History of Mexico (Bancroft)/Volume 4/Chapter 6

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CHAPTER VI.

THE ALHÓNDIGA OF GUANAJUATO TAKEN BY STORM.

1810.

Local History of Ganajuato — Alarm in the City — Defensive Measures of Intendente Riaño — The Alhóndiga de Granaditas — An Interesting Manuscript — Riaño — Retires to the Alhóndiga — Hidalgo Summons Riaño to Surrender — The Attack — A Murderous Contest — Riaño's Death — His Biography — Confusion in the Alhóndiga — The Barricades Won by the Insurgents — They Gain Entrance — Berzábal's Fall — His Biography — Number of the killed — Acts of Heroism — Pillage and Devastation.

The province of Guanajuato was the theatre of the first tragic events of the revolution, and no city in the kingdom of New Spain suffered more cruelly in loss of life and ruin of prosperity than its capital, Santa Fé de Guanajuato, from which the province derived its name.[1] At the time of the conquest this territory was inhabited by barbarous tribes living on the produce of the chase, and the first Spaniards who penetrated it were the conquerors of Acámbaro, in which exploits joined the cacique of Jilotepec, Nicolás Montañez de San Luis, a near relative of Montezuma. In 1526 these adventurers apportioned out among themselves the districts of Acámbaro, Jerécuaro, and Coronéo.[2] In 1531 Nuño de Guzman passed through Pénjamo to the vicinity of the site of Guanajuato, and added the territory to his conquests. For seventy years the Chichimecs disputed with persistent bravery their right to the soil, until in 1598 peace was established by Rodrigo del Rio, who, in the name of the king of Spain, promised to supply the Indians with food and clothing on the conditions that they should tender allegiance and keep in subjection the refractory. At the same time the viceroy caused to settle there some Tlascaltecs and Aztecs, who instructed the Chichimecs in agricultural and mechanical industries, all under the guidance of missionaries. The first settlements in this province grew out of the establishment by Viceroy Velasco the first, of the presidios at the places now known as San Felipe and San Miguel, as a frontier protection against the Chichimecs; but on the discovery of the Guanajuato mines, as narrated in a previous volume,[3] a small fort was erected in 1554 on the site where Marfil stands, and was called a real de minas. A few years later another real de minas[4] was established at Tepetapa, which is the name of one of the wards of Guanajuato city. For many years this latter settlement was a place of little importance and few inhabitants, and was under the jurisdiction of the alcalde mayor of Celaya. At the close of the sixteenth century a curacy was founded, the population at that time being about four thousand. From this date, owing to the richness of the mines in the vicinity, the prosperity of Guanajuato increased rapidly, and in 1679 the king of Spain granted it the title of villa y real de minas de Santa Fé de Guanajuato.[5] From this time the district remained under the rule of the ayuntamiento and subdelegados, HHBHM V4 D156 Coat of Arms of the city of Guanajuato.jpgCoat Of Arms Of The City Of Guanajuato. subject to the audiencia of Mexico, until 1786, when the intendencias were established,[6] of which Guanajuato became one of the principal. In the mean time the town had been raised in 1741 to the dignity of city, an appropriate coat of arms being granted it.[7] At the opening of the nineteenth century, the progress made by Guanajuato and its prosperity were almost unprecedented.

The reader will be able to form some idea of the wealth and activity of the district at the time when the revolution broke out from the fact that in the year 1800 the mines, including those worked and those exhausted, numbered 1,816, employing 116 mills, 1,898 arrastras, and 366 establishments for the elaboration of the metal. There were crushed daily 11,500 quintales of ore, and 9,000 operatives employed. At this time the population of the city, including those occupied in the mines, was 66,000. Nor were the agricultural industries of the province, which embraced about 1,750 square leagues, less thriving; the numerous populous towns were surrounded by rich pastures and lands covered with maize and other grain. But now, like a flail of destruction, war falls on the unhappy city, and at its conclusion the population has diminished to six thousand souls, the unfrequented streets are covered with grass, and the abandoned houses are offered rent free.[8]

The first church established in the city was the edifice known to-day as the chapel of the college of La Purísima Concepcion, and in it Rivera placed the image of the santísima vírgen in 1557. A few years later another chapel was erected near by, and these two buildings were used as hospitals, the first one for the Tarascans and the second for the Otomis, a third being built for the benefit of the Mexican settlers. In 1671 was commenced the parish church, which was completed and dedicated in 1696, and thither was conveyed in the same year the image of our lady from the church of the hospital. The parish church of Guanajuato is one of the finest edifices of the kind in the Mexican republic. The ecclesiastical government of the province is under the bishopric of Michoacan. In 1663 Viceroy Serda and Bishop Ramirez del Prado granted permission to found the Franciscan convent of San Diego, but the work was stopped by order of the council of the Indies in the following year, because it had been begun without royal license. In 1667, however, the king's permission was granted, and the convent was erected into a guardianía in 1679. This church and convent were almost destroyed by the inundation of 1780, but were restored by the conde de Valenciana and some members of the brotherhood of el Cordon.[9]

On the 18th of September, Intendente Riaño received intelligence from Iriarte of the occurrences in Dolores and San Miguel. He immediately ordered the call to arms to be sounded, believing that Hidalgo was already on his march against the city. The guards and battalion of provincial infantry were hastily formed into line, while the principal citizens and the commercial class, hurriedly seizing their weapons, rushed with crowrds of the populace to the buildings of the intendencia. All was confusion and terror; the stores were closed and house doors barred; the plazas were deserted by the hucksters; frightened women hurried along the thoroughfares for their homes; while horsemen at full speed spread wider the consternation as they galloped in different directions through the streets with orders from headquarters.[10] Riaño explained to the assembled throng the cause of the alarm, and the populace expressed a desire to engage the enemy,[11] believing that the insurrection was a demonstration in favor of the French.[12] At two o'clock in the afternoon the intendente convoked a junta of the ayuntamiento, the prelates of the religious orders, and the principal citizens, at which he expressed his apprehension that the danger was great, but declared that he was determined to take every defensive measure possible.[13]

After some consultation it was decided to defend the city, and during the day barricades were thrown up at the entrances of the principal streets. Spaniards and Americans—as the creoles and Indians are now called[14]—were assembled in arms, and outlying detachments posted on the Santa Rosa and Villalpando highways which lead to Dolores and San Miguel. A third body of troops was stationed on the Marfil road. Squadrons of the cavalry regiment del Principe were ordered in, and advice asking for aid sent to Brigadier Feliz Calleja, in command of the troops at San Luis Potosí. On the following morning a false alarm was raised that the enemy was approach ing on the Marfil road; and the tardiness of the lower orders to assemble for defence amounted almost to indifference—a state of things significant of im pending misfortune. For six days these defensive measures were maintained, and still no enemy appeared.[15] The intendente displayed an energy and endurance which only the conviction of his perilous position could have called forth; but day by day he became more certain of the disaffected inclination of the lower classes. "The seeds of rebellion spread," he writes to Calleja on the 26th, "security and confidence are gone. I have neither rested nor undressed myself since the 17th, and for the last three days have not slept an hour at a time." Indeed, he could no longer rely upon the fidelity even of his own troops. The responsibility of saving, if possible, the royal treasury and archives increased Riaño's anxiety; and deeming his present arrangements defective, since he could avail himself neither of the barracks, the plaza, nor any of the churches, owing in part to the threatening attitude of the populace,[16] on the 23d he decided to retire to the alhóndiga de granaditas, or government granary—a building which from its size and strength would afford the advantages of a fortification.

