Streets Alive: Freedom Fighter

Many readers will have visited the beautiful city of San Miguel de Allende and enjoyed the art and cultural events there. That city’s name is a combination of the names of two Mexicans: 16th-century friar Juan de San Miguel, and a leader of Mexican War of Independence, Ignacio Allende. Calle Allende, the street in el Centro in P.V., is named after him.

There are a couple of neat places at the ocean end of Allende. One is the Cuban restaurant and bar called La Bodeguita del Media that has some good reviews onTrip Advisor and another is the Jazz Foundation, where the quality of the music far exceeds that of the food. On the corner of Matamoros is Alex’s taco stand, the best in Vallarta, and that is followed by one of my favourite places to eat in P.V. –  El Arrayán.

Ignacio José de Allende y Unzaga or Ignacio Allende was born in 1769 to a wealthy creole family in a house facing San Miguel’s central plaza. He led a privileged life as a child and a young man and, while in his twenties, joined the Spanish army and was commissioned as an officer. By 1808, at age 39, he was the commanding officer of a cavalry regiment in his hometown.

At this time, Mexico had been under the control of Spain for three hundred years and many educated and thoughtful nationals were fed up with Spanish rule, especially since the Spanish throne had recently been taken by Napoleon and handed to his brother, Joseph. The Mexican peasants, who had become serfs to the Spanish invaders, were also in mood for rebellion.

In early 1810 Allende became involved in a conspiracy for a fight for independence, led by Mayor of Querétaro Miguel Domínguez and the priest from Dolores, Miguel Hidalgo. Allende was a valued leader of the movement because of his training, contacts, and charisma. The conspirators secretly ordered weapons and convinced influential Creole military officers join their cause and decided that the revolution would start in December.

But in September, they got word that their conspiracy had been discovered  and warrants had been issued for their arrests. Allende was in Dolores on September 15 with Father Hidalgo when they heard the bad news and rather than abort the revolution they decided to start it immediately. The next morning, Hidalgo rang the church bells and gave his legendary “Grito de Dolores” or “Cry of Dolores” in which he exhorted the poor of Mexico to take up arms against their Spanish oppressors.

From Dolores the cry for revolution spread faster than a forest fire and within days Allende and Hidalgo found themselves at the head of an angry mob of thousands of peasants looking for blood and revenge. The mob marched on Allende’s home town of San Miguel, murdered all Spaniards there and looted their homes. Then they walked a hundred kilometres to the state capital of Guanajuato, slaughtered hundreds and stole whatever they could.

Ignacio Allende, the professional soldier, who was second in command to the priest, Hidalgo, was aghast that his leader would allow the unnecessary bloodshed and looting that had occurred in Guanajuato but Hidalgo was convinced that the peasants would desert him if they were criticized or reprimanded.

The insurgent army continued to make its way towards Mexico City, which began to panic when word of the horrors of Guanajuato reached them. By this time Hidalgo had a mob of 80,000 men following him but, when he was almost  within sight of the capital, he turned back fearing, perhaps, the devastation that would happen if he let the mob loose there.

By January 1811 the royalist professional army, which had been reorganized under General Calleja, advanced on the insurgents. Allende and Hidalgo  decided to make a defensive stand at Calderon Bridge. It seemed that the vast number of insurgents would carry the day but a lucky Spanish cannonball ignited a rebel munitions dump and, in the ensuing chaos, the undisciplined rebels scattered and fled back to their homes.

Two months later, on March 21, 1811,  Allende, Hidalgo and the other insurgency leaders were captured and sent to the city of Chihuahua where they were tried and executed.

Allende is today remembered as one of the great leaders of the early Independence movement, and his remains rest in Mexico City’s hallowed Independence Column alongside those of Hidalgo, Jiménez, Aldama, and other heroes of Mexico.

John Warren on Email
John Warren
John Warren is in charge of Publicity for the International Friendship Club (IFC). His articles describe the programs and charities that IFC supports, the sources of income of IFC and the social experiences, lectures and classes that members can enjoy.