The history of Guanajuato

Founded by the Spaniards at the beginning of the 16th century, the city of Guanajuato, capital of the state of the same name, situated in the centre of Mexico, soon became the silver-mining centre of the world.
Born of the mines, through history Guanajuato has always lived in a kind of symbiosis with them: the organisation of the streets, most of all, the colourful “underground streets”, the building of sumptuous churches such as the one belonging to the Jesuits and the Valenciana, among the most beautiful examples of baroque architecture in Latin America, the construction of numerous dams and hydraulic installations, the drilling of mineshafts, the most striking of which, La Boca del Infierno, goes 600 metres underground, are intimately bound up with its industrial history.
Guanajuato, a city named "Cultural Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO in 1988, for the magnificent colonial buildings that make up its architecture, has an atmosphere that takes us back to the past. Cultural manifestations surge out of its theatres, churches and museums, squares, markets and side streets. Hundred-year-old buildings where heroic battles were fought and immortal romances live on in legend. Balconies and facades that saw the passage of figures like Hidalgo, Allende, Juárez, Maximilian and Porfirio Díaz. In the pre-Hispanic period the territory now occupied by the city of Guanajuato was chiefly inhabited by nomadic tribes generically known as Chichimecas (Pames, Guamares, Guanaxuas, etc.,) who lived by hunting and gathering.
More History on Guanajuato


Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the region was inhabited by the otomi (who named the place: Mo-o-ti, "Metals Place"), the nahua people (naming it Paxtitlan), and later by nomadic Guamares, a Chichimeca band. The name Guanajuato comes from its purepecha name Quarap-huata, "Hilly Place of Frogs".

Spanish Rule

In 1541, Spaniards explored the zone, and in 1546 the Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza granted land to Don Rodrigo de Vazquez in the vicinity of Guanajuato.
In 1548, a muleteer named Rayas, in his way north, found inside his bonfire at soil level the first silver in these hills, then frontier land.
The legal foundation of the township of Santa Fe y Real de Minas de Guanajuato dated of 1570, with this Coat of Arms.
During the spanish era, Guanajuato belonged to the New Spain Viceroyalty. In 1741, Phillip V of Spain granted to Guanajuato the city status. In 1786, the New Spain was divided into 12 intendencias, one of which was the Intendencia of Guanajuato, with an area about the actual State of Guanajuato.
Riches from mining gave to Guanajuato the first earth dam in the New World, Presa de los Santos and the world's deepest mine shaft for many centuries, in the Valenciana, the richest mine.
The extreme poverty of the mine workers and field laborers under spanish rule with the new liberal ideas of the rich and educated, gave the Intendencia of Guanajuato the lead on the social movement of the early 1800s.
The mob under the Father Hidalgo leadership assaulted Guanajuato in the first battle of Independence war (28-Sept-1810). The Spaniards sook refuge in the massive alhondiga = granary, then recently finished and resisted until a obscure miner ("Pipila") set main door on fire. His feat is remembered with the massive monument next to Jardin de la Union on the mountain.

After Independence

The first Constitution of Mexico, in 1824, created the free and sovereign State of Guanajuato and the city was named its capital.
Guanajuato was seat of the republican powers from 17th January to 13th February 1858, with President Juarez fleeing the Coup of Ignacio Comonfort.
During the Intervention era, the French army stayed in Guanajuato for four years. Emperor Maximilian and his Empress visited the city for a week in 1864.
The regime of President Diaz (1876-1910) brought progress for Guanajuato: foreign investors and managers for mines, railways, tramways, telephones, electricity, public lighting, "La Esperanza" water works, movie theaters, public parks "El Cantador" and "Florencio Antillon", La Paz square and statue, Juarez Theater and the Hidalgo Market.
The city suffered economic depression on the civil war of 1910-1920 when changed hands between parties, and many mining works were left idle since, leaving some ghost towns around (i.e. Mineral de la Luz).


The old State College (former jesuit Colegio de la Purisima Concepcion until 1828) in 1947 changed legal status and name to Universidad de Guanajuato.
Since 1952, year after year, enthusiastic students of the Universidad under Professor Enrique Ruelas performed Cervantes' works called "Entremeses" at Plaza San Roque. Twenty years after, those plays originated the famous International Cervantes Festival with the plays still on scene

More history

The origins of the town of Guanajuato can be traced back to the sixteenth century. The Spanish conquistadors made their first forays into the region during the period of intense activity in the decade beginning in 1520. However, it was between 1540 and 1546 that the region today known as Guanajuato was granted to Rodrigo Vazquez by Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, in reward for his service during the Conquest. The territory was to be used as ranch land for major livestock.
It was probably between 1548 and 1554 when the incidental discovery of abundant silver deposits was made, mainly at the mines of San Bernabe and Rayas. This discovery brought about the birth of Guanajuato as a town. From that moment on, the traffic and settling of mineral prospectors was constant. In 1557, the image of the Virgin Mary arrived in Guanajuato, a gift from the king. Since then, the image has been venerated as Our Lady of Guanajuato.
Slowly, livestock ranches were pushed northward to allow for the development of Guanajuato, which was, by 1570, already officially recognized as a town. The town developed along the banks of the river that passes through it. This was for practical reasons--the processing of the ore and the production of food for the population required an abundant source of water. On October 26, 1679, by way of an official decree from Viceroy Payo Enriquez Afan de Ribera, the town was elevated to the category of "villa," meaning a town of greater importance, and in 1741 King Philip V granted the town the title of Most Noble and Loyal City of Santa Fe y Real de Minas de Guanajuato.
The city reached high levels of prosperity during the eighteenth century due to the great mining bonanza. Such was its splendor during the period that various residents, the heads of mining operations, became nobles. These figures included the Marquis of San Clemente, the Marquis of Rayas, and the Count of Valenciana, among others. The year 1767 saw the expulsion of the city's Jesuit priests. This had a profound impact on the city, especially where education was concerned. During the period of Guanajuato's splendor, the majority of the churches which can be seen today were built.
In 1786, as ordered by the Spanish crown, the territory of New Spain was administratively divided into twelve provinces. One of these provinces was Guanajuato, which was thus no longer dependent on the province of Michoacán . The first governor of the province was Andres Amat de Tortosa, who was later replaced by Pedro Jose Soriano, who, in turn, was replaced by the most important of the provincial governors, Juan Antonio de Riaño y Barcena.
The presence of Riaño is significant as he was a benefactor of the city. His status as such, as recorded by the historian and Guanajuato native Lucas Alaman, is clearly demonstrated by the magnificent buildings erected in the capital and throughout the province during his administration. He himself supervised these construction projects. Riaño's wife, Victoria de Saint Maxent, was a dedicated supporter of young Guanajuatans who yearned for an education.
Governor Riaño began the construction of the granary known as the Alhondiga de Granaditas, which was designed to guarantee the townspeople a constant supply of grain. The construction was begun in 1798 and finished in 1809. The Alhondiga was the site of the bloody clash between the insurgent army headed by Miguel Hidalgo and the Spanish who had taken refuge in the granary turned fort. The confrontation took place on September 28, 1810, during the first battle in the struggle for Mexican independence.
In 1826, the first Mexican constitution was ratified, which converted Guanajuato into a free and sovereign state of the Mexican Republic . The first governor, Carlos Montes de Oca, was a dedicated supporter of education in the state. He was the force behind the reopening of the original College of the Most Holy Trinity, founded by the Jesuits, and the old College of the Immaculate Conception, run by Oratorian priests. The latter was to become the State College.
Noteworthy figures during nineteenth-century Mexican history include governors of the state, such as the liberals Manuel Doblado and Florencio Antillon. On January 17, 1858, President Juarez temporarily established the capital of the Republic in Guanajuato, due to the constant persecution leveled against him by conservative factions. During the period of the French Intervention, newly-installed emperor Maximilian of Hapsburg visited the city in September, 1864. It was he who ordered the conversion of the Alhondiga de Granaditas into a prison.
In the year of 1867, after Maximilian's empire was brought down, the restoration of the Republic began. Florencio Antillon was named governor of the state, and he remained in power until January, 1877, when he was unseated by followers of General Porfirio Diaz. Antillon began the construction of the majestic theater Teatro Juarez in 1872.
During the historical period known as the Porfiriato, spanning from 1877 to 1911, Guanajuato saw the construction of important buildings such as the current Legislative Palace, the Mercado Hidalgo market, the Monument to Peace and the Monument to Hidalgo at the city reservoir and park Presa de la Olla. Also during this period, the Teatro Juarez was inaugurated and the railway was introduced, among other things.
The promotion of foreign investment (American, German and British) to reactivate the mining industry was also an important part of the period. The last Porfirista governor of Guanajuato, Joaquin Obregon Gonzalez, commenced construction on the Cuajin tunnel and the reservoir La Esperanza, both projects directed by preeminent engineer of the time Ponciano Aguilar.
In the twentieth century, during the Mexican Revolution, the city endured the effects of a severe economic and social crisis. It was occupied in July of 1914 by troops of General Alberto Carrera Torres. Later, in February, 1916, President Venustiano Carranza visited Guanajuato and arranged the purchase of grain to alleviate the terrible famine which was upon the city.
In the year of 1946, the State College went through a transformation to become the University of Guanajuato. During the decade of the 50's, projects were devised for the near total restoration of the city. The main building of the University was built as was the reservoir Presa de la Soledad; the street Calle Belauzarán was laid upon the old river bed; work began on the conversion of the Alhondiga into a museum, and the promotion of tourism in Guanajuato also began.
Soon after, construction was completed on the city's underground street and the scenic/panoramic highway. The annual International Cervantino Festival began in 1972.