The Alhóndiga de Granaditas, as famous in the history of Mexico as is the Bastile in that of France, had been erected by Riaño for the purpose of storing in it a quantity of corn sufficient for one year's consumption as a provision against failure of the crop. During such periods of scarcity not only did the lower orders suffer, but the mining industry was seriously interrupted through want of food for the mule-trails employed at the mines. The building was begun in January 1798, and finished in August 1809. It is a massive oblong two-story structure, 80 by 54 varas, and cost $218,263.[17] The exterior is void of ornament, and its lofty solid walls pierced by windows opening into the numerous store-rooms give to it quite a formidable appearance. In the interior a portico of two stories surrounds the spacious patio, or open court, the lower columns being of Tuscan architecture, and the upper ones, between which a balustrade of stone extends, of Doric. Two magnificent flights of stairs connect the stories, which consist of independent store rooms.

On the northern side is the principal gateway, and another opens at the eastern end of the building, adorned with two columns and a Tuscan entablature. It stands at the south-western entrance of the city, on a rising ground which terminates the height called the cerro del Cuarto by which it is dominated. Stored with maize and supplied with water, the alhóndiga[18] was the only place where the intendente could hope to hold out till the arrival of Calleja, whom he expected within a week. Anticipating that the movement would meet with opposition, on the night of the 24th he caused secretly to be conveyed thither all the royal and municipal treasures, amounting to over $620,000 in money, bars of silver, and gold ounces,[19] the archives of the government and ayuntamiento, and eventually the treasures of many private persons, estimated at three million pesos.[20] Thither, also, were removed the arms and ammunition of the barracks, sacks of flour, and other provisions. In the dead of the night, too, the barricades were taken down and the material carried to the alhóndiga. Then the troops were withdrawn from the barracks and outlying posts, numbers of the Europeans mustered together, and soldiers and civilians, in one common lot, took refuge within the walls of this building.

When morning dawned and the city was astir the news spread. The unguarded streets, the disappearance of the barricades, and the silent barracks proclaimed to the populace that their reluctant allegiance had been recognized, and that they were left to choose between loyalty and rebellion. Fear fell on all. The ayuntamiento in great excitement requested the intendente to preside over a junta composed of its own members, the curas, prelates of the religious orders, and principal citizens, in the municipal hall. Riaño declined on the plea of weariness, but expressed his willingness to attend a junta in the afternoon; but it must be held in the alhóndiga de granaditas, and not in the municipal hall. The meeting took place; but civil officers, priests, and prelates in turn vainly endeavored to induce Riaño to change his purpose. The intendente was inflexible, and according to the representation of the ayuntamiento to the viceroy a few months later, he bluntly dismissed them with the assurance that, in the interest of the king, he should remain with the troops where he was, and that as for the city it might defend itself as best it could.[21]

During that and the two following days the intendente devoted all his energies to the defence of his position. Additional provisions were introduced into the alhóndiga; strong barricades were thrown up at the only three points by which attacks could be made through the streets; the eastern gateway was closed with solid masonry; the iron quicksilver flasks, charged with gunpowder, were converted into grenades, and further information was despatched to Calleja,[22] setting forth his want of arms, and the doubtful fidelity of his troops.[23]

In order that the reader may understand Riaño's position, and the mode of attack adopted by the insurgents in the ensuing engagement, a brief descrip tion of the city of Guanajuato will be necessary. Situated at the bottom of a deep and narrow hollow, round which on all sides rise lofty mountains, its position in a military point of view is one of the worst. On the south side rises the hill of San Miguel, while from the north the cerro del Cuarto[24] extends like a wedge into the city. So irregular is the site that it might well be described by crumpling a sheet of paper. On the plaza itself but few level spots can be found, and few of the streets accommodate carriages. Most of the houses occupy slopes so steep that in many cases the floor of one is on a level with the roof of another. An extension of this rugged hollow runs off in the form of a rocky valley south-westerly to Marfil, a league distant, and known by the name of the cañada de Marfil. Its whole length was occupied by workshops, mills, and other buildings connected with mining. Formerly the only carriage entrance into the city lay through this glen.[25] To the east of the city rises the river Guanajuato, here a mere mountain torrent, which sweeping in a winding course through the city unites with the Rio de la Cata flow ing from the north-west. Although situated on a rising ground, the alhóndiga was so close to the cerro del Cuarto that the houses built on the steep of that height were only separated from it by a narrow street and a small plaza, not more than twenty-five yards wide. On the south-east of the alhóndiga was the convent of Belen, from which it was separated by the descent of Mendizábal, and on the south and west were the extensive workshops and premises of the hacienda de Dolores where the precious metals were treated. On the north, extending east and west, was the street of los Pozitos in a straight line with the descent to the Rio de la Cata, which was spanned by a wooden bridge. Herewith I give a plan of the alhóndiga and vicinity with explanation.[26]

From this description the reader will observe that the only three directions from which an assault could be made upon the alhóndiga were from the street of los Pozitos; up the cuesta de Mendizábal; and up the ascent from the Rio de la Cata. These approaches were obstructed by the barricades, already mentioned. Riaño did not confine his defence to the alhóndiga, but included in his lines of fortification the house owned by Mendizábal and the hacienda de Dolores, which were surrounded by strong walls and separated from the alhóndiga by two narrow streets.

HHBHM V4 D164 Plan of Alhondiga.jpg

Plan of Alhóndiga

Meanwhile, Hidalgo, marching through Salamanca, Irapuato, and other places which voluntarily joined his cause, approached Guanajuato in the early morning of the 28th. He was well informed of the position of affairs in the city. Arrived at the hacienda of Burras he sent forward Ignacio Camargo and Mariano Abasolo[27] with a communication to Riaño informing him of the proclamation of independence, and urging a peaceable surrender. The letter terminated with a declaration of war to the uttermost in case of refusal.[28] Before nine o'clock the messengers reached the barricade at the foot of the cuesta de Mendizábal, and Camargo was conducted blindfolded into the alhóndiga. Riaño on receiving Hidalgo's communication assembled the Europeans on the flat roof of the building, apart from the troops, and having read it to them asked their decision. For some moments there was a mournful silence, till finally their captain, Bernardo del Castillo, after a few brief remarks declared for war. He would fight till he died in maintaining the right; and thereupon raised the cry of "Death or victory!" in which the Europeans now joined.[29] Riaño then descended to discover the intentions of the troops. "And my children of the battalion," he asked, "can I doubt about their resolution to do their duty?" Whereupon Berzábal raised the cry of "Viva el rey!" and the soldiers vociferously responded. Neverthe less, before sending his reply, Riaño considered it right to communicate with the ayuntamiento, and sent by the procurator Pedro Cobo, who being a Spaniard had taken refuge in the alhóndiga, copies of Hidalgo's letter and his intended reply.[30] Much delay occasioned in assembling the members, who had retired to their houses, and when they met they had no advice to offer. Calling attention to the fact that they had neither troops, arms, nor funds any longer at their disposal, they said that it remained with the intendente to act under the circumstances as it seemed best to him. Riaño's reply was at last written and Camargo sent back, but the long delay had caused Abasolo to return, and Hidalgo was already approaching up the Marfil road. The intendente then wrote Calleja: "I am about to fight, for I shall be attacked immediately. I shall resist to the uttermost, because I am honorable. Fly to my succor."

