After Napoleon forces the abdication of the king of Spain in 1808, the leaders of the Viceroyalty of New Spain (colonial Mexico) must raise money for war with France. They do so by exacting tribute from a brutally oppressed local population, many of whom are forced into slavery. Seeking a voice in how they are to be governed, the people of Mexico turn to FATHER MIGUEL HIDALGO (50s), an advocate of social justice and opponent of slavery. Just as the winds of revolution are beginning to stir in Mexico, an American slave, MENDE GAUTIER (30s), arrives with his "master," NATHAN LIPSCOMB (17). They are on a mission to prevent Nathan's father from losing his plantation to creditors. A widower, Mende is fearful that if the plantation is lost, his daughters will be sold, and he will never see them again. So, he is keen to guide young, inexperienced Nathan in gaining permission from the Viceroy to establish a colony in Texas. A lucrative project, it would generate money for Nathan's father and prevent the breakup of Mende's family. But it would also force more Africans into slavery. In Mexico, Mende and Nathan meet ALAMAR SANDOVAL (30s), a courageous woman who is an officer in Miguel Hidalgo's citizen's army, and GISELA CRUZ (16), whose parents were killed by sadistic Captain VICENTE GALVAN (35) of the Royal Dragoons. Alamar views Mende as a potential leader in Mexico’s struggle for independence, but she is puzzled, and then angered, that Mende seems content with being a slave. Alamar accuses Mende of being a coward until she learns that Mende's father was killed for leading a slave rebellion in Louisiana. Based on his father’s experience, Mende believes the insurrection in Mexico will inevitably fail because Father Miguel’s ill-equipped “citizen’s army” of farmers and miners stands no chance against the well-armed professional army of Spain. After foiling an attempt by Galvan to rape Gisela, Mende and Nathan participate in the Republican march on Mexico City after Father Miguel declares his "El Grito de Indendencia" on 16 de Septiembre. Father Miguel hopes to convince the Viceroy to institute reforms. Instead, the Viceroy, at the urging of Galvan, prepares to fight to the death. Rather than force the massacre of thousands of people, Father Miguel retreats to the north to form a new government. He issues the first law against slavery on the North American continent. As a result of a deepening friendship with Father Miguel and Alamar, Mende comes to an understanding that no one is free until all people are free. When Father Miguel is captured by Galvan and executed, Mende takes a leadership role in defeating Galvan, after which he and Nathan join Alamar, Gisela and the thousands of others ready to carry on Miguel Hidalgo’s struggle for social justice in a free and independent Mexico.