Guanajuato: One of Mexico's Colonial Gems

The Mexican town of Guanajuato filled the little valley below us like fruit in a bowl, its colonial buildings an array of delicious colors: pineapple, mango, blueberry and lime. Alejandro, a trained architect and practicing tour guide, had brought me to the top of San Gabriel Hill to help me get my bearings.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, Guanajuato is a compact maze of cobblestone streets, stepped lanes, snug squares and traffic tunnels, making it an easy yet delightful place in which to lose your sense of direction. Its well maintained colonial buildings are made of color-splashed stucco with elements of cantera, a locally quarried stone found in a range of pastel hues.
Situated 355 kilometers (220 miles) northwest of Mexico City, Guanajuato was settled in the 16th century along the curves of a river and slowly climbed the steep slopes of the ravine as it grew. During years of heavy rains, riverside buildings were flooded, but it wasn't until the 1960s that a dam was built, the river diverted and the riverbed paved as a roadway.
By that time, buildings had been cantilevered from the slopes of the ravine and over the river, so authorities decided to enclose the riverbed roadway beneath these structures, forming a tunnel. The government added more tunnels between 1979 and 1999, creating a subterranean traffic system.
Tunnels seem appropriate for a town that owes its existence to the mining industry. In 1558, the Spanish discovered rich veins of silver and gold in the surrounding mountains. Water was needed to process the ores, so mine owners built their haciendas at the river's edge, and support businesses soon followed.
Several hundred years later, Mexican-born descendants of the Spanish silver barons were angered when Spain first increased the share it took of Guanajuato's mineral wealth, then expelled the Jesuits from Mexico for speaking against the monarchy, and eventually seized church property. But when Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808 and made his brother king, matters got worse. Local citizens refused to recognize the new ruler, and Guanajuato became the birthplace of Mexico's independence movement.
Towering above Alejandro and me on San Gabriel Hill, as if guarding the town below, was a huge figure memorializing El Pipila, the rebel who torched the front doors of the Spanish-occupied Alhondiga de Granaditas, enabling priest and rebel leader Father Miguel Hidalgo to win the first victory of the independence movement.
"Alhondiga de Granaditas is there," said Alejandro, pointing to another of the major landmarks he had been identifying for me. "It's a simple neoclassical structure built in 1809 as a storehouse for grain. After Hidalgo and three other independence leaders were captured, they were decapitated and their heads hung in metal cages at each corner of the building."
Alhondiga de Granaditas was our first stop after coming down the hillside and beginning a walking tour of the town. The storehouse turned fortress also was used as a prison before becoming the Museum of Mexican Independence in 1967. In addition to items relating to the independence movement, it now houses a fine collection of Mesoamerican artifacts and exhibits about the history of Guanajuato.
A few blocks away, we called at Casa de Diego Rivera, the birthplace and childhood home of the popular Mexican muralist who shared both a birthday and a penchant for Cubism with his Spanish contemporary, Pablo Picasso. On the ground floor is a series of rooms containing family furnishings. Upstairs is a selection of Rivera's drawings and paintings.
Among the prettiest buildings we visited were the Universidad de Guanajuato, with a grand outdoor staircase ascending to the university's castellated facade of pale blue cantera stone, and the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato, with two mismatched church towers and a decorative baroque portal. Behind the basilica's altar is a silver pedestal supporting a statue of the Virgin Mary, given to the town in 1557 as a token of appreciation for enriching the Spanish crown.

Churches Everywhere

Churches caught my eye throughout our walk around Guanajuato. Templo de la Compania, built in Spanish baroque, or Churrigueresque, style in 1765, is topped by a contrasting neoclassical dome, which replaced the original after it collapsed in 1808. Templo de San Roque, commissioned in 1726, is at the center of the town's International Cervantes Festival, held in honor of the Spanish author and playwright in the adjoining plaza each October. Templo de San Diego de Alcala was built in 1662 as part of a convent, the remains of which may be glimpsed through a window set into the sidewalk between the church and Teatro Juarez.
Teatro Juarez, opened in 1903, is considered one of the most beautiful opera houses in Mexico. Doric columns support its neoclassical portico, and statues representing the nine muses line its roof. Alejandro took me inside to show me the auditorium with its jewel-toned Moorish motifs and the upstairs lobby with its glass floor and skylight.
Another 20th century structure is the Mercado Hidalgo, the town's primary marketplace, crammed full of stalls selling toys, crafts, clothing and housewares as well as fresh meats, cheeses, vegetables and fruits. Alejandro told me that the building was designed by the Eiffel civil engineering firm to be a French train station but was purchased by the Mexican government and erected in Guanajuato in 1910.
Branching off Guanajuato's main streets, many narrow passageways cut between colonial houses. Not far from Mercado Hidalgo is the narrowest, known as Callejon del Beso (Alley of the Kiss), with the balconies of houses on either side practically touching. A local romantic legend tells of young lovers living on opposite sides of the lane who were forbidden from courting by the girl's father. He apparently didn't realize that they could furtively exchange kisses without ever leaving their homes.
Callejon del Beso is part of a route frequented by Guanajuato's estudiantinas, student groups who dress in medieval attire and wander like strolling minstrels through the town's streets, strumming guitars and serenading the crowd that forms to follow them.
We fell into step with one group that led us back to Jardin Union, across the street from Templo de San Diego de Alcala. The triangular park is popular by day, with benches set beneath closely planted laurel trees sculpted to form an overhead hedge. But it's the center of Guanajuato's night life, and people of all kinds congregate at the restaurants and sidewalk cafes around its perimeter.
The colonial streetscapes might give Guanajuato the appearance of a place stuck in the past, but it took me less than a day to realize that, not only is the town alive and well, it's thoroughly enjoying itself.

If You Go

Guanajuato International Airport: This small but modern airport, built in 1986, is 32 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of the town of Guanajuato. It’s served by Aeromexico, American, Continental and Mexicana Airlines, with direct flights to Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Mexico City.
Climate: With an altitude of 2,017 meters (6,600 feet), Guanajuato enjoys warm days and cool nights. Average high temperatures range from highs of 36 C (97 F) in June to 27 C (81 F) in December to lows of 12 C (54 F) to 2.8 C (37 F) in the same months. The rainy season is June through September.


