Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Alhondiga

The Alhondiga was a large structure used to store grain in order to maintain a supply through times of drought. It was naturally fortified with high, thick walls and many small windows perfectly suited for musket fire. It was an easily defended structure and this was where the Spanish barricaded themselves when the Priest Hidalgo and the former Spanish Captain Allende entered the city with their poorly equipped army of 20,000 aboriginals and mestizos. This army of farmers and peasants was armed mainly with machetes, axes and a few small arms captured during the long march from Dolores (now Dolores Hidalgo) and San Miguel (now San Miguel de Allende). They had no artillery and little discipline but they had a noble cause, to eliminate the hated Spaniards from Mexico for once and for all.

This is the sight that greeted the Revolutionaries as they approached the Alhondiga which would have had muskets and perhaps cannon firing out of every window.

Alhondiga

The sole weak point was a massive wooden door and it was here where the military leader Allende concentrated his efforts to gain entry. A brave, freshly recruited young miner from Guanajuato called El Pipila strapped a stone slab to his back and, with a torch in one hand and pitch in the other, crouched over and amid a rain of bullets, ran to the door and set it ablaze! Here is the door:

door

The Spanish occupiers soon found their slow loading muskets to be no match against 20,000 machetes and axes. The Alhondiga would not have had stairs then but would have allowed for horses and carriages to enter.

When the Revolutionaries moved on to further battles the Spanish re-occupied Guanajuato. When the four leaders of the revolution, Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama and Jiminez were captured and executed the Spanish made the mistake of hanging their severed heads from the four corners of the Alhondiga. This was the corner Hidalgo’s head hung from:

Alhondiga corner

Instead of terrifying the peasants into submission this macabre spectacle only infuriated the people into furthering the Revolution and soon the last of the Spanish were killed or driven from the land. “New Spain” was now “Mexico”.

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