Riaño now disposed his forces, which consisted of four companies of the provincial infantry, commanded by Captain Manuel de la Escalera, in the absence of the lieutenant-colonel, Quintana,[31] and scarcely numbering 300 men. Besides these was a company of armed Europeans, which raised the number to about 500, and two troops of dragoons, not mustering more than seventy, under the command of Captain José Castilla.[32] A portion of the infantry and of the European company was stationed on the roof of the alhóndiga, and detachments of the provincial battalion were posted at the three barricades. The cavalry were drawn up inside the barrier at the descent to the Rio de la Cata; to the remaining armed Europeans was assigned the defence of the hacienda de Dolores, while a body of reserves was retained within the alhóndiga.[33] While these preparations were going on, it was noticed that the surrounding heights were occupied by crowds of the populace, who seated on the ground calmly looked on as if at a bull-fight.

Shortly before midday, Hidalgo's army appeared in sight, approaching by the Marfil road.[34] Advancing along the causeway of Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato, the van, composed of a strong body of Indians armed with lances, clubs, and bows and arrows, crossed the bridge and arrived in front of the barricade at the foot of the cuesta de Mendizábal. Gilberto de Riaño, son of the intendente,[35] who was in command at this point, opened fire on them as they continued to advance, when ordered, in the name of the king, to halt. Several Indians fell; the rest retreated, and guided by a native of the place, took up a position on the cerro del Cuarto. The main body now formed into two divisions, one of which, making a detour, approached by the cerro de San Miguel, and entering the city by the causeway of las Carreras,[36] liberated the jail prisoners, and then occupied the cerro del Venado. The other division made a detour by the hacienda de Flores in order to occupy the cerro del Cuarto.

The city was now in possession of the insurgents, and, as they marched through the streets, thousands of voices raised the dreadful battle-cry, while they waved hundreds of different colored banners, on which was depicted the sacred emblem. The miners, a brave and hardy class, and the populace joined Hidalgo, and soon all the heights which commanded the alhóndiga were occupied. Soldiers of the Celaya regiment, armed with muskets, and a host of Indian slingers were posted on the cerro del Cuarto; a similar disposition was made on the cerro del Venado. The houses in front of the alhóndiga on the north side were filled with sharp-shooters, and swarms of Indians in the river bed broke stones for the slingers, others carrying them up the heights. Hidalgo, pistol in hand, at the head of about two thousand mounted men, among whom were the dragoons of the regiment de la Reina, hastened from point to point, encouraging his men, giving instructions, and making his dispositions for the assault.[37]

At length the performance begins. Hidalgo's soldiers open fire on the besieged, while from the heights and house roofs a furious discharge of stones is rained down on the alhóndiga. Dense masses of Indians assault the barricades, and though the slaughter from the enemy's volleys, fired at close range into the compact mass, is terrific, it fails to repel the assailants. As the front ranks fall, others supply their places, pressed onward by those behind; and thus over the bodies of the dead and dying the contest rages uninterruptedly. For the besieged the position is terrible. The reports of the muskets, the hiss of bullets, the hoarse hum of the jagged stones as they whirl through the air and fall on the roof as from an emptying volcano is worse than the infernal din of Satan's enginery.[38]

For half an hour the battle rages. The assailants show no intention of ceasing their efforts to storm the barricades. The carnage among the assailants is fearful, but to see their comrades shot down by their side only the more enrages them. The defenders of the barrier at the street of los Pozitos are being hard pressed, and Riaño sallies with twenty men to their support. His courage outstrips his prudence; yet, stationing the men, he returns to the alhóndiga unscathed through a storm of missiles. He mounts the steps of the entrance and turns round to see how the battle goes—then he drops dead, struck through the brain by a bullet. A soldier of the Celaya regiment had marked him for his own. The body is dragged within,[39] and the hearts of those present sink as they gaze on their commander's lifeless form.

Thus fell the first man of note in the revolutionary war, a man whose death was much lamented. Riaño was an incorruptible and just but merciful magistrate. He was headstrong and rash, yet he was honest and humane. The beneficent measures adopted while he was intendente of Guanajuato raised the province to its highest prosperity. It is claimed for him that liberal and enlightened views led him to recognize the blessings of independence; and to his friends, of whom Hidalgo was one, he did not hesitate to express liberal opinions. It is further urged that, had the declaration of independence come from a more legitimate source, had it been proclaimed by the constituted authorities, as might have been the case if Iturrigaray had not been deposed, Riaño would unhesitatingly have supported it; but he could not countenance what he deemed a lawless movement, a movement whose origin was so humble, and whose agents were so ignoble. But we may well doubt, if the independence of Mexico had been left wholly to Spanish officials, the corrupt and mercenary minions of a corrupt and mercenary monarch, that it would ever have been achieved. New Spain was in no sense a confederation of states, like the English colonies in America, with men at the helm native-born and of independent thought and action. Conditions were different here, and the desired results must come through different means. I believe this uprising of the native and mixed races to have been one of the inexorable dispensations in the case. It was meet that a remnant of that people, who had suffered so gross and long-continued wrongs at the hands of Europeans, should be the first to rise in rebellion against them, when once opportunity offered a reasonable hope of success.

Riaño was a better man than the average Spanish official in America; but it was not at the individual the blow was aimed. We all recognize his simple and modest deportment, his kindness and accessibility to the poor, his pleasant companionship and literary attainments, which made him alike popular with high and low.[40]

The death of the intendente carries confusion and disorder among the besieged. A dispute arises between Manuel Perez Valdés, asesor of the intendencia, and Major Berzábal, each claiming the right to the chief command. There is no time to settle it; the assault is continued with increased obstinacy, and for hours the fierce contest rages. Heavier falls the stone deluge, and fiercer is the rush at the barricades. All discipline is lost; as first one and then another issues orders, the soldiers of the line only obeying their respective officers. The defenders of the barricades can hold their positions no longer, and are ordered to abandon them and retreat to the alhóndiga. The ponderous doors are then hastily closed, leaving the cavalrymen outside, and cutting off from place of refuge those in the hacienda de Dolores. The former are instantly surrounded, and Castilia, their captain, and many others slain; of the rest, some few escape in the crowd, and some take part with the insurgents. The roof of the alhóndiga is no longer tenable, and those posted on it retire below. Surrender, however, is not thought of; and in the dense masses of the revolutionists as they throng in front of the building the slaughter caused by the fire of the besieged from the windows is fearful. Presently miners, partially protected by huge earthen vessels,[41] creep up to the building and work with crow-bars at the wall, trying to effect a breach. But the walls are thick arid strong, and Hidalgo, seeing that the door, though of massive wood, can be more quickly broken through, orders crow-bars. A more ready way is found, however, by a young miner standing near, who offers, if provided with pitch and combustibles, to set fire to it.[42] These are procured from a neighboring store, and the intrepid youth, under cover of one of the earthen vessels, makes his way up to the entrance and accomplishes the daring feat. When they see their barrier yielding to the flames, consternation falls on the besieged. As the fire eats its way into the wood, the impatient assailants rush at the door. It does not yet yield. Berzábal draws up in line before the entrance such soldiers as he can collect, to resist the attack. The deadly grenades are brought into play, and the havoc they cause is terrible. Gilberto Riaño, maddened at his father's death,[43] thinks only of revenge, and the infernal engines which he had contrived are hurled rapidly through the windows upon the multitude. Each bomb as it explodes sows the ground with dead and mangled bodies. But like the rushing-in of mighty waters, every space thus cleared is quickly filled.