Studies of the way in which America came to be populated generally speak of a process that had its beginning some 40,000 years ago. The classic scenario involves the migration of people across a land bridge between eastern Russian and Alaska that now lies submerged beneath the Bering Strait.
The first people on American soil were hunters, living in small, mobile groups of just a few families. Their way of life was nomadic, dictated by the movement of the great herds that represented their principal means of subsistence.
Then, around 7,500 BC, the climate changed dramatically, and people began to depend more on plants for their food, adopting a more settled lifestyle as they became tied to the land.
In the area now covered by the state of Guanajuato, the first settlements were to be found in the southwest, close to the Lerma and Coroneo rivers. In the area of Chupicuaro, meaning roughly "Place of abundant grain, medicinal plants and creepers", a new culture developed which shared some features with the other cultures of Meso-America.
Though nothing remains of the Chupicuaro people's frail mud and grass dwellings, archeologists believe the population was numerous.
Their economy was agricultural, and they lived mainly on a diet of maize complemented by chili and tomatoes.
Among their handiwork, their skill with ceramics stands out, leaving a collection of clay figurines that forms their principal contribution to the Meso-American world. The Chupicuaro's work was of three main types: brown clay decorated with geometrical forms; cream-colored, polished objects, and those with polychromatic decoration.
Studies of Chupicuaro figures show that they wore garments resembling pants, which they held up with belts, and that they probably wore sandals. They adorned themselves with necklaces, bracelets and earrings, and headdresses decorated with interlacing strips of ornamented cloth. They parted their hair in the center, coming down to a fringe at the front, women coloring it red or black, while the men favored white.
Another interesting aspect of Chupicuaro life is shown by the tendency to provide their figurines with musical instruments. It seems that our ancestors enjoyed the sound of flutes, whistles and ocarinas, played to the accompaniment of rattles and scrapers made of split bones.
One of the cultures that had a powerful influence on the Chupicuaros and many other Meso-American peoples was the Teotihuacan civilization.
The people of Teotihuacan perfected agriculture, arms manufacture and a complex system of social organization. The government was theocratic, controlled by a small number of priests, who were feared and respected by the people as representing the only link between mortals and the gods. The Teotihuacan people worshipped many gods, the chief among these being Tlaloc, the god of rain and lord of the forces of nature: the sea, sky, clouds and lightning. Other gods included Quetzalcoatl (Plumed Serpent), Huehueteotl, the fire god, Xochipilli, the goddess of the spring, flowers and love, and Centeotl and Xilonen, the maize gods, to name just a few.
From around the year 700 to approximately 900 the power of Teotihuacan gradually waned and the inhabitants started to migrate to other areas. With the demise of theocratic rule, other civilizations came to the fore, most notably those of the Toltecs and Chichimecs. Although the Toltecs never managed to create anything superior to the Teotihuacan culture, they at least equaled it with the quality of their sculpture and also contributed new elements with their advances in the fields of metallurgy and goldsmithing. The Chichimecs were a very different culture from the Toltecs. With radically different customs and a social structure principally geared for war, they unleashed a series of violent conflicts that brought about the Toltecs' downfall.
After the disintegration of Toltec civilization, Guanajuato fell into the hands of various groupings of Chichimec hunter-gatherers, such as the Pames, Gaumares, Guachichils and Zacatecs. The Gauchichils - whose name means "head painted red" in the Mexica tongue - were the foremost power among the Chichimecs. Their territory, known as the Guachilchila, stretched from Saltillo in the north as far as San Felipe at its southern extent, running from the western Sierra Madre Mountains to the point now occupied by the town of Zacatecas. Its center was "Gran Tunal" (present-day San Luis Potosi), noted for the profusion of cactuses and mesquite trees that provided the Gauchichils' staple diet.
The Chichimecs' lifestyle and language varied from tribe to tribe, but they shared a nomadic existence dominated by the need to pursue their food wherever it might take them. Their preferred places for setting up camp were generally tree-shaded spots on rocky slopes. Here, sheltered by the forest, but with the advantage of height on their side, the Chichimecs could be sure to know in advance of any potential enemies. During the winter, or in time of war, they constructed villages consisting of around 15 huts arranged in a half-moon formation.
The Chichimecs made objects of wicker, cane and similar materials and also worked and polished hard stones such as silica and obsidian. They also wove fiber baskets in which to store their food, which they ate from turtle shells.



With the arrival of the Spaniards on American soil, the fighting began and the indigenous peoples suffered a series of defeats that ended in their total subjugation. With surprising ease, the armor-clad Conquistadors, often fighting on horseback, subdued the entire native population.
In the territory of Michoacan, there was a fierce rivalry between the Spanish landholders, known as 'encomenderos', and the local king, Tzintzicha Tangaxoan, who charged tribute from the area's Purepecha chieftains in return for protection from the ambitions of the Conquistadors. Each encomendero was entrusted the task of controlling a given area of land together with the native population and villages within its borders. In return for working for the Spanish, the natives were supposed to receive protection and be taught Christianity. In reality, the system gave the encomenderos carte blanche to exploit the natives in the most savage way.
In 1529, Nuño Beltran de Guzman, President of the Royal Audience, charged with administering justice in the colony, organized a foray south in order to subdue the Chichimecs of Michoacan. Accompanied by three hundred Spanish foot and horse soldiers and a native army of more that 10,000, Beltran sought out the Purepecha's western dominions, demanded tribute and forced them to provide him with troops.
Meanwhile, the encomenderos took advantage of Beltran's presence in order to accuse Tangaxoan of interfering with their work. Using this as a pretext, they rounded up the local chiefs, imprisoning them in the town of Patzcuaro on the charge of worshipping their old gods and sheltering men guilty of murdering Spaniards. Beltran was more than happy to oblige the encomenderos, subjecting Tangaxoan to a hasty trial and a cruel death. With Tangazoan's demise, the rule of the Purepechas quickly collapsed. Despite the subsequent efforts of some of the more powerful Purepechas, the Spanish settlers had even greater freedom to exploit the Indians, now bereft of any protection from the legitimate power in the area.
Beltran de Guzman took possession of the Purepecha territory, including modern-day Guanajuato, in the name of the King of Spain and initiated a campaign of unprecedented savagery, displacing the native settlements and founding the towns of Tepic, San Miguel de Culiacan, Guadalajara, Purificacion and Compostela.
Driven by the thought of riches, the Conquistadors ruthlessly killed or enslaved the natives and took over their goods and lands. To further increase profits, Spanish landowners drove the Guamares, Pames and Guachichils out of the valleys and grasslands of the Bajio and gave the prairies over to cattle. The territory proved ideal for raising the strong, dark, longhorn cattle that are ancestors to the modern Spanish fighting bull. Moreover, the land supported the hardy merino sheep, which was an excellent source of meat and wool.
As the animals took up more and more space in central Bajio, the Spanish gradually extended their rule to the outer territories, where the pasture was less lush. With the cows, of course, came the cowboys, riding the sturdy gray-brown horses without which their work would have been impossible. In the southwestern valleys of Yuriria and Acambaro, the conditions were found to be excellent for pig farming as well as for raising chickens, mules and donkeys.
Unsurprisingly, the Chichimecs responded with hostility to the Spanish occupation of their land, with its accompanying destruction, pillage and killing. But the Spaniards swept all before them, and following the invasion the territory was carved up between a new set of landholders. To Juan de Villaseñor went the frontier settlements of Puruandiro and Penjamo; to Juan de Tovar, Yuriria. Acambaro was initially gifted to Pedro de Sotomayor, but eventually passed to the control of Hernan Perez de Bocanegra.
In the territories they were ostensibly overseeing, the new cattlemen petitioned the Viceroy for "graces" - personal grants of land plus the natives to work it - and thus began the history of abuse and personal enrichment that would eventually result in the great haciendas of New Spain.


In 1552, Captain Juan de Jaso, probably acting under orders from Hernan Perez de Bocanegra, discovered the Guanajuato mineral seam, subsequently setting up Real de Minas (The Royal Mines). The first political entity on Guamar territory, it became the town of Guanajuato in 1679 and a little more than 60 years later, in 1741, Guanajuato City.
Jaso quickly found himself obliged to put down a Guamar revolt, therefore neglecting the mining project, which he claimed was made impossible by the behavior of the natives. This allowed several of his soldiers, among them Melchor Manzo, Pedro de Napoles and Hernan Vascones, to capitalize on Jaso's unavailability to register claims under their own names and spread the news to other prospectors. One of these, Pedro Muñoz, openly disputed the primacy of the Royal claim, causing prospectors to descend on Guanajuato en masse and incidentally opening up the road system throughout the entire Bajio region, from Guanajuato to Michoacan and forever changing the mining centers of Sierra Gorda, Xichu, Atarjea, Santa Catarina and Victoria.


The great majority of hacienda owners preferred to live in the capital, employing managers to oversee the running of the ranch in their absence. These managers lived in the small towns of the Bajio, competing for social prominence with the local smallholders, most of them beneficiaries of modest royal land grants (the aforementioned "graces").
Convinced by the well-watered grasslands and the plentiful supply of native labor, the colonists of the Bajio valleys became farmers, with corn, beans, wheat and squash as their principal crops. The great Bajio prairies, stretching from Celaya to Leon to Penjamo, were initially turned over to cattle ranching, but as the richness of the Lerma-irrigated meadows became apparent, new techniques were developed in the area of irrigation and plowing practices. To ensure a ready supply of peasant labor, the natives were forced to congregate in the southeast of what is now Guanajuato state. During the sixteenth century, with a view to establishing a ready labor supply, each new settlement was located in the vicinity of a native population. Thus, Leon had to its north the village of San Francisco de Coecillo, and to the south San Miguel de la Real Corona. Acambaro embraced 12 native villages and 20 cattle and agricultural settlements.
Towards the start of the nineteenth century, settlements displaying a significant growth in population were reorganized. The area around Celaya contained Salamanca and Salvatierra, Apaseo, Chamacuero, Tarimoro, Santiago Maravatio, Acambaro, Tarandacuao, Coroneo and Jerecuaro. Guanajuato was rich in artesans - shoemakers, carpenters, bakers, blacksmiths, etc., but for sheer craftsmanship, none could compete with the Purepecha communities reorganized by Vasco de Quiroga.


