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What Lies Beneath?


By Cheryl Young

Does San Miguel sit on a vast network of tunnels? Did rebels hide there from Spanish troops? Did government and religious officials travel by “underground carriage” for clandestine meetings? Was the gold and silver of wealthy San Miguel families stored beneath their feet?

Naturally, rumors abound. In the eighteenth century, don Manuel Tomás de la Canal, an enormous benefactor to the town, financed the building of tunnels, which conveyed fresh spring water from El Chorro throughout the city. A persistent tale is that one tunnel was large enough to accommodate a horse and carriage and that it ran from the Canal Mansion to their country estate, now the Instituto. Other stories tell of a network of large tunnels between the mansions of San Miguel and the churches: horse-drawn carriages could have transported the elegant ladies of the family in comfort, safety, and privacy.

Actually, there is no evidence of large tunnels under San Miguel, but there might be historical precedent. In 2014, city workers in Puebla, doing routine maintenance in the Historic Center, broke through to a long-forgotten, 500-year-old network of large, stone-lined tunnels. Measuring more than 10 kilometers in length (six miles) and with four entrances, these tunnels are definitely high and wide enough to have conveyed the carriages of the rich, caches of weapons, or even platoons of soldiers. Prior to the War of Independence in 1810, a senior military man, Félix Maria Calleja, apparently ordered tunnels built under major centers in Mexico in order to serve as military storage bunkers and places to hide wealthy families and their property from insurgents.

An interesting historical factoid: Félix Calleja had a reputation for brutality, even cruelty. It was his force that captured the heroes of the War of Independence—Father Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, and José Mariano Jiménez. After these men’s execution by firing squad in 1811, it is in line with Calleja’s character that he would have ordered their decapitation and the hanging of their heads on the four corners of the Alhondiga de Granaditas (grainery) in Guanajuato as a warning to other challengers to absolute Spanish rule. The heads hung there for 10 years.

Regardless of what you hear or read, don’t dig: join the PPN Architectural Tour for 350 pesos. Then go deeper into San Miguel’s past, and take the regular Historical Tour, running every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 300 pesos. One hundred percent of the tour donations and tips go to support PPN’s important work. For 48 years, this nonprofit organization has been providing necessary medical and dental services to children in San Miguel whose families cannot afford to provide it for them. In 2017, more than 12,500 children benefited from PPN services; that is more than 1,000 per month!

All tours are given in English. No reservations required, but we may need to limit the group size. With only five days’ notice, we can offer private, customized tours. Contact Christina 152 7796 for information.

Source: “Secret Tunnels in San Miguel”, by Maricela Ramirez Cerroblanco, in the PPN files. Source: Mexico News Daily, September 5, 2015. [1]


The Patronato Pro Niños Architectural Walking Tour

Thu, Aug 16, 9:45am (10am start)

Meet in the Jardín, across from the Parroquia

350 pesos per person

300 for regular Historical Tours

Donation for Architectural Tours



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