The European civilians in the building are demoralized by panic fear. Some shower down among their foes money from the windows. Vain effort! As well throw crumbs to hungry wolves. Are not all the treasures of the alhóndiga theirs? Some throw aside their arms in despair and seek to disguise themselves; others wildly shout out that they will capitulate, and others betake themselves to prayer. A few, brave to the last, resolve to die rather than yield. Finally, confusion increasing and all hope abandoned, the asesor Valdés causes a white handkerchief to be hoisted as a signal of surrender. In denser crowds the besiegers surge forward. But Gilberto Riaño and others, ignorant of what Valdés has done, still cast their destructive bombs.[44]Whereat the besiegers in fury are beside themselves. The roar of the multitude as they raise the cry of Treachery! treachery! is heard all over the city, and the order is issued to kill and spare not.[45] Against the burning door, although not yet consumed, they throw themselves until it yields, and the maddened crowd rush like a torrent of flame over the burning debris through the entrance. A deadly volley at point-blank range is poured into them by Berázabal and his men, strewing the ground with the dead. But their impetus is irresistible. Surging onward over the fallen, the human wave overwhelms or drives before it the defenders at the entrance, and Berzábal with a few survivors makes his last stand in a corner of the court.

The struggle is brief. His soldiers are soon stretched upon the pavement; the standard-bearers fall; but Berzábal, supporting the colors with his left arm, for a while defends himself with his sword, till pierced by a dozen lances he sinks lifeless on the ground,[46] still clinging to the standard in his death agony. The victors now rush forward into every part of the building, killing without mercy and without discrimination. Surrendered soldiers are cut down, and civilians who have secreted themselves among the stores are dragged forth and ruthlessly butchered. Above the din, shots still are heard in different parts of the alhóndiga, as here and there some one still undaunted dearly sells his life and kills as he dies. But fainter and fainter grow these sounds, which presently cease; then for a brief space the dull, heavy thud of the death-blow is heard; and then all is still; resistance is at an end.

Pillage is next in order. From the living, the dying, and the dead, the clothes are torn. The store rooms are ransacked and the treasures carried off, the plunderers fighting among themselves for the spoils. What a sight is here, oh God! and all for liberty, all for tyranny; liberty or tyranny among some, with others, glory, gold, or plunder—among all with more or less of that horrid gratification a bloodhound feels as it tears its victim limb from limb and scatters around the bloody fragments. Blood! blood and mangled humanity everywhere. Nude, distorted forms lay stretched on heaps of maize saturated with blood, and on piles of silver bars dyed crimson; blood-stained pillagers bear off their blood-bespattered plunder over the pavements slippery with gore; while the wild gesticulations, the exultant shouts, and the savage oaths of the frenzied victors, would put to shame hell's banqueters!

When the Europeans who were in the hacienda de Dolores saw that the revolutionists had possession of the alhóndiga, they meditated escape by a side door on the north-west, which opened to the wooden bridge over the Rio de la Cata. It had, however, already been broken open by the insurgents, who were pouring in in overwhelming numbers. The doomed band—among whom was Francisco Iriarte, who, as the reader is aware, had been commissioned by the intendente to report to him Hidalgo's proceedings at Dolores—then retired to the well, which was situated in an elevated position. There they defended themselves till their last cartridge was spent, inflicting heavy loss upon their assailants, Iriarte alone killing eighteen. But the crowd now closed in upon them in overpowering numbers, and the ground was quickly covered with the slain. It is said that some, to avoid death by the hands of the merciless victors, threw themselves into the well.

By five o'clock in the afternoon the contest, which had lasted for four hours, ceased, and orders were given to take the prisoners to the jail from which the criminals had been released. Naked and wounded and bound with cords, the wretched survivors were dragged and driven along with insults, blows, and threats of death, many of them dying on the way. Others perished in the prison. Gilberto Riaño and Bernabe Bustamante, both badly wounded, were permitted to go into a private house, but died a few days afterward. Among the slain were sons of the first families of Guanajuato, and many of the principal citizens. With regard to the number killed no certainty can be arrived at, but it probably amounted to over six hundred men, soldiers and civilians.[47]

Of the insurgents, exclusive of the regular soldiers who fell on their side, at least two thousand Indians perished, the wounded being in small proportion to the dead, having been trampled to death by their infuriated comrades as they rushed forward to avenge them.[48]

The victory was dearly purchased, the loss sustained being so heavy that the revolutionary leaders deemed it prudent to conceal it. During the night great trenches were dug in the dry bed of the river and into them the dead were thrown. Some of the slain royalists were dragged by their arms and legs from the alhóndiga on the following morning and cast naked into the burial-ground of Belen, the body of the intendente alone being covered with a miserable shroud supplied by the friars of the convent.[49] Any manifestation of pity for the dead was dangerous.[50]

The capture of the alhóndiga was accomplished by no regular military tactics. Hidalgo's dispositions were only general, and confined to directions given to occupy the commanding heights. After the first attack the leaders had little control over their followers, who were little better than a mob of ill-armed and unorganized Indians. Yet there was courage among them, and love of country, self-sacrifice, and true heroism. With all the valor of veteran warriors, they here fought for the first time in their lives. Hidalgo's followers, united with the populace of the city, once launched against their oppressors, moved onward with irresistible force. At the sight of blood, their own blood, that of their comrades and of their enemies, they became demons infuriate. Bustamante relates that an Indian seized a bomb thrown at him and vainly strove to tear out the fuse with his teeth. The bomb exploded, blowing him to pieces. "It matters not” cried his comrades, "there are others behind."