Almost as soon as the Conquistadors set foot in America, missionaries were a powerful force among them. The first to arrive were the Franciscans, notably the friars Juan de San Miguel and Bernardo Coussin, who got as far as Michoacan, where they set about preaching to the Chichimecs.
It is thought that Brother Juan de San Miguel arrived around the end of 1530 in order to take up the work of one Brother Martin de Acuña. His first task consisted in learning the Purepecha language in order to understand their ideas, habits and customs. He founded various towns, such as Tancitaro, Periban, Charapan, Los Reyes and Uruapan in Michoacan, as well as San Miguel el Grande in Guanajuato. Moreover, he undertook the organization of the native population, planning the streets, constructing the buildings such as hospitals and churches as well as houses and ensuring a piped supply of water to the community. He also gave the locals classes in music and singing, choosing the best voices for the church choir. Others were taught how to construct organs or to play other instruments. He also founded the first college, which he named San Miguel, in the town of Guayangareo (subsequently Valladolid, now Morelia) adding to the college of Saint Nicholas in Patzcuaro, founded by Vasco de Quiroga. Brother Juan de San Miguel also found time to travel through the greater part of Michoacan, Jalisco, Queretaro, Guanajuato, and even as far as San Luis Potosi.
He undertook the conversion of the Guamares, Pames and Guachichils. In Acambaro, he decided to bring the gospel to the Chichimecs, who - although not totally without resistance - were gradually getting used to the idea of settling in one, fixed place, with streets and houses, and giving up their nomadic existence altogether.
Brother Juan de San Miguel died in Uruapan on May 3, 1555. He is credited, along with Vasco de Quiroga, with the creation of hospitals and the organization of the hospital system, to the extent that, by the end of the seventeenth century there were already several hospitals in different regions. In the Highlands of Guanajuato, there was the Villa de San Miguel hospital and in the Bajio valleys there were another two: in Yuriria and Acambaro. In the central plain there was an abundance of them, with the Conception of Our Lady Hospital in Silao, with more in Irapuato, Penjamo, Celaya and Apaseo. In Leon, the hospital was under the care of the Order of St. John, while there were a further two in Marfil: one for Tarascos, another for Mexicas and Otomis. The Santa Ana Mine also had one for Tarascos and in the Santa Fe Mine in Guanajuato there were three more: one for Otomis, one for Mexicas and another for Tarascos.
Meanwhile, Brother Bernardo de Coussin (or Cozin) went about his work of conversion accompanied by 12 native apostles at the monastery of San Martin.
The Augustinians centered their activity in Yuriria, where they founded a monastery in 1550. The Jesuits were also a presence, most notably Gonzalo de Tapia, who consolidated several congregations, the most important being San Luis de la Paz.


In the region of Michoacan, the native population declined dramatically due chiefly to the excessive exploitation to which they became victim. Of course, Guanajuato was not without its share of deaths, the incipient gold mining industry accounting for the majority.
The greatest single loss of life occurred during the Chichimec war, where more than 200 Spaniards and at least 2,000 natives died. Due to their nomadic existence, no census was taken among the Chicimecas, but there are believed to have been somewhere between two and three thousand Guamares before the Conquest. The Pames and Tarasco populations were too mixed for any estimate of their numbers to be made.
Added to this, the native population was put under severe strain by the diseases the Spaniards brought with them, such as smallpox, measles, and typhus, against which they had no organic defenses.
The oldest Guanajuato census of which we have knowledge was undertaken by Bishop Baltasar de Covarrubias in 1620. From this we know that there were some five thousand heads of family in the province at that time. Of these, the Spaniards accounted for around a thousand, along with seven hundred so-called Mulattoes and Negroes, the rest being natives concentrated in the region of Yuriria and Acambaro. If the figures are to be believed, they depict a Guanajuato all but depopulated by the ravages of disease, overwork and ill-treatment.
Approximately 300,000 Spaniards are believed to come to New Spain, but immigrants from many diverse origins also made their contribution to the ethnic fusion that took place here. There were some 250,000 African slaves, working in the fields, mines, or as house servants, as well as Europeans from France, Italy, Portugal, and Germany. From Asia there came Indians, Burmese, Siamese, Indonesians and Phillippinos, making the present-day inhabitants of Guanajuato the heirs to a melting pot made up of African, European and Asian blood, as well, of course, as that of the indigenous population.


In all the territory under Spanish rule, life went on in a climate of utter inequality, strictly defined in economic, social and cultural terms.
New Spain was a country of ranches and plantations, excessive taxes and draconian laws that all worked to the extreme disadvantage of the least privileged groups in society. The Spanish colonists had a monopoly of the principal posts in the army, church, government, business and industry. Even "Criollos" - ethnic Spaniards born in the Colonies - had to struggle to obtain a foothold in the system. Then there were the natives and people of mixed race, who were by far the majority, living in the most miserable conditions, with no security of any kind and daily suffering the cruelest of treatment.
Conversely, business became more profitable by the day. Agriculture flourished and urban industry was in constant production. The area's development meant the arrival of great numbers of people in search of a better way of life, causing an unexpected population explosion and the towns and cities were transformed into centers of education in order to cope.
From around 1760 on, the inhabitants of the province of Guanajuato began to demonstrate their frustrations with the limitations of the colonial system. The first protests took place in 1766, when unhappiness about a number of reforms instituted by Judge Jose de Galvez was manifested in the cry "Long live the King! Death to the Government!", and six thousand people tried to storm the offices of the Crown. The protest had its origins in, among other things, the taxes on corn, flour, meat and firewood, as well as low quality tobacco and the organization of the militia.
The following July, saw events take a turn for the worse with the expulsion of the Jesuits. During three days of unrest, the citizens of Guanajuato stoned the Crown offices, along with those of the tobacco and gunpowder monopolies and took control of the public highway. Jose de Galvez imprisoned 660 people, forbade the possession of firearms to miners and the wearing of Spanish clothes to the natives, as well as reinstituting a poll tax on miners, natives and mulattoes.
In the face of the new government orders, the dissenters adopted another strategy. Young men from the towns of San Miguel el Grande, Guanajuato, San Felipe and Leon formed a 1700-strong "Prince's regiment", effectively forming their own militia.
The first organized plots were the work of members of the Royal Court in conspiracy with the rich merchants of Mexico City, the New Spanish capital. When, on July 8th, 1808, news reached the city of Napoleon's invasion of Spain and the subsequent abdication of kings Fernando VII and Carlos IV. On hearing the news, the city council quickly announced that until the legitimate monarch was back on the throne, the kingdom of New Spain was the center of Spanish sovereignty and law with the Viceroy, Jose de Iturrigaray, encouraged to keep his position as head of government. Conversely, the Spanish faction, made up of members of the high clergy, court counselors and members of the Inquisition, were against the council's plan. On September 15th of the same year, Gabriel Yermo imprisoned the Viceroy, his wife and children in the Inquisition cells, along with council members Francisco Primo de Verdad y Ramos, Juan Francisco Azcarate y Ledesma and Brother Melchor de Talamantes. Colonel Ignacio de Obregon was also captured but managed to escape.
A second plot was hatched in 1809 in Valladolid (modern Morelia) but this too was a failure. Then, in Queretaro in the year 1810, a group of conspirators began meeting in the house of Father Jose Maria Sanchez under the guise of a literature circle. These literary men were: Miguel Dominguez, the local magistrate; the lawyers Parra, Lazo and Altamirano; local businessmen Epigmenio and Emeterio Gonzalez; military men Joaquin Arias, Francisco Lanzagorta, Ignacio Maria de Allende and Ignacio Aldama, and the parish priest for Dolores, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.
The rising was initially planned for September 26, 1810, but was put back to October 12 to give time for better organization. However, the conspiracy was unmasked, and under the threat of imminent capture by the authorities in Queretaro, San Miguel el Grande and Dolores, the rebellion swung into action at 2 a.m. on the 16th of September, 1810.
The War of Independence had begun with an important contribution from Guanajuato. After the capture and subsequent execution by firing squad of Miguel Hidalgo, the rebellion in Guanajuato was carried on by Liceaga, Rayon and Verduzco with the council of Zitacuaro.
In the south of the state, the brothers Albino and Francisco Garcia took their native Salamanca as their base of operations, along with the village of Valle de Santiago.
Albino Garcia, known as "manco" - the one-armed man - was an intrepid guerrilla fighter, famed for the speed of his surprise attacks. Garcia developed a highly effective line in guerrilla tactics against the royalists. The rebels, riding two abreast, would launch what apparently was a frontal attack, and then suddenly, to the invariable surprise of the enemy, split into two lines, revealing a rope tied to their saddles. Then, at full gallop, they would bear down on the opposing lines, toppling the enemy soldiers. If the first riders did not get the required results, the operation was repeated as many times as necessary, with more ropes, until the Royalist lines were dispersed.
Albino was finally captured on June 15, 1812 and imprisoned in Valle de Santiago by Captain Agustin de Iturbide. From there, he was transported to Celaya, where he, along with 150 of his band of guerrillas, was executed by firing squad.
Jose Maria Liceaga was born in Guanajuato in 1780, the son of Manuel de Liceaga and Maria Josefa Rayon. Jose Maria was an officer in the Mexican Dragoons, joining Hidalgo in 1810 and taking part in the fighting at Monte de las Cruces and Aculco. Later, he joined Allende and marched on Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Guadalajara, subsequently becoming Ignacio Lopez Rayon's adjutant at Saltillo. Liceaga was at Valladolid on June 2, 1811, moving from there to Zitacuaro, where he sat on the council. He fought bravely in Guanajuato and Michoacan.
Liceaga signed the Declaration of Independence at the Congress of Chilpancingo in 1813. Following the Congress' subsequent defeat, he fled to his La Laja hacienda, where finally in 1818 he was assassinated.
Brother Luis Herrera served as Miguel Hidalgo's surgeon when the latter passed through Celaya.
Other famous guerrilla fighters were Encarnacion Ortiz and Jose Antonio Torres, better known as "Master Torres" for having been the administrator of a hacienda close to his home town of San Pedro Piedra Gorda, present day Ciudad Manuel Doblado.
After the execution of rebel military leader Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon in 1815, the insurgent struggle was reinforced by the arrival of Francisco Javier Mina, who landed at Soto La Marina, Tamaulipas, on April 15, 1817. A native of Otaño, in Navarra, Spain, Mina had abandoned his studies to join the defense against the French, who captured him and imprisoned him in a castle in France. After the war ended, he returned to Spain, where he began to agitate against the ideas of King Fernando VII. From there, he fled to New Spain, along with Brother Servando Teresa de Mier. Overseeing the construction of a fort at Soto La Marina, he left it in the hands of one Captain Sarda, who had accompanied him from Spain, and along with 308 followers headed for Guanajuato.
Pedro Moreno, born at the Hacienda de la Daga, near the Villa de Lagos (present-day Lagos de Moreno), was a commoner whose family owned several haciendas in the foothills of the Comanja area. He studied in Guadalajara, but was forced to return to Guanajuato before he could receive his degree. Convinced that Mexico's submission to Spain was harmful, he joined the insurrection in 1814, taking his wife, Rita Perez Franco and all his children with him. Together with Mina, Moreno managed to escape from the Sombrero fort, subsequently heading for Guanajuato with the intention of taking it. The operation was not a success and they were forced to flee but were captured en route to Penjamo at the Venadito Ranch on October 27, 1817. Moreno refused to be taken without a fight and died at the hands of the Royalists. Mina was taken alive and was executed shortly after by a firing squad in front of the Remedios fort on November 11.
Jose Maria Luis Mora was born in Chamacuero (now Comonfort) in 1794. He studied in Queretaro and the San Idelfonso College in Mexico City. He received his Bachelor's degree in 1819 and became a Doctor of Theology in 1820. He started in journalism as a writer of the Semanario Político y Literaro (Political and Literary Weekly), where his liberal ideas found an audience. He was elected as representative for the State of Mexico and helped draft the first State Constitution. His most notable contribution was as advisor to President Valentin Gomez Farias. He participated in the drafting of the laws governing public education, helping establish the General Office of Public Instruction, as well as legislation permitting the establishment of numerous centers of study, the public library and the abolishment of compulsory tithes (an ecclesiastical levy that obliged taxpayers to pay one tenth of their income to the Church).
He was subsequently exiled to Paris, where he wrote several works before dying in 1850. His remains were brought back to Mexico where they were laid to rest in the Rotunda of Illustrious Men in the Dolores Hidalgo civil cemetery and the people of Guanajuato changed the name of the town of Charcas in the Sierra Gorda to Doctor Mora in his honor.


