History of Querétaro, Part 2

Querétaro is a small city, but has played a key role in Mexican history.  I liken it to Philadelphia or Boston in terms of its size and historical importance.  Mexico is about to celebrate the bicentennial of its independence from Spain, which began in and around Querétaro.  One of its most illustrious citizens and perhaps the most famous women in Mexican history was Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez.  She is usually referred to as the Corregidora (or wife of the Corregidor, a colonial era official who functioned as a magistrate and town manager) and there are monuments, buildings, and streets named in her honor all over town.  She actively participated in the independence movement in the years leading up to 1810 and acted as a liaison between Allende and Hidalgo, the primary actors in the rebellion against Spain.  The Spanish fought tenaciously to retain their colony and dealt harshly with the insurgents.  The Corregidora was placed under house arrest for several years when her role became known.  Allende and Hidalgo fared worse.  They were captured by the colonial forces, executed, and their severed heads were placed in small cages and put on public display as a warning to others.  It wasn’t until 1821 that Spanish colonial rule finally ended. 

Querétaro was also the place where the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was ratified by the Mexican government.  If, like me, you were absent from school the day this subject was discussed, the Treaty brought an end to the Mexican-American War of 1846-48.  It seems that President Polk (when was the last time you thought of him?) was looking for an opportunity to fulfill the “manifest destiny” of U.S. expansion and claim the territory that now constitutes the states of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah, which had been part of the Spanish empire and became Mexican land after its independence.  Some questionable incidents on the amorphous U.S.-Mexican border of the time were used to assert that Mexico had violated U.S. sovereignty and the war ensued.  The U.S. Army and Marines eventually occupied Mexico City (as in “the halls of Montezuma” in the Marine Corps anthem) and the U.S. obliged Mexico to cede the desired territory and approve the Treaty.  There is a plaque on the outside wall of the building in Querétaro where the signing occurred and the historical marker inside makes reference to North American invaders and an unjust war.  I guess the Mexicans are entitled to their own interpretation of history in return for what was then one-half of their national territory.  It’s also interesting to note that many of the captains and colonels in the U.S. Army who got field experience during the Mexican-American War went on to become generals in both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. 

Querétaro was also the place where the Emperor Maximilian met his demise.  The short version of this complicated tale is that the French decided to try to impose colonial rule in Mexico in the 1860s.  Using the pretext of Mexico failing to pay its bond obligations to French investors and the fact that the U.S. was too busy fighting its Civil War to stop them, French troops invaded Mexico in 1862 and seized the reins of government.  They then found a Hapsburg prince, Maximilian, and made him Emperor of Mexico sustained by the French army and some Mexican royalists.  Maximilian ruled from Mexico City for a few years, but eventually the French withdrew their forces to deal with more pressing matters in Europe.  Maximilian fled the capital with some supporters and came to Querétaro, but Mexican republican troops surrounded him, lay siege to the city for a few months, and captured Maximilian in May of 1867.  He was tried in what is now the Teatro de la República in Querétaro, sentenced to death, and executed in what is now a park called the Cerro de las Campanas (Hill of Bells).  The Mexicans eventually allowed the Austrians to build a chapel in Maximilian’s memory on the site. 

Finally, the Teatro that I just mentioned was the site in 1917 of a constitutional convention following the unrest of the Mexican Revolution.  Although modified since then, the document hammered out among the delegates is still the basis of Mexican law today.  The Teatro is used now for musical performances and is the home of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the State of Querétaro, where you can attend classical music concerts for as little as MXP60 (about $5). 

We still have a few more lectures and city tours left in our history course, so stay tuned for more fascinating facts about the city of Querétaro in future posts!

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One Response to “History of Querétaro, Part 2”

  1. Shane Says:

    Great writeup, guys!

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