The Stories of history
By Jesús Ibarra
Ignacio Allende, 245 years ago
Part 1 of 2
The “official” story tells us that the war for the independence of Mexico began in Dolores (now Dolores Hidalgo) and its main promoter was the parish priest of the village, don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla . However, contemporary studies have shown that the first instigator of the independence movement was captain Ignacio Allende y Unzaga, a native of the village of San Miguel el Grande (now San Miguel de Allende ), where the movement was really conceived. Historian Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach has brought to light the official accusation by the prosecutor Rafael Bracho against Ignacio Allende, when he was imprisoned in Chihuahua on June 26, 1811. In this document, Bracho mentions that “Mr. Allende was the first who thought of such a colligation … he had been the paramount leader, although by accident, Hidalgo had more control after the outburst started.” According to the historian, this document was ignored for years. Jiménez Codinach also mentions that the San Miguel historian don Benito Abad Arteaga, who spoke with eyewitnesses to the events, published in 1852 a biography of Allende, whom don Benito considered “the true author of Independence.”
Don Ignacio Allende y Unzaga was born in San Miguel el Grande in January 1769. The exact date of his birth is uncertain because his baptismal certificate found in the parish archives of San Miguel de Allende does not mention this date, but only says: “In the year of our Lord, 1769, on 25 days of January , I, the RPF Santiago Cinsneros with parish license, baptized solemnly, with oil and chrism, a four-day-old infant, whom I named Ignacio José de Jesús Pedro Regalado, legitimate son of don Domingo Narciso de Allende and Doña María Ana Unzaga, both Spaniards of this village. His godparents were don Manuel and doña Rosalía Peredo Menchaca, who know their duty and cognation, and I signed with P. Juan Manuel de Villegas, Parish Priest.”
Because the record says only that on January 25 he was four days old, it is not known precisely whether they began counting from January 20 or 21. Don Benito Abad Arteaga accepts January 20 as the date of birth. In Colonia San Antonio there is a street called “20 de enero” (January 20) in honor of Allende’s birthday. Another of his biographers, Antonio Barajas, considers January 21 as the date of his birth, and nowadays his birthday is officially celebrated on that date. Ignacio was born in the house marked with number 1 on Calle del Hospital—currently Cuna de Allende—across from the Parroquia. Ignacio was the fifth of seven children: José María (1763–1811), María Josefa (1765–1834), Domingo (1766–1809), Joaquin (stillborn in 1768), Ignacio (1769–1811), Manuela (1770 –?) and Mariana (1772–1830). Allende’s mother, doña María Ana de Unzaga, died around 1772—probably during the birth of her youngest daughter—when Ignacio was three. Regarding the date of his father’s death, Jiménez Codinach and biographer Barajas said he died on February 24, 1787, when Ignacio was 18; however, sanmiguelense Roberto Lambarri de la Canal states in his Prontuario that don Domingo died on February 24, 1784, when Allende was only 15, which may be more likely, because biographer Abad says Ignacio and his siblings became orphans while still minors, being “recommended to the Spanish don Domingo Berrio, who came into the administration of the family properties, then consisting of an urban house—where Ignacio was born—and two haciendas (San José de la Trasquila and Manantiales). These haciendas were located on what now is the road to Guanajuato, near Cañada de la Virgen.
Don Benito says he could not be sure whether Ignacio studied at the Colegio de San Francisco de Sales, currently Universidad de León, on the Plaza Cívica, but says he achieved the rank of lieutenant in the regiment Dragones de la Reina (Dragoons of the Queen) when he was 26.
According to Abad Arteaga, Allende had a “kind heart and resolute character” and was “very inclined to all kinds of exercises on horseback,” in which he was outstanding. He tells how once, during the bullfights that used to take place during the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, he mastered a bull “that had undone everyone.” On another occasion, hanging out with friends, kicking bulls in the hills of Cañada de la Virgen, a bull charged by a high slope and caused Ignacio and his horse to fall. Allende’s arm was injured and his nose broken, which remained forever bent.
Abad Arteaga described Ignacio Allende as “tall, with curly blond hair, like his beard, white, and with very bright hazel eyes, aquiline nose but slightly twisted for having broken it during an outdoor amusement, his mouth well-formed, although animated by an equivocal smile, which announced his condescension and contempt, and he was athletic.”
His biographer also tells how Allende, on one occasion, saved an elderly man known as Tío Arriola from a fire. The old man lived alone at the back of his business, “a tendajón with a miserable appearance.” He was a stingy man who kept himself busy making money and was not given to more discourse with others than was strictly necessary. One night, tells Abad, a fire started under his street door, which soon drew a crowd outside the store. Tío Arriola, who slept as usual in the back part of the building, stunned and suffocated by the smoke, could not even get up despite knowing of the imminent danger, and he could hear the shouts in the street and knocks on the door. Allende found out what was happening and, accompanied by some friends, went to the old man’s shop. Listening to the cracking of the burning structure and realizing that the roof was about to collapse, Ignacio, assisted by two of his friends, managed to tear off the door, releasing a thick cloud of smoke. Ignacio went to the back room and pulled the poor old man up, saving his life.
Abad Arteaga says Allende had an affair with “a girl of this place, rich and beautiful.” The biographer omitted her name because when he was writing the book several of her relatives were still living, but he said that the family did not approve of her relationship with the young Ignacio, because of his promiscuity. To try to separate the couple, the family moved the girl to the home of one of her cousins, wealthy and respected in the village, and to whom Allende “professed respect as his superior in the Regiment of the Dragoons of the Queen.”
Ignacio, however, continued to woo the girl. Her brother vowed to dissuade Allende. Determined to intimidate him, the brother brought from one of his haciendas “four cowboys and armed each one of them with swords.” He ordered them to hide at 11pm behind the pillars of the portals of the main square, where Allende was supposed to pass, and to beat him as much as possible. The four men did as they were ordered, but when they tried to attack Allende, the latter, who was skilled in the use of arms, drew his sword, striking the first and knocking him to the ground, then seized the second by the arm, and while the other two men fled, threatened to kill him if he did not confess who had sent him. The terrified man spoke. The next day, Ignacio made a visit to his enemy and threatened him in the same terms as he had threatened his assailants. In the end, Abad claims, Ignacio stopped pursuing the girl, who ended up marrying her wealthy cousin, with whom she had two children who died childless. Through what Abad Arteaga says, we could deduce that the girl in question was María Josefa de la Canal y Landeta, who married her first cousin on both sides, Don Narciso María Loreto de la Canal y Landeta, Colonel and Captain of the Regiment of the Dragoons of the Queen, with whom she had two children who died unmarried and childless. The Canal family lived in the house that today lodges the bank Banamex and the museum of Fomento Cultural Banamex, at the corner of Plaza Principal and Canal.
Allende had other affairs and three children out of wedlock. Indalecio, who accompanied him in the War of Independence, was born from his affair with Antonia Herrera; another affair produced another son, José María, who fought years later during the US invasion (1846–1847). A daughter was born from another of his trysts, Juana Maria, who embraced the religious life.
Finally, Allende married Maria de la Luz Agustina de las Fuentes on April 10, 1802, at the Sanctuary of Atotonilco; witnesses were his brother, Juan María de Lanzagorta, and his sister, Manuela de Allende de Lanzagorta. Unfortunately, Luz Agustina died in October 1802, less than a year after their wedding.