Such were the first men who shed their blood in the cause of independence. On the side of the loyalists also individual acts of bravery were frequent, which bring to mind the dauntless bearing of the conquerors. Conspicuous among the cavalrymen, when they were surrounded, was José Francisco Valenzuela, who three times charged up and down the hill alone, clearing his way with his sabre. When dragged at last from his saddle on the points of lances, he still fought and slew his foes, shouting with his dying breath, Viva España![51]

When victory had declared for the insurgents, those who had remained inactive on the surrounding heights swarmed into the city to join in the plunder. As soon as the alhóndiga had been stripped of its treasures, a general assault was made on the shops and houses of the Europeans. During that night and for several succeeding days, pillage, devastation, and riot reigned. Above the noise of human voices were heard the hollow sounds of axe-blow and crow-bar on the doors, the rending of timbers, and the crashing of furniture wantonly destroyed. From the commercial stores merchandise of every description was seized. Bales of cambric and of cloth, sacks of cacao, and barrels of spirituous liquors were rolled into the streets, and sold to any who would buy for anything that could be obtained.[52]

Drunken Indians arrayed themselves in stolen clothing, and staggered along barefooted in bright uniforms and embroidered coats. The iron railings of the balconies were torn from the houses and the gratings from the windows. At night the streets were illumined by smoking torches, around which weird human forms, in every stage of drunkenness, yelled and gesticulated. The mining establishments in the city and neighborhood were ransacked, the precious metals, quicksilver, and implements carried off, and the machinery destroyed. In vain Hidalgo sought to arrest the depredation and disorder. A proclamation issued by him to that effect on the 30th was unheeded, and the rioters only ceased when their work was finished. The scene in Guanajuato was pitiahle.[53] The streets were cumbered with the wrecks of furniture, debris, and destroyed goods. Hundreds of families were hopelessly ruined. Silence reigned within the bare walls of the deserted houses, and the curse of the destroying angel seemed to have fallen on the so lately thriving city.

 

 
  1. The word is of Tarascan origin, and corrupted from Quanashuato, mean ing cerro de ranas, or froghill, a name given to the site, because of a rock shaped like a frog which was an object of worship to the natives. Medina, Chron. de S. Diego, 257-8. The capital at an early date was known by tho single appellation of Guanajuato.
  2. 'Segun aparece de la relacion inédita escrita por Montañez que copia íntegra el P. Fr. Pablo de la Concepcion Beaumont en su historia manuscrita de la provincia de Franciscanos de Michoacan, que existe en el archivo general.' Romero, Mich., 149-50.
  3. Hist. Mex., iii. 588, this series.
  4. In the times of the conquest, the site on which a Spanish army encamped was called 'real,' and not infrequently was partially fortified. Real de minas, therefore, means a military station in a mining district.
  5. The name of Santa Fé had been given to the place in 1658 by the oidor Antonio de Lara y Mogrovejo, who had been commissioned by Viceroy Alburquerque to preside over the elaboration of the silver accruing to the crown in that district. Medina, Ib.; Romero, Mich., 157. 'Elle reçut le privilége royal de villa in 1619.' Humboldt, Essai Pol., i. 247. This date must be a misprint.
  6. Consult Hist. Hex., iii. 452, this series.
  7. The coat of arms consists of a draped female figure blindfolded, holding in her right hand a chalice, and supporting a cross with her left arm. The design is symbolical of faith.
  8. After the independence Guanajuato again rapidly advanced, and in 1825 the city had a population of over 33,000, according to the census taken by the governor, Carlos Montesdeoca. Soc. Mex. Geog., ix. 93.
  9. According to Fernando Navarro y Noriega, the intendencia of Guanajuato comprised in 1810 three cities, four villas, and 62 towns, the total population amounting to 576,600 souls. Soc. Mex. Geog., 2a ep., i. 290-1.
  10. Hernandez y Dávalos, Col. Doc., ii. 277.
  11. 'Los que segun el general entusiasmo si entraron en aquel dia hubieran perecido sin remedio.' Bustamante, Cuad. Hist., i. 23.
  12. Liceaga, Adic. y Rectific., 73-4.
  13. The ayuntamiento of Guanajuato in February 1811 states to the viceroy that several of its members proposed to Riaño that he should immediately march against Hidalgo with the provincial battalion, which numbered more than 400 men, and with such armed citizens as could be mustered; and that had this measure been adopted the revolution would have been nipped in the bud. Guan. Pub. Vind. Ayunt., 10-11. Brigadier Miguel Costansó, the commissioner appointed to report on the matter, approved of Riaño's action in refusing to accede to the proposal, by doing which he would have left the capital of his province defenceless. Id., 71-2. Liceaga, with tedious length, also supports the intendente. Adic. y Rectific., 71-89. Alaman, on the contrary, considers that the proposed movement would have been the best that could be adopted, and supplies the additional information that Major Berzábal was one of those who proposed it. Hist. Mej., i. 407.
  14. We have here the most proper use, except as applied to the aborigines, of the many-sided and generally misappropriated word Americans. In treating of the aborigines the term properly fits all races indigenous to America. Next it may be employed, as in the present case, to designate a mixed mass of Indians, creoles, and mestizos as distinguished from European Spaniards with whom they are at war. But when we come to use the word Americans as opposed to Canadians, or still worse as in California to Mexicans, it is reduced to an absurdity.
  15. Hernandez y Dávalos, Col. Doc., ii. 277-8.
  16. 'Manifestándose con chistes y con burlas contrario á la causa de gobierno espanol.' Liceaga, Adic. y Rectific., 89.
  17. Liceaga, followed by Zamacois, here falls into several errors; but I am enabled to rectify their mistakes from the original statement of March 1810 passed by the intendente and audiencia. This document, which is in my possession, is particularly interesting as bearing the autograph signature of the unfortunate Riaño, as well as those of the members of the ayuntamientos for 1809 and 1810. Among these I may mention Marañon, Septiem, José Ignacio Rocha, Martin Coronel, and Ginori, all of whom signed the Pública Vindicacion del Ilustre Ayuntamiento de Santa Fé de Guanajuato Justificando su Conducta Moral y Política, a representation addressed to the viceroy in January, 1811, relative to the occurrences at Guanajuato, and printed by permission the same year. The intendente's and above mentioned names, with the exception of Ginori's, appear twice. The building accounts occupy nine folios, and are preceded by the order of the municipal junta on sealed paper for their examination by Martin Coronel. The document is inclosed in and attached to a portfolio of native leather on which is engrossed: Tomo 5º, 1809, Contiene la Cuenta General de la Fábrica de la Famosa Alhóndiga de Granaditas.
  18. An anonymous correspondent in a letter to the intendente's brother, dated Guanajuato, October 2, 1810, says: 'Este edificio es una verdadera fortaleza, y acaso la única que hay en el reino. El Sr Riaño cuando la hizo se propuso formar un Castillo para defensa del lugar, dándole el nombre de Alhóndiga.' Zerecero, Disc. Civic., 30.
  19. 'Se pasaron de las reales caxas á la alhóndiga trescientas nueve barras de plata, ciento setenta y quatro mil pesos efectivos, treinta y dos mil en onzas de oro, treinta y ocho mil de la ciudad, que estaban en las arcas de provincia, y treinta y tres mil que se hallaban en las del cabildo; veinte mil de la minería y depósitos, catorce mil de la renta de tabacos, y mil y pico de correos.' Guan. Pub. Vind. Ayunt., 14-15. A bar of silver weighed 135 marcs and its standard value was 1,100 pesos.
  20. Bustamante states the value of property in the precious metals, jewelry, and valuable merchandise that was removed into the alhóndiga during the night and following days amounted to 5,000,000 pesos. There were also 700 quintales of quicksilver deposited there. Cuad. Hist., i. 25.
  21. Guan. Pub. Vind. Ayunt., 17-20. Bustamante also affirms that the intendente thus expressed himself. Cuad. Hist., i. 24. Consult also Hernandez y Dávalos, Col. Doc., ii. 278.
  22. This was sent on the 26th. The bearer of the first despatch left Guanajuato at 1 p. m. on the 23d, and on his return left San Luis at 11 p.m. of the 24th with Calleja's reply enjoining Riaño to hold Guanajuato, and promising to be before the city during the next week. With regard to the speed of the courier Bustamante remarks: 'Que activos andaban estos hombres por salvarse!' Cuad. Hist., i. 25. The distance from Guanajuato to San Luis Potosí is some 52 leagues.
  23. 'Tengo poca polvora porque no la hay absolutamente, y la caballeria mal montada y armada sin otra arma que espadas de vidrio,' that is swords brittle as glass, 'y la infantería con fusiles remendados, no siendo imposible el que estas tropas sean seducidas.' Id., 24-5.
  24. So called because on it was exposed in early times one portion of the body of a malefactor who had been quartered. Alaman, Hist. Mej., i. 403.
  25. The difficulties of this road were such that in 1822 a new one was commenced over the hills, and this required a fine bridge to be built across the river Cata. It was completed in 1835. Liceaga, Adic. y Rectific., 7-8.
  26. A. The Alhóndiga. B. Convent of Belen. C. House of the hacienda de Dolores. D D D. Premises and work-shops of the same. E. The well. F. Barricade at the foot of the hill of Mendizábal. G. Hill of Mendizábal. H. House of Mendizábal whence the hill derived its name. I. Barricade in the street of los Pozitos. J. Street of los Pozitos. K. Ascent to the mines. L L. Entrances to streets which Riaño closed with masonry. M. Descent to the Rio de la Cata. N. Barricade preventing approach from the river. O. Principal entrance of the alhóndiga, the only one not closed. P. Eastern entrance closed with masonry. Q. Opening on to the flat roof. B. Window from which Riaño was shot. S. Cemetery of Belen. T. Street of Belen. U U. Bridge and causeway of Our Lady of Guanajuato. V. Rio de Guanajuato. X. Rio de la Cata. Y. The wooden bridge, Z. Workshop of Granaditas and ward of Tepetapa. Z'Z'. The cerro del Cuarto covered with houses commanding the alhóndiga. *Spot where Berzábal fell.
  27. Liceaga was a relative of Abasolo, and being in Guanajuato at the time tried to see him, but was prevented by the dense crowds. Adic. y Rectific., xi. and 103.
  28. I translate the document and a private letter which accompanied it; also Riaño's reply. The originals remained in possession of Ignacio Camargo, and were given by him to Liceaga, who was his school-fellow. The official communication of Hidalgo is the more important as it refutes Alaman, who misleads regarding the proclamation of independence. He erroneously charges Bustamante with interpolating expressions, claiming that he himself had been supplied with a correct version by Benigno Bustamante, one of the Europeans present in the alhóndiga, and remarking: 'La sola palabra independencia basta para demonstrar la inexactitud de este relato, pues Hidalgo ocultaba este intento cuidadosamente, y nunca tomaba en boca públicamente esta voz.' Hist. Mej., i. 421. Liceaga rightly points out the impossibility of Benigno Bustamante being able to obtain a correct copy of the communication. Adic. y Rectific., 103-4.