Apart from official colonial settlements ("villas"), population centers in Guanajuato were either congregated around a Church mission or were native villages. In the seventeenth century, none of these had yet shown any noteworthy development. Silao was an insignificant hamlet of barely 24 houses inhabited by a few Spanish, Spanish-Indians, mulattoes and natives, along with around 50 Spaniards and 260 natives who lived on the haciendas.
The Congregation of Irapuato consisted of just 12 Spanish houses plus another 10 or so married natives, along with a workforce of some 300 married natives and a few slaves. In Apaseo, there were around 400 natives, although these were shared with another village called Aguas Calientes. Today Apaseo el Grande, at the time it was the Apaseo Farm and was dedicated to wheat production.
The seventeenth century was a period of rural development. The village of San Luis de la Paz consisted of a few Spaniards plus 80 natives. San Miguel had around 70 Spanish and Spanish-Indians, 50 natives and a few mulattoes. In the Villa of San Felipe, there were just seven Spaniards and four natives. In the Bajio region, the situation was different: The Villa of Celaya had a population of 200 Spanish and 2,500 natives; San Juan had 50 and San Miguel 10. In the Villa of Leon, there were 75 married Spaniards, with 12 widows and 12 bachelors. Villages such as Coecillo and San Miguel were populated by small groups of 10 or 12 natives made up of a mixture of Mexicas, Otomis and Purepechas. On the farms, ranches and haciendas of the parish, there were between one and ten natives working at any one time.
New towns were born, such as the Villa de Salamanca on the lands of the ranches of Valtierra and Barahona. Sanchez Torrado chose the area because of the proximity of the Rio Grande, drawing water off by means of irrigation ditches and reservoirs. The Viceroy made it a condition that, on reaching a population of 30 married men, a civil leader should be elected, along with four councilors and two magistrates.
Around the middle of the century, the city of San Andres was founded in Salvatierra, where there were already 40 Spaniards and their families.
The Congregation of San Pedro Piedra Gorda has a different history. In 1680, several ranchers who lived in different parts of the valley got together to found the Brotherhood of Jesus of Nazareth. However, the organization lacked land, so Juan Montañez bought a portion of land from Nicolas Galvan de Rojas and in March, 1681 the Congregation of Valle Florido or Piedra Gorda was established. Other towns in the area were founded by the native population, such as San Francisco and Purisima del Rincon, to the southwest of Leon.


Thanks to its fertile soil and the rapid growth of its urban centers, the Bajio region soon acquired great fame throughout New Spain. During the seventeenth century, agriculture and mining flourished, attracting ever-greater numbers of colonists.
Also during this period, the predominantly Indian-Spanish population, increasingly more urbanized, began to set up industrial enterprises. Between 50 and 60 percent of the people worked in the countryside, 18 percent in industry (including mining), with some three percent of the population owning a business of some kind.
San Miguel el Grande, for example was popular for its woolen cloth; Celaya and Salamanca were producers of cotton materials and Leon made leather goods. Guanajuato, for its part, was notable for the production of silver. Together, the combination of agriculture, industry and the prosperity of the mines made Guanajuato stand out not only in New Spain, but in all Hispano-America.
With this affluence lies the explanation for the dramatic growth of Guanajuato's population. Proof of this is the fact that in New Spain as a whole, the population grew 33.5 percent between 1742 and 1793, while Guanajuato in the same period witnessed an increase of 55 percent.
A third of the population was concentrated in the urban areas, numbering more than 5,000 persons. The ethnic makeup of the population was, according to records from 1793, 26.1% Spanish, 44.25% native, 16.2% mulatto and 11.5% other racial mixes.
Despite the region's fertility, Guanajuato still had its share of crop failures. When the harvest was bad, the first move was to suspend work, then raise prices, with the inevitable consequence that the poor would starve to death. An example is the situation that occurred from 1785 to 86, when 19,000 people died in the area around the Guanajuato Royal Mines, 3,356 in San Miguel el Grande, 4049 in Celaya and 3,794 in Leon.
These deaths notwithstanding, the province managed to emerge victorious from the agricultural crisis and preserve its economic growth. For their part, the Spanish authorities set about improving the taxation system, establishing collection offices and instituting the tobacco monopoly. Better records of the non-ethnic Spanish were also established in order to stamp out tax evasion.
The next significant political step was to establish the Guanajuato administrative council and to raise the town to the position of capital of the new division that included the area's oldest settlements - Leon, Guanajuato, Celaya, San Miguel and San Luis de la Paz. The creation of the council brought significant benefits to Guanajuato. One of the first council leaders was Juan Antonio de Riaño (1792 - 1810), one of whose first acts was the suppression of the restrictions and regulations imposed on workers by the guilds, declaring that anyone could work at whatsoever they chose and buy and sell whatever product they wished without restriction. He divided the city into districts and designated a bailiff to keep order in each and he gave the streets names and numbered the houses. De Riaño also kept the peace and maintained civil discipline. Though he refrained from interfering with the local power structure, consisting chiefly of rule by a minority of Spaniards, he did not neglect the Criollos (ethnic Spaniards born in Mexico), as he might want their support at some point.


