Long Live the Mexican Fiesta
By Jesús Aguado
September is the month of the mo-therland, and even people who are not Mexicans wear boots, giant hats, and mustaches as they cry in unison, “Viva México, Viva la Independencia, Viva San Miguel de Allende!” Everybody drinks tequila in September. Everybody is friendly with everybody else, and they all sing the popular “second Mexican anthem,” “México lindo y querido” (Loved and Cherished Mexico), as well as songs from guanajuatense José Alfredo Jimenez and, of course, songs from “Chente” Fernández.
A fiesta for all
The celebrations start on Sunday, September 13, with the symbolic race through the city’s main streets. The winners of this race will go to Querétaro on September 15 to take part in the initial ceremony when the mayor of Querétaro delivers the message that the conspiracy has been discovered and responds to the request made by Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez to warn the conspirators in San Miguel. On September 15, the athletes leave Querétaro at 5pm and come to San Miguel along the same route taken by the messenger Ignacio Pérez in 1810.
While the athletes are on their way with the torch of freedom, a group of people representing the insurgents leave from Calzada de la Aurora headed for the historic center (they actually arrived the next evening). At 10:30pm the Mexican flag will be carried by Mayor Mauricio Trejo from the old city hall building to Allende’s house. At 10:55pm the athletes will arrive from Querétaro at the Casa de Allende with the message, and at 11pm Mayor Trejo will give the cry of independence from the right balcony of Allende’s house. The festivities will continue in the Jardín with a fireworks display and Mexican music until 3am.
On September 16, an early-morning civic ceremony will be held in the Jardín, and local authorities will light the flame of freedom. At 11am a civil and military parade will leave from El Cardo and pass through the main streets of the city, featuring members of the army, students, beauty queens, floats, and some civic organizations.
Entrance of the insurgents
In 1982, Eleazar Romero came up with the idea of holding the reenactment of the entrance of the insurgents. On September 16, 1810, the insurgents had arrived in San Miguel and waited on calle Volcano (now Insurgentes) with Father Hidalgo while Allende entered the city with a commission, hoping to take it peacefully.
According to history, and this fact is reenacted with the entrance of the insurgents, Allende entered the city and went to Narciso de la Canal’s house to ask him to hand over the city to the insurgents. Canal did not open the door. Allende went to the consistorial house (the former city hall building) that the Spanish were using as a refuge, knocked on the door, and asked them to hand over the village. They said that they would not do this unless a command came from Narciso de la Canal. Allende went back to Canal’s house. This time the commander of the Dragones de la Reina opened the door. Allende promised him that his army would not harm the Spanish, but the village had to be handed. Canal knew how honest Allende was and went with him to the consistorial house to hand over the town. After this, the insurgents entered the city. The next day, September 17, 1810, the first independent—not elected by the Spanish—city council was formed.
The reenactment of this event features sanmiguelenses who dress as villagers of that time, armed with stones, machetes, sticks, torches, and many other tools that could have been used as weapons then. This annual event takes place on Thursday, September 16, at 6pm. It begins on Avenida Independencia, continues on Insurgentes, and goes through Hernández Macías, Canal, Plaza Principal, San Francisco, Corregidora, Correo, the esplanade of the Jardín, and the Portal Allende, ending in front of the former consistorial house.
Finally, on September 17, there is a reenactment of the formation of the first city council of the independent Mexico. You can find the whole program in Que Pasa.
Some of the history
After the Napoleonic invasion Spain in 1808 and the imprisonment of King Carlos IV and his son Fernando VII (to whom his father had ceded the throne), criollos (creoles, children of Spanish parents but born in Mexico) all over New Spain started organizing meetings in order to plan independence from Spain. They did not want to be under French rule, and they were tired of the Spanish occupying key positions in the government, leaving the less important ones to criollos.
The successful conspiracy meeting, which had local members, including Ignacio Allende (general of the Dragones de la Reina army), Francisco de Lanzagorta, Juan de Umarán, Juan and Ignacio Aldama, and Luis Malo, among others, took place in San Miguel el Grande. Later, the members of this meeting invited new members, such as Miguel Domínguez, the corregidor (a kind of magistrate appointed by the viceroy of New Spain for Querétaro) and his wife Josefa Ortiz, as well as Miguel Hidalgo, a priest in the community of Dolores. Some of the conspiracy meetings in San Miguel were held on the second story of the house on Reloj at the corner of the Plaza Principal. There the conspirators concealed their meetings with private parties. They planned the start of the fight for independence on December 8, 1810, during the celebration of our Lady of San Juan in San Juan de los Lagos. On that date, there were many people attending the celebration, and the conspirators could attract them to the cause. Unfortunately, the plan was uncovered, and they had to begin the war on Sunday, September 15, 1810, in Dolores Hidalgo. There, the campesinos gathered at the sound of the bell calling for mass, met Hidalgo, who explained the plan, provided rustic weapons to the gathering, and started the war of Independence crying “long live Fernando VII!” and “death to the bad government!”
The path from Dolores to San Miguel
Eleazar Romero, from the “Tradiciónalistas” (a group devoted to preserving San Miguel traditions), told Atención that the viceroy knew that Ignacio Allende was involved in conspiracy meetings. He commanded Narciso María Loreto de la Canal, commander of the Dragones de la Reina army, to arrest Allende. Allende knew about this, but he was a friend of de la Canal, who did not arrest him. Canal was also in agreement with the war of independence. According to Romero, Allende freely participated in the procession at the big celebration in honor of Our Lady of Loreto, who was the Grand Patroness of San Miguel. This was one of the most important events in the small town, a yearly celebration that took place on September 8 with a major procession through the main streets.
Later, on September 15, the vice-regal authorities started arresting the conspirators, but Josefa Ortiz (the corregidora) had time to send a message to Allende via Ignacio Pérez, who arrived in San Miguel on horseback during the night. Looking for Allende, who was in Dolores for the celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows, Pérez was unable to find him. He handed over the message to Juan Aldama, who rode to Dolores and informed Allende and Hidalgo that the conspiracy had been uncovered. “We are lost, and there is not another option than to go and kill the gachupines (Spaniards),” said Hidalgo, who, as the priest of the area, was trusted. Hidalgo rang the church bell, the crowd gathered, and he invited them to fight for their freedom. He also released the imprisoned. The crowd joined the insurgents armed with stones, sticks, and machetes and launched their journey to independence.
On their way to San Miguel, the insurgents walked through Atotonilco, where the chaplain gave Hidalgo a banner bearing an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who became a major emblem of the war. The rebels continued their march toward San Miguel. The Spanish in San Miguel who were against the war heard about the danger and looked for refuge in the current city hall building, commanding Narciso de la Canal to protect them.
Traditionalist Romero says that Hidalgo allowed the insurgents to steal and commit vandalism during the war to get valuables “because they had never seen lux (light).” However, they did not commit any crimes in San Miguel because Hidalgo was a very serious and respected soldier. According to historian Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach, when the multitude that followed Hidalgo entered the village, “the mob gathered and opened the door of the store owned by don Francisco de Landeta (today La Coronela) and sacked it,” as well as another store owned by the Lambarri family. Allende, according to Jiménez, “disbanded the mob with a whip, and they retreated. Shortly after 10pm, everything was calm.”