Streets Alive: Who Were Zaragoza and Iturbide?

The major landmark on the Malecon is Los Arcos, the four-arch structure that dominates the amphitheater where residents and visitors enjoy free concerts and entertainment almost every night. To the south of Los Arcos is the Naval Museum and that’s on the corner of the Malecon and Calle Zaragoza. But why would a city planner name a street Zaragoza, you ask. Because he is another Mexican hero who happened to be a military general and a politician with a liberal view on life.

Born in 1829, Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín , joined the rebel cause in the early 1850’s and found himself, at age 26, in command of a rebel army fighting against the dictator of Mexico, Antonio López de Santa Anna. The rebellion and civil war led to the re-establishment of a constitutional democratic government in Mexico and another Mexican hero, Benito Juarez, became President.  Zaragoza was appointed his Secretary of War but when French forces invaded Mexico in 1862 he resigned his political office to lead the Mexican army against the invaders. His main claim to fame is that his army defeated the French at the battle of Puebla on 5th May 1862; celebrated as the famous “Cinco de Mayo”. However, shortly after this famous victory the 33-year-old Zaragoza contracted typhoid fever and died. Sad!

Zaragoza, the street, is well worth exploring. Heading east from the Naval Museum you’ll come to the corner with Calle Morelos and can choose to have a delectable and delicious ice cream form La Michoacana ice cream store (personally recommended) or a coffee at Starbucks which is across the street and on the downtown square, Plaza Principal de las Armas. Here you can get your shoes shined, listen to the music from the bandstand or eat supper at the taco stands in the evening.

Calle Zaragoza climbs slightly to Calle Hidalgo, skirts the landmark church named after the national saint of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and then you’ll be climbing the steps with a beating heart towards the house previously owned by Elizabeth Taylor and now the upscale restaurant and hotel of Casa Kimberly. It’s a great street to explore.

To the north of Zaragoza is a street named after the first Emperor of Mexico, Agustín de Iturbide. Other than giving a nod to equal opportunity, I cannot see why a street would be named after this man. Born in 1783 into the upper class of Spanish America he believed in the dominance of Spain and of the Roman Catholic Church and as a young man he joined the royalist army as an officer. When the Mexican War of Independence broke out in 1810 the leader of the insurgents, Manuel Hidalgo, offered Iturbide a position in the revolutionary army but Iturbide refused and pledged himself to the Spanish cause instead.

Ten years later and after an intermittent war between the conservatives and the revolutionaries the Mexican independence movement became more unified. In reaction to a liberal coup d’état in Spain, the conservatives in Mexico (formerly staunch royalists) advocated immediate independence. Iturbide assumed command of the army and, at Iguala, joined his reactionary force with Guerrero’s radical revolutionaries.

The Treaty of  Córdoba was signed in Spain in August 1821and it recognized the independence of Mexico. It seemed that all Mexicans would be deliriously happy. Not so!

The revolutionary coalition quickly fell apart as Iturbide removed Guerrero and his supporters from all power that they had and, on May 19, 1822, Iturbide placed the crown upon his own head and became Agustín I, emperor of Mexico! An arbitrary and extravagant ruler, he proved unable to bring order and stability to his country, and all parties soon turned against him. A year after his self-coronation, on March 19, 1823, Iturbide abdicated and fled to Europe. but a year later he returned to Mexico unaware that the congress had decreed his death. Captured on July 15 1824, he was executed four days later. Although regarded by most scholars as a self-serving military adventurer, he has remained for the Roman Catholic church and for the conservative classes the great hero of Mexican independence. Hmmm.

The Boy on The Seahorse, “El Caballito”, anchors Calle Iturbide to the Malecon and it’s worth wandering towards the hill to find Planeta Vegetariano and La Cigale, both restaurants with excellent food. But then Iturbide climbs very steeply up the hill and becomes a residential street. Like the man, the street does not have much to recommend it.

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.