The architecture the Spaniards brought with them was that of Renaissance Europe. From working on the civil and religious buildings the Conquistadors initially constructed, the native population learned new techniques and began to construct new types of buildings. Excellent examples of early colonial architecture can be seen at the convent and church in Yuriria, which date from 1550, and various sections of the Hospital de Naturales in Acambaro, probably begun in 1532. The crucifix in the atrium of the hospital of Our Lady of the Conception in Guanajuato, the first parish church here, is another example with the signs of the passion sculpted on its arms. Finally, there are the military posts, placed at strategic points throughout Guanajuato along the Mexico City-Zacatecas road.
From the seventeenth century, the Baroque style began to make itself felt, primarily in Church and official buildings. Outstanding examples are the Guanajuato parish church, constructed in 1671-76, the Carmelite church in Celaya, and the parish church in San Miguel el Grande. From the eighteenth century there are works such as the Franciscan College in Celaya, the monastery founded by the same order in Acambaro, the temple of Saint Augustine in Salamanca, the parish churches of Dolores Hidalgo and Irapuato, and the Church of the Angels in Leon.



Once the War of Independence had come to a close, a provisional government was installed, consisting of 36 members apart from General Agustin de Iturbide, and the Act of Independence of the Mexican Empire was declared.
When the Congress was constituted, Iturbide found out that it was not going to accept him of the government. He found a way round this by having himself proclaimed Emperor Agustin I by Colonel Epitacio Sanchez and Sergeant Pio Marcha on May 17, 1822 and trying to dissolve Congress. The representatives, joined by other figures such as Nicolas Bravo, Guadalupe Victoria and Vicente Guerrero started a movement in Veracruz on December 12 of the same year, uniting practically all the provinces and military forces, forcing Iturbide to abdicate and flee the country on April 11, 1823. Meanwhile, due to differences between the liberal, republican, centralist and federalist factions, Congress was in a deadlock and was dissolved in order to constitute a new chamber of representatives that eventually enacted the first constitution of the United States of Mexico, as it was officially named on October 4, 1842. The Republic was regulated by three branches of power: the legislature consisting of the House of Representatives; the executive, with the president and vice-president, and the Judiciary, with the Supreme Court. Catholicism was made the official religion and the practice of any other was punishable by law. Freedom of the press, of thought and the individual were to be respected. The first elected president was Guadalupe Victoria, with Nicolas Bravo as his vice-president.
In the State of Guanajuato, there was also action on the political front. On February 23, 1829, the citizens elected the Constituent Congress under the leadership of Jose Maria Septien y Montero. At the same time, the sovereignty and independence of the Free State of Guanajuato was recognized.
On June 23, 1824, the Tribunal of Justice was established, on March 6, 1826, the municipal organic law was enacted and on April 14, the Political Constitution of the State of Guanajuato was decreed. Congress named Pedro Otero as interim governor, later replacing him with Carlos Montes de Oca, who was reelected several times.
Following a proposal from Dr. Felipe Vazquez, on May 21, 1824, the representatives decreed that the Congregation of Dolores be raised to the status of villa, appending the name Hidalgo in honor of Father Miguel Hidalgo and in remembrance of its being the first place to witness the rebels' cry of independence.
Similarly, San Miguel el Grande was granted the title of city and had its name changed to San Miguel de Allende in honor of Ignacio Allende, who declared independence at that spot.
With the removal of Iturbide, our country became enveloped in a lengthy crisis, until at last in 1854, conflict erupted between two groups determined to resolve the situation and take power: the Yorkists and Scots, also known as Federalists and Centralists, or Liberals and Conservatives.
The changes in the newly independent nation were continuous: there were more than 30 changes of president and 3 different constitutions. The elections of 1833 saw General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna sworn in as President, with Valentin Gomez Farias as Vice-President. A military man, Santa Anna retired to his Manga de Clavo hacienda, leaving Gomez Farias to look after the running of the presidency from April 1 1833 onwards. For the next couple of years, they took turns in the post, until January 28, 1835.
With Gomez Farias in power and Dr. Mora advising him, important reforms were undertaken: the formation of a body for administering government funds; the suppression of religious orders; state control of public education and the all Church property, and the reform of the military, signaling the end of the army's power and the formation of militias.
In Cuernavaca, in the State of Morelos, a proclamation was made demanding that the reforms be rescinded and calling for Santa Anna's reinstatement. Following the successful outcome of this initiative, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna once more assumed the Presidency in April, 1834, ordering the dissolution of Congress, annulment of reformist laws, disarmament of the civil militias and expelling Gomez Farias, changing the government from Federalist to Centralist.
On October 23, 1835, Congress, which at this point consisted almost entirely of Conservatives, laid the foundations of a Centralist constitution with the so-called Seven Laws. By means of these, state governments were suppressed and replaced by departmental juntas. The changes were felt in the center of the republic too. The State of Guanajuato was relegated from a federal entity to the status of department, meaning that the governor would not be appointed by election, but rather by the President, according to the recommendations of the junta. The Guanajuato departmental junta was installed on March 26, 1837 with authority to propose laws to the Federal Government, but not to dictate them.
Jose Maria Esquivel y Salvago, the last Federal Governor, remained in office for less than a month. His successor, Ignacio Urbina, occupied the post for a little less than two years - from December 6, 1835 to August 26, 1837 - before being replaced by Luis de Cortazar who managed to stay for slightly more than two years before making way for Octaviano Muñoz Ledo, who only lasted from October '39 to February of 1840. Then Juan Morelos took over, until Manuel Gomez Linares succeeded him on May 15, 1842.
Thanks to his friendship with Santa Anna, Pedro de Corazar y Rabago managed to prolong his turn in power from May 1842 to December 1844. In March 1845, the president at the time, Jose Joaquin Herrera, named Juan Bautista Morales as Departmental Governor. Known as Pythagoras' Rooster, Morales only lasted till February 25, 1846, when a new president, Mariano Paredes y Arrillaga, promoted Francisco Pacheco, who was in turn replaced as Governor of Guanajuato by Mariano Chico, the last Governor of the Centralist era.
After the Revolution of Ayutla in 1854, and the ensuing exile of Santa Anna, the Liberals took over the City of Mexico and the Government, with Juan Alvarez as President.
The Governor of Guanajuato, Manuel Doblado, instigated a movement against Alvarez which ended in his resigning the Presidency on December 10, 1855. The following November, the Law of Juarez was enacted by Presidencial decree and seven months later, Miguel Lerdo de Tejada instituted the Law of Confiscation of Church Property. Then on February 5, 1857 the Political Constitution of the new Democratic Republic was finally declared. Federal and representative, confirming the division of the three branches of power, enshrining freedom of opinion, education, the press, labor, to meet and petition and including a faithful copy of the Rights of Man.
In 1858, Benito Juarez was named President of the Republic in place of Ignacio Comonfort, publishing a manifesto exhorting Mexicans to struggle against the enemies of Liberalism and the Constitution of 1857. He also declared Guanajuato capital of the United States of Mexico, bringing about important changes in the state. Meanwhile, the military conflict continued to gather pace, forcing Juarez to move to Guadalajara, then Colima and Veracruz, where he laid down the Laws of Reform. From 1860, the balance of the war began to change in favor of the Liberals, with a significant victory over Miramon at Silao, thereafter rewarded with the title of City of Victory.
On January 1, 1861, General Jesus Gonzalez Ortega entered the capital and returned Juarez to Mexico City to re-establish his government. Meanwhile, in Guanajuato, the Constitution of March 14, 1861 was declared.
Following Juarez' death, on July 18, 1872, Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada assumed the Presidency, with elections being held that same year, until Porfirio Diaz ousted him in 1876. Finally, Diaz took possession of the Presidency on May 5, 1877, remaining in power until 1910.


