After Mexican independence, Emperor Agustín I took power. During his short reign he understandably sent a representative to the Californias to procure and check on their loyalty. The representative, a priest named Agustín Fernández, accompanied by a report and an entourage of Californians and Russians, had not yet returned to Mexico City when Iturbide was forced to abdicate. When he arrived, he was charged with treason. This may have been Fernández's only foray into national politics.

Fernández was a drunken gambler dandy who happened to be the uncle that raised Mexico's orphaned first President, Guadalupe Victoria. Despite their collaboration in the Army of the Three Guarantees, Iturbide quickly imprisoned Victoria, giving him little influence. (While in jail Victoria was elected deputy from Durango, along with Fernández's boss, the Marqués de Castañiza, Bishop of Durango.)

Why did Iturbide choose Fernández for this sensitive role? How did he justify sending this wild character with no diplomatic experience as his representative?


Fernández was suggested to Iturbide by Pedro Celestino Negrete.

According to Irving Richman's California under Spain and Mexico, when Iturbide wanted to send soldiers to California, General Negrete suggested that he send a commissioner instead. Iturbide himself had little to no experience with diplomacy, and as the head of a creole-led revolution, he could not in practice send a Spaniard. Iturbide invited Negrete to recommend someone; he named Fernández. Perhaps the mission of a clergyman was intended to avoid agitating the Californians like a military force could have done. Fernández had also already been to California while serving as naval chaplain in the port of San Blas.

How did Negrete know Fernández? Negrete's forces besieged Durango for a month in 1821 (Negrete was injured). Another prebendary priest of the Durango cathedral led a laudatory prayer after a public oath of allegiance to Iturbide was taken in February 1822. See Andrade, Noticias biográficas sobre los ilustrisimos prelados de Sonora de Sinaloa y de Durango. Perhaps both Negrete and Fernández were present at these ritual events.

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