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Architectural Walking Tour Celebrates the Italian Influence in San Miguel

By Cheryl Young

During the “Porfiriato,” (1876-1911), a period of relative stability in Mexican history, the dictator-president Porfirio Díaz embarked on an ambitious program of modernizing México’s infrastructure. In addition to building railways and bridges, he apparently wished to transform the country’s public face by sweeping away all architectural references to México’s Spanish colonial heritage.

In its place, México embraced the Neo-Renaissance (Classical) style of architecture, popular in Europe for over a century. The spectacular Belles Artes and Palacio de Correos (Post Office) in México City are both early twentieth-century examples of this revival.

While Diaz’s preference was for French-inspired public buildings and structures (like our Jardín), there were other Renaissance revivalist styles, such as Italian. When you stroll west upon calle Mesones, you will see a pink cantera (made of quarried stone) building that looks very much like a miniaturized version of a much larger and grander structure, one that seems like it was shrunk to fit the space. This “mini-palazzo” is the Teatro Ángela Peralta (named for a famous and beloved Mexican opera singer). Its construction began in the 1870s, and it’s Neo-Renaissance Italianate facade was added in a 1914 update.

Early documents of the history of the building imply that having a permanent location for a theater was deemed appropriate, and indeed necessary, for a town as successful as San Miguel de Allende. With its construction, city residents, some of whom helped fund the construction, could now enjoy a wider variety of musical and dramatic entertainments, including those from prominent performers who formerly would have put only the state capital of Guanajuato on their itinerary—a little intercity rivalry no doubt.

The Teatro facade was rapturously described as a “beautiful work full of harmony, simplicity, and good taste [and] classic style, drawing [upon] the clear talent and great artistic disposition of humble master bricklayer Don Antonio de la Sierra.”

Sadly, unlike with the other master mason of San Miguel, Zeferino Gutiérrez Muñoz, we have no further historical accounts of Don de la Sierra.

But his work can surely speak for him: in the facade of the Teatro, this master mason employed elements of the Neo-Renaissance Italianate style in use of Doric columns, the pediments (triangular shapes) which top the windows and the building itself, and in the famous Palladian-style windows that are still employed in many beautiful private homes today.

Patronato Pro Niños (PPN) invites you to join its Architecture Walk on Thursday, July 18. All donations and tips made on this walk support PPN’s important work. For 49 years, this nonprofit organization has been providing medical and dental services to children in San Miguel whose families cannot afford it. In 2018, the organization served 7,636 children—more than 600 per month!

All walks are conducted in English. To arrange a private tour, contact Christina at 415 152 7796 or at historicalwt@patronatoproninos.org

 

Tour

The Architectural Walk from Patronato Pro Niños

Thu, Jul 18, 10am

350 pesos

Please gather in front of the Parroquia at 9:45am

No reservation required

Donation taken onsite

 

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