During the period of Diaz' power, known as the Porfiriato, Guanajuato lived through several important changes. Diaz expelled the followers of Jose Maria Iglesias and installed Colonel Francisco Z. Mena as provisional State Governor. A native of Leon, Mena obtained a concession from the Federal Government for the construction of the Celaya-Leon railroad. Moreover, he ordered the construction of three colleges for secondary-level education in Celaya, San Miguel de Allende and Leon.
On September 26, 1880, Manuel Muñoz Ledo, also from Leon, assumed power. He signed a new contract extending the railroad system and communication the state with Mexico City, Guadalajara, Morelia, Chihuahua and Monterrey. The arrival of the railroad transformed the life of the state, making a massive contribution to development in trade and industry, above all in the Bajio. Muñoz Ledo signed the first-ever contract with the Mercantile Bank of Mexico for the opening of branches in the interior of the State, and another with the National Bank of Mexico. At the State College, a degree course in Civil Engineering was opened, as well as the School of Arts and Trades, based in Guanajuato city, and the School of Agriculture.
On May 31, 1885, Manuel Gonzalez became Governor. Originally from Tamaulipas, Gonzalez authorized the commencement of work on the Irapuato-Guadalajara railroad and in 1887 laid the first stone of the Esperanza dam, which was afterwards named in his honor. In 1889, he instituted compulsory primary education and in September of the same year signed the contract founding the Bank of Guanajuato.
Agriculture in Guanajuato during the Porfiriato was centered on the production of cereals, earning the name "Grain store of the Republic". Surplus corn was marketed in San Luis Potosi and Michoacan states, while wheat was sent to Jalisco. Several large farms were also founded at that time: Santa Ana in Leon; San Jose de Parangueo in Valle de Santiago; La Labor in Apaseo; Canario, Calera and Anexas in Yuriria; San Jose del Carmen in Salvatierra; El Cubo in San Felipe; San Nicolas de los Agustinos in Salvatierra; La Venta in Dolores Hidalgo; Jalpa de Canovas in Purisima; Jaral de Berrio in San Felipe, and the biggest, San Cristobal in Acambaro.
The principal economic activity was centered on mining and manufacturing. Chief among the latter were the cotton mills in Celaya and the cotton and thread producers of Salvatierra and Molino de Soria. In Leon, leather goods and shoes were produced, in the villages of El Rincon, decks of cards and straw hats were the products. San Miguel de Allende was a center for woolen cloth production, especially shawls. Apaseo was a source of animal hides, which were taken to Veracruz for export. The other villages and towns were producers of cloth for local consumption.
One notable inhabitant of Guanajuato in the nineteenth century was Ignacio Ramirez. Born in San Miguel de Allende on June 22, 1818, the graduated as a lawyer but also managed to study natural sciences, philology, and scholastic theology. Because of his prodigious knowledge, he was known as The Voltaire of Mexico. He began a career in journalism at the side of Guillermo Prieto and Vicente Segura, taking as his nom de plume "El Nigromante" - the Necromancer. He was persecuted and imprisoned for his ideas, but managed to promote various changes to the law, such as that guaranteeing the autonomy of the municipality. He was named Minister for Instruction and Promotion, instituting important educational and economic reforms. During the reign of the Emperor Maximiliano, he was banished to California, but on his return to the Republic, he was elected to the Supreme Court of Justice as a magistrate. He died on June 15, 1879, in Mexico City.


During the first years of the twentieth century, the inequalities and injustices of the Porfiriato began to cause general unrest.
In the countryside, more and more giant farms were formed, converting the peasants into little more than serfs, working long days for extremely low pay. They were given credit at the farm store, which tended to belong to the farm owner, but this did not save them from a life hardship and misery. In the factories, workers were made to work shifts as long as 14 or 16 hours, subjected to corporal punishment, paid a pittance and were even locked inside the factory. They also had to suffer discrimination in favor of foreigners.
The most notable protests were those in Rio Blanco and Cananea, Veracruz, where the workers, sick of ill treatment, formed an anti-government movement. However, the leaders of the protest were executed and any further dissent was ruthlessly suppressed by the Government.
During the first days of 1908, Porfirio Diaz granted an interview to the American journalist, James Creelman, declaring among other things his desire to pass the Presidency on to the elected choice of the people, inadvertently strengthening the opposition's cause. Francisco I. Madero, was one of those interested in putting his name forward for the Presidency, under the banner "Effective Suffrage, not re-election". However, at the height of his campaign, Madero was arbitrarily taken into custody and while he was in prison, a fraudulent election took place that once again returned Diaz to power.
After being released, Madero made his way to San Antonio, Texas, where he formulated his Plan of San Luis, refusing to recognize Diaz' legitimacy and setting November 20 as the date for the start of the Mexican Revolution. On that day, Pascual Orozco led an armed revolt in Chihuahua, while the following year, Candido Navarro did the same in Guanajuato on February 22, in Purisima. On May 21, 1911, the Treaty of Ciudad Juarez was signed, giving Diaz and his Vice-President Corral a month to resign their posts and naming Leon de Barra as provisional President. On May 31, Diaz left the country and in the ensuing elections on October 15, Madero and Pino Suarez were voted in as President and Vice-President respectively.
On entering power, Madero had to deal with the wars old regime had left in full swing and the provisions of the Plan of San Luis had to wait. On February 18, 1913, Generals Victoriano Huerta and Felix Diaz signed the Pact of the Citadel, agreeing to install Huerta as President, becoming effective the following day. Three days later, Madero and Pino Suarez were killed in the yard of the Belen prison.
In the State of Guanajuato, Victor Jose Lizardi was elected Governor from 1911 to 1915, but not without opposition from supporters of the former Governor, Obregon Gonzalez.
In 1912, as part of the independence celebrations, a lunch was organized, attended by a heavy police presence. When the Governor appeared to proclaim independence, the assembled citizens began to hurl insults. As a result, the police opened fire, causing numerous injuries.
These events became known as "the lamentable events of the San Pedro Square and Cantarranas Street. On July 4, Lizardi left his post as Governor to be replaced by the Huerta supporter Romulo Cuellar.
Once again, there was discontent among the people and revolutionaries. Venustiano Carranza reformed his Plan of Guadalupe, in which elections to the Congress and the Presidency were called. With this call to the governments of all the states, Carranza hoped to ratify his proposal for a new Constitution. The elected representatives began to gather in Queretaro on December 1, 1916, producing the current constitution on February 5, 1917.
Many noteworthy representatives from Guanajuato participated in the design of the Constitution, including Ramon Fausto, Vicente M. Valtierra, Jose Natividad Macias, Manuel G. Aranda, Ignacio Lopez, Gilberto Navarro, Francisco Diaz Barriga, Nicolas Cano, Francisco Rendon, David Peñaflor, Carlos Ramirez Llaca, Jose Villaseñor Lomeli, Luis Fernandez Martinez and Hilario Medina.
Venustiano Carranza was elected President of the nation on March 11, 1917. Immediately after, he began to talk of the succession in 1920 and among the strongest contenders were Alvaro Obregon, backed by the Sonora Revolutionary Party, and Pablo Gonzalez for the Independent Liberal Party and the Great Progressive Party. In April 1919, a rebellion broke out against Carranza when Adolfo de la Huerta, Governor of Sonora, proclaimed himself Chief of the Constitutionalist Liberation Army. The rising spread throughout the country and Carranza was forced to abandon Mexico City and seek refuge in Tlaxcalantongo, Puebla, where he was subsequently assassinated. On May 24, 1920, Congress named Adolfo de la Huerta as Provisional President.
In Guanajuato, under the governorship of Jose Reynoso, the years of the revolution were hard ones. More than 200,000 people died as a result, plus the state suffered a severe economic crisis, especially in agriculture where the redistribution of land was the burning question of the day.
In 1923, Plutarco Elias Calles was elected Governor. During his spell in power, the War of the Cristeros broke out between the government and the clergy, taking place principally in the states of Guanajuato, Jalisco, Colima and Michoacan. In his final Governor's report, Calles cleared the way for the formation of the National Revolutionary Party (PNR).
The general elections of June 1, 1928 were won by Alvaro Obregon, who was assassinated by Leon Toral, and subsequently Pascual Ortiz Rubio was designated President of Mexico. In Guanajuato, a number of education projects were undertaken, the budget was balanced and an agreement was reached for the founding of the Coordinated Public Health Service.
The road system was improved with the construction of a highway between San Francisco del Rincon and Apaseo that passes through various towns and villages and construction began on the first damming project in the municipality of Doctor Mora.
In 1944, the University of Guanajuato was officially instituted, taking over from the State College.
In our state, the redistribution of lands began in 1915. The great haciendas were divided up between the rural communities who worked the land. Farmland and communities of agricultural workers occupied a large percentage of the territory, the majority of farming being done on smallholdings. Since that time, small farmers have had to organize themselves in order to do their work together and share the necessary equipment and machinery between them. The crops for which the region has become known are wheat, corn, sorghum and alfalfa. Animal rearing is concentrated mainly on cattle and pigs, but there are also sheep, horses, goats and mules and donkeys.
Another activity that has become important since the beginning of the twentieth century is industry. Mining has been here from the start and is one of the most important activities on both a national and international level, but there have also been periods of crisis. The principal products are silver, fluorite, gold, copper, lead and zinc. Given the necessities for growth and subsistence on the part of the area's inhabitants, industrial activity has diversified, leading to the development of trade and industries such as food production, textiles, wood, paper and petroleum derivatives, as well as the footwear and leather goods industry.
Since the nineteenth century, the textile industry has stood out for its longevity and organization. The principal textile mills are to be found in the cities of Irapuato, Celaya, Juventino Rosas, Comonfort, Moroleon, Uriangato and Salvatierra.
Another important industry is tanning and its related activities, situated principally in the city of Leon since the eighteenth century. The oil industry occupies a special place in Guanajuato. On July 30, 1950, the Engineer Antonio M. Amor Refinery (RIAMA) was opened in Salamanca, bringing industrialization to the center of the country. The refinery produces derivatives such as resins, lubricants, paraffin, sulfur and fertilizers. In this way, an agricultural town has become the most important industrial zone, supplying not only this state but numerous parts of the country.
During the era of the Porfiriato, the state began to develop a transport system that has made economic development possible. The highways joined the most important cities, bringing commercial benefits to the region and other cities in the country. The railways extend all over the territory of Guanajuato, going beyond as far as Ciudad Juarez, Manzanillo, Nuevo Laredo, Lazaro Cardenas and Tampico.