    Hidalgo's despatch to Riaño. 'Headquarters at the Hacienda de Burras, 28th of September, 1810. The numerous army which I command elected me Captain General and Protector of the nation in the fields of Celaya. The same city in the presence of fifty thousand men ratified this election, as have also all the places through which I have passed; which will make your honor cognizant that I am legitimately authorized by my nation to undertake the beneficent projects which have appeared necessary to me for its welfare. These projects are of equalutility and advantage to the Americans and those Europeans who are disposed to reside in this kingdom, and they are reduced to the proclamation of the independence and liberty of the nation. Consequently I do not regard the Europeans as enemies, but only as an obstacle which embarrasses the successful issue of our enterprise. Your honor will be pleased to inform the Europeans who have united together in the alhóndiga of these ideas, in order that they may decide whether to declare themselves as enemies, or agree to remain in the quality of prisoners, meeting with humane and kind treatment, such as those whom we bring with us have experienced, until the liberty and independence indicated shall be acquired, in which case they will be included in the class of citizens with the right to the restitution of their property, which for the time being we shall make use of for the urgencies of the nation. If on the contrary they do not accede to this demand I shall use all force and stratagem to destroy them, without leaving them the hope of quarter. May God protect your Honor. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Captain General of America.'

    The private letter from Hidalgo to Riaño runs as follows: 'The esteem which I have ever expressed for you is sincere, and I believe due to the high qualities which adorn you. The difference in our ways of thinking ought not to diminish it. You will follow the course which may seem most right and prudent to you, but that will not occasion injury to your family. We shall fight as enemies, if so it shall be decided; but I herewith offer to the Señora Intendenta an asylum, and assured protection, in any place she may select for her residence, in consideration of the ill health to which she was subject. This offer does not spring from fear, but from a sensibility which I cannot discard from me.'

    Riaño's reply: 'Sr Cura of the town of Dolores, D. Miguel Hidalgo. I recognize no other authority, nor is it evident to me that any such has been established, nor other Captain General in the kingdom of New Spain, than His Excellency Sr Don Francisco Xavier de Venegas, its Viceroy; nor more legitimate reforms than those which the Nation at large may adopt at the general Córtes to be held. My duty is to fight as a soldier, which noble sentiment animates all those around me. Guanajuato, 28th of September, 1810. Juan Antonio Riaño.' And to the private letter: 'The exercise of arms is not incompatible with sensibility; this demands of my heart the gratitude due to your offers for the benefit of my family, whose lot does not disturb me on the present occasion.' Id., 212-14.

