 also provided that if no member of the Bourbon family accepted the crown of New Spain (a likely possibility), the Mexican Cortes would freely elect the monarch. Under the circumstances, this was almost the same as granting the crown to Iturbide.

The military leaders of the Spanish in the colony did not accept the independence of Mexico. Spanish troops occupied the plazas of Mexico City and Veracruz, the fort of San Carlos de Perote, and the castle of San Diego in Acapulco. They were blockaded, and all but Veracruz surrendered. Francisco Novella was besieged in Mexico City by the Army of the Three Guarantees (the unified pro-independence army formed by the Plan de Iguala), led by Vicente Guerrero and Nicolás Bravo. Novella agreed to a suspension of hostilities. Colonel Santa Anna besieged Brigadier García Dávila in San Juan de Ulúa, Veracruz, but the latter was able to hold out for four more years.

O'Donojú used his influence to withdraw Spanish troops from the country with a minimum of bloodshed, by means of reasonable surrender terms. He approved the promotion of Novella, the previous (acting) viceroy, to field marshal.

On September 13, 1821 O'Donojú met with Novella and Iturbide at the Hacienda de la Patera, near the Villa de Guadalupe, smoothing over the difficulties and arranging the details of the transfer of power. Novella ordered Spanish troops to leave Mexico City.

The troops left the capital on September 21–22, and on the 24th the insurgents entered. On the 27th O'Donojú, and on the 28th Iturbide decreed the independence of the Mexican Empire from Spain. Together with 33 other persons, O'Donojú was part of the Provisional Governing Junta, headed by Iturbide. He signed the Act of Independence on September 28, 1821.

On October 3, 1821, the Captaincy General of Guatemala (formed of Chiapas, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras) proclaimed its independence from Spain and its incorporation into the Mexican Empire. This region had been formally subject to New Spain throughout the colonial period, but as a practical matter was administered separately. All but Chiapas soon separated from Mexico.

O'Donojú died of pleurisy shortly after independence, on October 8, 1821, only about two and one half months after arriving in New Spain. That being said, there are some historians who suspect that he was poisoned by Iturbide. This suspicion is based on the declarations of Carlos María Bustamante, a parliamentarian and writer who said as much in his writings. His remains were interred with the honors of a viceroy in the vault of the Altar of Kings in the Cathedral of Mexico.


  1. ^ "Tracing your Irish ancestry - The O'Donoghue clan". IrishCentral.com. Irish Central. Retrieved Aug 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ Oman, Charles (1995). A History of the Peninsular War Volume II. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole. p. 472. ISBN 1-85367-215-7. 


  • (Spanish) "Juan O'Donojú," Enciclopedia de México, v. 10. Mexico City, 1987.
  • (Spanish) García Puron, Manuel, México y sus gobernantes, v. 1. Mexico City: Joaquín Porrua, 1984.
  • (Spanish) Orozco L., Fernando, Fechas Históricas de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1988, ISBN 968-38-0046-7.
  • (Spanish) Orozco Linares, Fernando, Gobernantes de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1985, ISBN 968-38-0260-5.

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