In 1803, at the age of fifty he arrived in Dolores accompanied by his family that included a younger brother, a cousin, two half sisters, as well as Maria and their two children. He obtained this parish in spite of his hearing before the Inquisition, which did not stop his secular practices.
After Hidalgo settled in Dolores, he turned over most of the clerical duties to one of his vicars, Father Francisco Iglesias, and devoted himself almost exclusively to commerce, intellectual pursuits and humanitarian activity. He spent much of his time studying literature, scientific works, grape cultivation, and the raising of silkworms. He used the knowledge that he gained to promote economic activities for the poor and rural people in his area. He established factories to make bricks and pottery and trained indigenous people in the making of leather. He also promoted beekeeping. He was interested in promoting activities of commercial value to use the natural resources of the area to help the poor. His goal was to make the Indians and Mestizos more self-reliant and less dependent on Spanish economic policies. However, these activities violated policies designed to protect Spanish peninsular agriculture and industry from competition with its colonies, and Hidalgo was ordered to stop them.
These policies, as well as exploitation of the lower classes, fostered resentment in Hidalgo of the Spain-born in Mexico. In addition to the restriction of economic activities in Mexico, Spanish mercantile practices would cause misery for the native peoples. A drought in 1807–1808 caused a famine in the Dolores area and rather than releasing stored grain to market, Spanish merchants chose instead to block its release, speculating on yet higher prices. Hidlago lobbied against these callous practices.
Fearing his arrest, Hidalgo commanded his brother Mauricio, as well as Allende and Abasolo, to go with a number of other armed men to make the sheriff release the inmates on the night of 15 September They managed to set eighty free.
On the morning of the 16th, Hidalgo called Mass, which was attended by about 300 people, including hacienda owners, local politicians, and Spaniards. There he gave what is now known as the El Grito de Dolores (the Cry, or Shout, of Dolores), calling the people of his parish to leave their homes and join with him to struggle against the vice regal government.
Hidalgo's Grito did not condemn the notion of monarchy or criticize the current social order in detail, but his opposition to the events in Spain and the current vice regal government was clearly expressed in his reference to bad government. The Grito also emphasized loyalty to the Catholic religion, a sentiment with which both Creoles and Peninsulares could sympathize; however, the strong anti-Spanish cry of "Death to the Gachupines" (Gachupines was a name given to Peninsulares) probably caused horror among Mexico's elite.