  29. Hernandez y Dávalos, Col. Doc., ii. 279-80. Mora, who gives a slightly different version of this proceeding, insinuates that the Europeans were inclined to yield, and passes a reflection upon the indiscretion of Castillo, whom he describes as 'uno de aquellos raptos indiscretos y comprometedores que no faltan en semejantes ocasiones.' Mej. y sus Rev., iv. 32. This author states that Camargo read Hidalgo's communication to the troops, a most improbable proceeding.
  30. Hernandez y Dávalos, Col. Doc., ii. 117.
  31. Liceaga states that Quintana, the Conde de Perez Galvez, colonel of the dragoon regiment del Príncipe, and a number of Europeans had suddenly left the city, while others did not cooperate with those in the alhóndiga, but remained in their houses. He gives a list of 20 names of these latter. Adic. y Rectific., 79. This is confirmed in Hernandez y Dávalos, Col. Doc., ii. 279.
  32. Mora says six hundred in all. Ut sup., 29.
  33. Alaman conjectures that Riaño intended to sally with the reserves and cavalry, and attack the enemy at the most assailable points, 'plan ciertamente de muy aventurada ejecucion, con el corto número de tropa de que se podia disponer.' Ut sup., 424.
  34. The number of armed men in Hidalgo's force is not exactly known. Robinson, Mem. Max. Rev., i. 27, says that he left Celaya with nearly 20,000. Bustamante, Torrente, Alaman, and others also place the number at 20,000. Liceaga, Adic. y Rectific., 82, raises it to 25,000 men of all classes, 2,000 of whom were regular troops of the San Miguel regiment of dragoons de la Reina, and of the provincial infantry regiment, companies of which joined the insurgents at Celaya, Salamanca, and Irapuato. Mora, on the contrary, gives 14,000 as the estimated number, besides 400 regulars, 'sin contar con la tropa reglada que no pasaban de cuatrocientos, y se hallaban como perdidos y absolutamente embarazados para obrar entre esta multitud disordenada.' Mej. y sus Rev., iv. 33-4.
  35. Gilberto was a lieutenant of the line regiment of Mexico, and was staying with his father on leave of absence. He was a young man of considerable military ability. The construction of the barricades was intrusted to his direction, and he devised the plan of converting the quicksilver flasks into grenades. Alaman, Hist. Mej., i. 417.
  36. On the summit of the cerro de San Miguel was a small plain where the people were wont to attend horse-races on days of festivity. Hence its name of las Carreras. Id., 408.
  37. Liceaga points out a flagrant misstatement of Alaman's, to the effect that Hidalgo remained during the whole of the contest in the cavalry barracks at the farther end of the city. Adic. y Retific., 108-10.
  38. So furious and continuous was the discharge of stones that after the action the floors of the alhóndiga roof and the open court were found to be raised eight or nine inches above their proper level by the accumulation. Bustamante, Cuad. Hist., i. 37.
    hist. mex., vol. IV. 10
  39. Bustamante gives a different version of the intendente's fall. He states that Riaño, having observed that the sentinel at the gate had abandoned his post and musket, took up the piece and commenced firing at the enemy, and that he was killed while so occupied, Cuad. Hist., i. 38. Mora gives a similar account, Mej. y sus Rev., iv. 34-5; and so does an anonymous narration in Hernandez y Dávalos, Col. Doc., ii. 281. Alaman with reason points out the improbability of the intendente acting thus when the serious duties of a commander required his attention. Moreover, Bustamante states that a corporal who was standing close by was wounded in the head by the same bullet which passed through Riaño's skull, proving that if the sentinel had deserted his post there was another to take his place. Alaman asserts that the shot was fired from the window of one of the houses opposite the alhóndiga. Hist. Mej., i. 426-7. Liceaga, followed by Zamacois, considers that it was fired from the cerro del Cuarto. Adic. y Rectific., 114-15.
  40. He was born on the 16th of May, 1757, in the town of Lierganes, in Santander, Spain, being in his tifty-fourth year when he met his death. Alamem, Hist. Mej., i. 427.
  41. 'Cubiertos con cuartones de lozas, como los romanos con la testudo.' Alaman, ut sup., 430.
  42. Bustamante's account, which is repudiated by Alaman, is that Hidalgo addressed one of the crowd standing near him, and asked him if he had the courage to set the gate on fire. The man said 'Yes,' and did it. 'Este Iépero comparable con el carbonero que atacó la Bastida en Francia. . .sin titubear dijo que sí.' Ut sup., 39. In the text I have followed Liceaga's version, who took great pains to arrive at the true account of this event. See his pages 112-14. He states that this young hero, well known in Guanajuato, was a miner 18 or 20 years of age, and named Maríano. He left Guanajuato the same evening, in the direction of Mellado, where he lived, accompanied by several others, carrying bags of money, and under the guard of some insurgent soldiers. As he was never seen again, Liceaga conjectures that he was murdered for his money. Bustamante gives to this youth the appellation of Pipila, a name unknown in Guanajuato according to Alaman and Liceaga.
  43. Bustamante relates that Gilberto, having embraced his father's body, seized a pistol with the intention of taking his own life. Those present, however, caused him to desist, by offering to post him at the most dangerous point, that he might have an opportunity of avenging his father's death. Ut sup., 38.
  44. Both Mora and Bustamante state that the mistake was caused by the firing from the hacienda de Dolores, the defenders of which could not possibly see the signal. But as Alaman and Liceaga were both in Guanajuato at the time, I prefer to follow the account adopted in the text, and in which they agree.
  45. Gritaron todos como si los inflamase un mismo espíritu, traicion! traicion! y los gefes dieron órden de no otorgar la vida á nadie!' Bustamante, Cuad. Hist., i. 40. 'La algazara era espantosa, y se oía en todo Guanajuato, multiplicándose su éco por las quiebras y cañadas.' Ib.
  46. According to Bustamante, Berzábal fell before the alhóndiga was gained, his death being attributed to one of his soldiers, who shot him because of a reprimand. Ib. The father of Diego Berzábal, Don Baltasar, arrived in Mexico in 1743 and married Doña Juana Duarte, a lady of noble family. Four sons and two daughters were the result, Diego being born in Oajaca in November 1789, thus being a creole. At the age of twelve he was sent to Spain as a cadet in the regiment of Granada. Having returned to Mexico in 1789, he received an appointment in the regiment of Nueva España, and served in Santo Domingo during the revolution in that island. Having obtained the grade of captain, he was promoted to the rank of sargento-mayor of the provincial battalion of Guanajuato. As already noticed in the last chapter, it was to Major Berzábal that Garrido denounced Hidalgo's conspiracy. Berázabal was forty-one years of age at the time of his death, twenty-eight of which he passed in exemplary military service; 'sin haber sufrido jamas un arresto ni tenido una nota en sus hojas de servicio.' Alaman, Hist. Mej.,i. app. 51-2. He left one son and three daughters. Berzábal was a zealous, loyal, and well educated officer. In 1811 his widow caused two official investigations to be made of her late husband's conduct as a military officer, the depositions in which constituted high testimonials of his merits, and entirely refute Bustamante's account of his death as given above. Alaman obtained the particulars from the documents in possession of Berzábal's family, and which were placed at his disposal. Id., app. 51-4.
  47. According to Bustamante, 105 Spaniards and an equal number of soldiers perished. Id., 41. Alaman says about 200 soldiers and 105 Spaniards, following Bustamante, but remarking in a note, 'Creo que murió mayor numero de españoles.' Hist. Mej., i. 434-5. Zamacois considers that more than 200 soldiers were slain, and not less than 150 Spaniards. Hist. Mej., vi. 394. But Liceaga examines the question with some closeness. He argues that the number of Europeans as given by Bustamante only included known inhabitants of the city whose deaths were noticed at the time. A large number of Europeans, estimated by him at not less than 300, had, however, flocked into the city as a place of refuge from the surrounding towns as soon as the news of the rebellion reached them. The greater part of these were unknown, their arrival even being unnoticed. Most of them perished; and he considers that 400 Europeans fell as well as nearly all the soldiers. Adic. y Rectific., 117. Although Liceaga has, perhaps, overestimated the number of Europeans, bearing in mind the exterminating character of the contest, I think it probable that the survivors bore a comparatively small numerical proportion to the slain; and as there were many Europeans in the alhóndiga other than those who bore arms, I think the numbers given by the three first named authors underrated. I may add that Torrente, whose unmitigated partiality to Spanish domination in the colonies leads him to make assertions which can only be classed as mendacious, boldly states that 2,000 loyal victims were killed and 2,000 more cast into dungeons. Hist. Rev. Hisp. Am., i. 145. Robinson says: 'The unfortunate Spaniards, and all who adhered to them, were sacrificed by the infuriated Indians.' Mem. Hex. Rev., i. 28.
