History of San Miguel de Allende
THE FIRST SAN MIGUEL
Evidence of the first settlers in the vicinity of San Miguel de Allende, who appear to have prospered at agriculture, dates back about 2,000 years. However, about a thousand years ago, these settlements were abandoned and the area was left to nomadic tribes of huntergatherers, who were know collectively as the chichimecas. One of the tribes, the Copuces, had an specially fierce reputation, even amongst the blood thirsty Aztecs.
The Spanish also avoided these tribes until the discovery of silver in Guanajuato and Zacatecas compelled then to secure a route from the mines, through the Chichimecas lands, to Mexico City. They began by sending a Franciscan friar, Fray Juan de San Miguel, to convert and pacify the natives.
|It was not an easy task, however by 1542, he had managed to build a church (St. Michael Archangel) and establish a mission he called San Miguel de los Chichimecas. His success was short-lived. In 1551, the mission was overrun by Copuces and Fray Juan´s successor, Fray Cossin, moved the settlement to a more defensible location a few miles away, (present-day San Miguel). But, this too was troubled by the local tribes; things did not run smoothly until 1555 when the Spanish fortified the site, designated it a “Villa” (village), and encouraged its repopulation-particulary by soldiers. They gave the settlement t he name variety of reasons, that would prove to be the turning point. |
Over the next 250 years, the town became a thriving center for cattle, leatherwork, woolen goods and tool-making. By 1770, San Miguel El Grande had grown to 30,000. The place was a boomtown-by 1790 its population had risen to 50,000 (about twice that of New York City at the time) and it was still growing! Could anything stop it? Yes, a war could.
Mexico’s War of Independence began in 1810 and it started right here in the streets of San Miguel, where the fires of discontent had been soldering for decades. The towns outstanding prosperity and growth had led to a more liberal, laissez- faire attitude than was normal under Spanish rule.
THE SECOND SAN MIGUEL
Ironically, rather than endear the aristocratic Gachupine (Spaniards born in Spain) overlords to the Criollo (Spanish, but born in Mexico) population it seems only to have fostered resentment. The breeding ground of this discontent was the town’s Colegio de San Francisco de Sales (built in 1734) where the seeds of revolution took root in the minds of students like Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama.
On September 16, 1810, the Cry for Independence (Grito de Dolores) by father Miguel Hidalgo signaled the start of the insurrection led by Ignacio Allende. Their participation was spectacular but short-lived; both men would be dead within a year. Yet they, and others such as Aldama, Jimenez and Umaran, inspired a nation. What these men started would last eleven years, but it would end in independence for Mexico.
In 1826, the town was officially declared a city and, in honor of its homegrown hero, was again renamed: San Miguel de Allende. Similarly, the nearby town of Dolores was renamed Dolores Hidalgo.
THE THIRD SAN MIGUEL
However, the war had coincided with the depletion of local silver mines and San Miguel entered a period of decline. Its population dwindled to less than 5,000 and its once proud churches and elegant mansions fell into decay. The decline lasted well into the 20th century.
It was the arts the led to San Miguel’s rebirth. During the 1930’s, Bellas Artes was founded, attracting teachers and students from Mexico and beyond, and San Miguel’s fledgling art colony soon gained international recognition.
This early beginning was a firmly cemented in the 1950’s when the Instituto Allende was founded and began attracting returning WWII veterans studying under the American GI Bill. Word of San Miguel’s picturesque charm began to spread, attracting even more visitors, and San Miguel’s renaissance began.
In 1982, the Mexican government declared 68 blocks in San Miguel’s center a national Historic Monument, thus leading to the restoration of the old buildings and the preservation of the colonial atmosphere. Today, san Miguel de Allende, still known for its graceful colonial charm and thriving arts community, is also known as a premiere vacation pot and retirement haven.
|Coyote Canyon Adventures has had 4514815 visitors since November 30, 2009|