Halfway between Celaya and Irapuato, Salamanca is always ready with a warm welcome for visitors. This primarily industrial city is the happy possessor of an architectural jewel in the shape of the convent and church of San Augustine. One of four Augustinian convents authorized by King Philip III in 1609, building on the Villa de Salamanca was begun in 1641 and completed a hundred years later. With the delicate stonework of its façade, executed in the manner of the Spanish architect Juan de Herrera, and its stunning New-Spanish tableaux, the church is a beautiful example of the Mexican Baroque style. This city of industry is justly proud of being home to one of the masterpieces of conventual architecture.
The temple's interior contains a dazzling surprise: the walls of the church are hung with eleven breathtaking gilded Churrigueresque embroidered reliefs executed with great imaginative daring. The artists give rein to their most luxurious flights of fancy, capturing angels, devils, saints and cherubs in an atmosphere of wealth and excess that somehow manages to be both whimsical and elegant. Visitors are also recommended to see the convent's two cloisters, the larger of which possesses a double arcade, the smaller supporting a sectioned upper story on Herrera-style columns.
Thanks to its imposing auditorium with its 1,800-seat capacity and its modern convention center for 2,000 people, the city of Guanajuato has been the venue for numerous international congresses and important forums, such as the State of the World Forum. Renowned figures such as Lech Walesa, Armand Mattelart, Rigoberta Menchú and Oscar Arias, along with outstanding personalities from the worlds of finance, industry and art have all come to Guanajuato. The city's expertise in mounting events of this kind is widely recognized thanks to its organization of the annual Cervantes International Arts Festival, which regularly features artists of the stature of the Bolshoi Ballet, Leonard Bernstein and Rudolf Nureyev, to name just a few. Together with the Auditorium, the majestic Juárez Theater is the main venue for festival events, with a capacity of 740, along with the Teatro Principal (466 seats) and the Cervantes Theater (430). The city has a large number of hotels in the three-to-five-star range, sharing a total of 1,473 rooms, plus event rooms with enough space to cater for practically any need, as well as excellent tourist services giving friendly advice on event organization.


30,768 km2, 1.6% of national territory


4,656,761 INHABITANTS (Preliminary census, INEGI, 2000)




Los Altos, Sierra Gorda, Sierra Central, El Bajio and the Bajio Valleys.


The State of Guanajuato possesses a surface area of 30,460 km2, accounting for 1.54% of national territory. It is located in the center of the Mexican Republic between 19° 55 min and 21° 52 min north of the Equator, and 99° 39 min and 102° 5 min west. Guanajuato borders the states of San Luis Potosí to the north, Querétaro to the east, Michoacán to the south and Jalisco to the west. In terms of geography and culture, the state can be divided into five zones.


In the region of Los Altos, the northern prairies sit at a height of more than 2,000m; in the highlands, the mineral-bearing central mountains include the Comanda, Guanajuato and Codornice ranges, along with notable hill formations such as the Los Llanitos, La Giganta, and El Cubilete. To the east lies the Sierra Gorda, to the south, the Bajio, with its glens, valleys, prairies and craters, locally known as xalapazcos and axalapazcos. To the south-west, we find the Uriangato, San Nicolás de los Agustinos and Guatzingo valleys, plus the plains of Tarimoro and Acámbaro, linked by the hills of Picacho, Tule Blanco, Culiacán and Grande.


Minimum: The Santa María River Cañón, 800m.
Maximum: Los Rosillos Elevation, 3,810m


To the north, Guanajuato shares borders with the states of Aguascalientes and San Luis Potosí. To the east lies Querétaro, while on the southeastern border is the State of Mexico. Due south is the state of Michoacán and to the west we find Jalisco.
It is a relatively small state, with a surface area of 30,589 km2, making it twenty-second in terms of size among the country's states. There are four main population centers: Leon, Irapuato, Salamanca and Celaya, along with a number of small but important towns such as Guanajuato, the state capital, Dolores Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende, San Luis de la Paz and Silao. The region divides into three principal regions, each with its own particular geological characteristics: the Central Plateau; the Neo-Volcanic Ridge, and the Western Sierra Madre. Numerous rivers cross the state, the most important being the Lerma, the Chapala, the Santiago and the Alto Rio Panuco. There are three types of climate in the state: semi-dry, temperate and semi-warm.


Temperate and sub-humid, with rain in summer. The irregular topography means a lower temperature of less than 18°C at higher elevations, whilst in the lowlands it reaches 22°C. The north is dry with a precipitation of 50mm annually. The prevailing wind is westerly in the wintertime, coming from the south and southwest in the spring, while during the summer and fall it is east-by-northeasterly.


The greater part of Guanajuato's water belongs to the basin formed by the Lerma, Laja, Guanajuato, Turbio and Coroneo. The Solis dam contains the waters of the Lerma, which diverts further downstream towards the lagoon and Yuriria. The rivers of the Sierra Gorda and northwestern Guanajuato, such as the Santa Maria and Xichu, run into the Panuco basin.
There are also thermal springs in the center and south of the state.


On the high plains: pastureland; in the sierras, pine and oak; in the central lower hills: scrub with cactus; in the Bajio and the valleys: farmland has displaced the indigenous fauna, although there are residual mesquites; in the lakelands, oak, ahuehete trees and forage.


In the Sierra Gorda: opossum, fox, white-tailed deer, armadillo and mountain cat; in the foothills: rattlesnake, coral snake, rabbit and coyote; in the valleys: duck, dove and raccoon.


Marble weapons and tools dating from 20,000 BCE.


Purepecha in the Bajio valleys and the southern Bajio; Guachicil in Los Altos; Pame in the northern central sierras, the Sierra Gorda and northern Bajio; Chichimeca in the southern Bajio; Zacateco to the north of Los Altos, and Guamare in the mountains of Comanja and the Bajio.


Chupicuaro, Coporo, Los Morales, Carabino.
Cultural influences: Olmeca, Teotihuacan, Purepecha, Toltec and Mexica.


Chichimec in the Sierra Gorda and Otomi in the Sierra Gorda and Los Altos.


Pottery in the Central Sierra, Los Altos, Sierra Gorda and the Bajio; toys, wax figures and saddlery in the Bajio; tin, copper and brass work in Los Altos; woolens and wood articles in the Central Sierra.


Son and Jarabe music, played by brass bands, with violin, guitar and drums in the Sierra Gorda, the Bajio, Bajio valleys and Los Altos; Throughout the state, Corridos and popular dances, including Concheros, Matachines, Chichimecas, Christians and Moors, Plumeros, Rayados, La Sonaja and Aztecas en the Sierra Gorda, Bajio, the Bajio valleys and Los Altos.


The crest is composed in the following manner: The coat of arms is supported by a plinth of colored marble with gold decoration. The base is a shell held by two laurel branches bound with a blue ribbon. The shell linking with the coat of arms symbolizes the stability of the home, opening in welcome. The gold background signifies nobility, magnanimity and purity of feeling, as well as the wealth of precious metals to be found in the State.
The coping above the shield is a symbol of greatness, the laurels stand for victory and the acanthus flowers signify fidelity.
Initially, belonging to the city of Guanajuato, but latterly adopted by the state, the crest is one of the most beautiful and interesting in the country.