  48. ’Seguramente pasaron de tres mil muertos los que hubo, aunque procuraron ocultar esta pérdida, enterrándolos secretamente en zanjones que hicieron en el rio.' Guan. Púb. Vind. Ayunt., 22. Liceaga considers that the 3,000 slain as reported by the ayuntamiento to the viceroy represent nearly accurately the total number killed on both sides. Alaman regards the number as greatly exaggerated. Bustamante states that it was not known, on account of the Indians having buried their dead in the channel of the river by night. Zamacois places the number of victims at not less than 2,500.
    The action of Riaño in withdrawing to the alhóndiga and leaving the city defenceless has been severely censured by some, who regard it as the cause of the disaffection of the populace and the future disasters which befell. The ayuntamiento, in its Pública Vindication. . .already quoted in note 13, urges that but for the abandonment of the city the populace would have remained loyal; but that when they perceived that the troops and Europeans had retired to the alhóndiga, they considered themselves deserted by them, 'comenzó á decir públicamente: que los gachupines y señores. . .querian defenderse solos y dexarlos entregados á el enemigo, y que aun los víveres les quitaban para que perecieran de hambre.' Guan., ut sup., 16. There is, however, little doubt that the lower orders would have joined the insurgents in any case as soon as they appeared, and Riaño was well aware of this. Commissioner Constansó in his report, already mentioned in note 13 of this chapter, entirely exonerates Riaño from blame, considering his action 'conforme al dictamen de la sana razon y á la máxîma de sábios militares.' Id., 74-5. Liceaga also argues in exculpation of the intendente, and asserts that it is falsely stated by the ayuntamiento that the populace only exhibited symptoms of disaffectation after the removal to the alhóndiga. One of the principal causes which influenced Riaño in his decision was the contemptuous manner in which the abolishment of tributes, published by him on the 21st, had been received; the proclamation being made a subject of ridicule, and the unfavorable feeling toward the government being apparent. The same author refutes both Alaman and Bustamante, who state that the abolishment of tribute was proclaimed on the 26th. Adic. y Rectific., 74-5. Bearing in mind the responsibility of Riaño for the protection of the royal treasures and archives, his knowledge that the populace of all towns which Hidalgo had approached had enthusiastically declared for the revolution, his doubt about the fidelity of his own troops who had already been tampered with; and bearing in mind, also, the insolent bearing of the populace of Guanajuato, and the intendente's conviction that Calleja within a week would arrive to his support, I cannot but indorse Liceaga's views, and consider that the representations of the ayuntamiento were warped for the purpose of palliating the political outbreak which involved a fearful chastisement.
  49. Alaman relates that the body of Riaño was exposed for two days, to satisfy the curiosity of the populace as to whether he had a tail. It is said that the belief prevailed among some of the lower orders that all Spaniards had tails. Hist. Mej., i. 435. Jews were thought to have tails, and as the Indians were taught to believe that the Spanish authorities were imbued with the anti-catholic doctrines of the French, they placed them in the category with the Jews. Zamacois, Hist. Mej., vi. 394-5.
  50. 'A una muger le dieron una cuchillada en la cara, tan solo porque á la vista de un cadáver grito despavorida. . .¡Ay!; pobrecito!' Bustamante, Cuad. Hist., i, 44.
  51. Valenzuela was a native of Irapuato and lieutenant of the cavalry troop of that town. Members of his family still lived there when Alaman wrote. Hist. Mex., i. 429, and app. 77.
  52. Aguardiente was sold for five dollars a barrel, a sack of cacao or almonds for two dollars, a bale of cambric for four dollars, and bars of silver brought from the alhóndiga for five dollars. So ignorant of values were the country Indians that they sold their gold ounces for three or four reales to the men of Guanajuato, who told them that they were copper medals. 'Nothing,' says Robinson, 'can more strongly elucidate the wretched ignorance and poverty of the great mass of Indians.' Mem. Mex. Rev., i. 29. Consult Liceaga, Adic. y Rectific., 121.
  53. Hidalgo has been greatly blamed for the frightful excesses, as if it had been in his power to prevent them. Robinson holds that it was not extraordinary he should permit the Indians to enjoy the first fruits of their exertions. He considered it politic to let them have palpable proofs that they would profit by the revolution; and with regard to the slaughter of the Spaniards, it was impossible for him to prevent it. Nevertheless, many Europeans and creoles owed their lives to his protection, members of these latter incurring the same danger and violence as the former, their houses being sacked and their persons exposed to continual peril. The historian Alaman narrowly escaped ill treatment if not death, and Hidalgo, in person, with the sacred banner went to the succor of him and his family. Even his authority failed to disperse the crowd bent upon plundering the wealth of a Spaniard that had been secreted in Alaman's house, and it was only by Allende freely using his sword that the mob was driven back. Hist. Mej., i. 438-41. The main authorities consulted for the above account of the taking of the alhóndiga de granaditas have been Alaman, Liceaga, and Bustamante. The testimony of Liceaga is of especial value, since he was a witness of the whole affair from the balcony of a house which commanded a view of the alhóndiga, and which he gained at the risk of his life. The object of his work Adiciones y Rectificaciones á la Historla de Mexico que escribió D. Lucas Alaman, published in Guanajuato in 1868, was, as its name implies, to correct mistakes which appear in Alaman's history, and fill up vacancies in the sequence of events by information which Alaman could not obtain. Liceaga, while complimenting Alaman for his diligence, close research, good judgment, and learning, and pronouncing his history the most complete of the kind and worthy of all appreciation, points out that in many portions of his work he had to depend upon the accounts of previous writers, which he himself asserts to be full of errors arising from the want of knowledge of some authors and the prejudiced views of others. Alaman consequently, with all his care, could not avoid falling into mistakes which Liceaga felt himself able to correct from personal observation and contact with eye-witnesses. The additions and corrections supplied by Liceaga do not form a connected history of the revolution, but they constitute a valuable supplement to Alaman's work, and throw light upon many points previously obscure. Many of his details, however, are of minor importance. His comments are generally sound, and his arguments commonly lead to correct conclusions, though more lately obtained evidence shows that occasionally his deductions have not hit the mark. With regard to the author himself, he was born in the city of Guanajuato on the 4th of July, 1785, his parents being Ramon Guillermo de Liceaga and Doña Ana Catarina de Espinosa. His early education was received in the college of la Purísima Concepcion and the convent of San Francisco in that city. In 1803 he entered the college of San Ildefonso in the city of Mexico, where he studied jurisprudence until 1806, when he commenced practical work under the licenciado Joséd Domingo Lazo. In 1810 he received his diploma from the colegio de Abogados, and during the period of the revolution followed the legal profession. After the independence, he filled several high offices in his State, being appointed magistrado decano of the Suprema Tribunal de justicia del Estado in 1824, and district judge in 1827. In 1864, after several changes of position in office, owing to his advanced age and infirmities, he retired from public life in the nominal enjoyment of his full salary, but of which he succeeded in obtaining only a small portion. Liceaga's volume covers the historical epoch of 1808 to 1824, and the work which he performed in its production extended over a period of fifteen years. He penned his final remarks on the 27th of June, 1870, exactly one week before the completion of his 85th birthday.