Querétaro - History


The official name of the state is “Estado Libre y Soberano de Querétaro de Arteaga” (Free and Sovereign State of Querétaro de Arteaga). The formal name of the capital is Santiago de Querétaro. However, both are commonly referred to simply as Querétaro. The most likely origin of the name is from the P’urhépecha word “Crettaro” which means “place with crags.” However, there have been other explanations of the name including that it comes from Nahuatl and means Mesoamerican ball court, or event "island of the blue salamanders." Nevertheless, other scholars suggest that it can mean "place of the reptiles" or "place of the giant rocks." The city received the title of Noble y Leal Ciudad de Santiago de Querétaro in 1656, but after Independence, it was changed to simply Querétaro. It was returned to Santiago de Querétaro in 1996, when it was named a World Heritage Site. The ending of “de Arteaga” was added to the state’s name in 1867 in honor of General José María Cayetano Arteaga Magallanes. Originally from Mexico City, Arteaga became governor of Querétaro and distinguished himself as a soldier in the middle of the 19th century.

Agricultural settlements dated to about 500 BCE have been found in the San Juan del Río and Huimilpan areas, which was during the Teotihuacan era. The ancient city had interest and influence in the area because of its agriculture, but did not dominate it. After the fall of this city, the Querétero area had its highest rate of development of both agriculture and social structure. The area was inhabited early on by a number of ethnicities, including the Otomi, Toltecs, Chichimecas, P’urhépechas and Mexicas. In the 10th century, the area experience population shifts which did not stabilize until the 12th century. Much of this migration moved south from the Querétaro area into the Valley of Mexico. Those who remained by the end of the 12th century were mostly in hunter-gatherer communities and small agricultural settlements. The region’s agriculture and minerals continued to attract the interest of more powerful neighbors. In the 15th century, both the Aztec and P’urhépecha empires had strong influence parts of the state, especially in the south, but would never incorporate the area completely into either empire. The Aztec’s interest in the area was mostly to use it as a bulwark against marauding northern Chichimeca tribes, and it never became a tributary state. During this time, as well, a number of new peoples entered the state, most likely from the north, primarily the Pames and the Chichimeca Jonaz. The first group practiced agriculture in the valleys and the latter in the mountain areas.

When the Spanish conquered the Aztec Empire in the early 16th century, the largest indigenous group in the state was the Otomi, many of whom were living more or less under P’urhépecha rule. This population would increase with Otomi refugees from Aztec lands fleeing the Spanish. Another significant group was the Chichimecas. With the fall of Tenochtitlán, then the P’urhépecha Empire, the Spanish gained some control over the southern portion of the state. However, the area was still very independent, filled with peoples who lived in small isolated villages or nomadically. There were no major cities, nor large societies there or north.

The conquest and colonization of Querétaro began with the Spanish settlements at San Juan del Río, Querétaro and Huimilpan between 1529 and 1531. Conquistador Herán Pérez de Bocanegra joined forces with a local Otomi lord from Jilotepec named Conín, also known as Fernando de Tapia, to enter Otomi areas in what is now the city of Querétaro. There would be only one major battle as part of the conquest in 1531. The Spanish and their Indian allies were battling the local Otomi and Chichimecas at a hill now known as Sangremal, which was then called Ynlotepeque, and considered sacred in pre-Hispanic times. Chronicles of this event, such as those written by Friar Isidro Félix de Espinoza, state that the natives were at the point of winning when a total eclipse of the sun occurred. This supposedly scared the natives and the Spanish claimed to have seen an image of Saint James (the patron saint of Spain) riding a white horse carrying a rose-colored cross. This event caused the natives to surrender. This event is why the city is called Santiago (Saint James) de Querétaro, with James as patron saint A stone cross imitating the one the Spanish supposedly saw was erected on the hill, which later was accompanied by a church and monastery.

During the rest of the 16th century, the Spanish city of Querétaro would form the northern extension of known lands to the Spanish conquerors. The Spanish initially shared power in the area with local indigenous leaders until well into the 17th century in many areas. However, indigenous power waned over time, eventually disappearing completely. However, the Spanish would not subdue and evangelized the last of the resistant peoples, the Chichimec Jonaz until the end of the 18th century. During this time, Spanish power was mostly concentrated in the city of Querétaro, which became the starting point for expeditions, missions and conquests heading north.

Most of the north of the state consists of an area known as the Sierra Gorda, which is an area of very rugged terrain, with widely varying climates. From the 16th to 19th centuries The Spanish would slowly dominate the lands around it, south in Querétaro, west in Guanajuato and east in Hidalgo, with only military and missionary incursions into the area's interior. This was due to the fierce resistance of the local native peoples. Unlike those in the south, the Pames, Chichimeca Jonaz and other groups were mostly hunter gatherers, not city dwellers already used to a hierarchical governing system. Attempts to militarily pacify and evangelize the area had little success, with a number of missions never completed or destroyed shortly after they were built. In the mid 18th century, the colonial government in Mexico City decided to made a concerted effort to bring the territory into submission, as it contained important routes to mining areas such as Zacatecas and Guanajuato. José de Escondón was sent in 1740 to militarily subdue the area, which culminated in the 1748 Battle of Media Luna, in which the Chichimeca were decisively defeated. This paved the way for the establishment of five principle missions in the heart of the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro, attributed to Junípero Serra, which today are a World Heritage Site. Even though the area was pacified in the mid 18th century, a district called an "alcaldía mayor" was established in San José de Escandón, today in the municipality of Pinal de Amoles, which governed what is now the northern half of the state. Decline of mining in the area would have this seat of government moved to Cadereyta in 1675, but this territory would be joined with the alcaldía mayor of the city of Querétaro to form the modern state.

The territory of Querétaro was consolidated during the 17th century. Santiago de Querétaro was declared a city in 1655. The coat of arms granted to the capital city that year is now the state coat of arms, with the substitution of an eagle on a cactus to replace the section referring to the Spanish royalty. Over the colonial period, the Querétaro area became important strategically and economically as it connected the newly explored and conquered lands to the north and west to the center of New Spain in Mexico City. Various trade routes converged here and the city became a cultural crossroads. The activities of Franciscan missionaries were a decisive factor in building the economic, social, political and religious institutions of the state. They were also mostly responsible for the building of most of the religious buildings and the acquisition of paintings and sculptures that can still be seen. These works gave the city an image of richness. The buildings from this era of the city’s history include the Plaza de Armas, The Casa de Ecala, the Casa de los Septién, the Cassa de los Samaniego, the Casa de los Fernández de Jáuregui, the Palacio de la Corregiduría de Legres de Querétaro as well as the Congregación and San Antonio churches. However, the most important structure from the time is the Aqueduct. Much of the evangelization efforts in the Sierra Gorda area was done by Junípero Serra. These efforts left behind a number of missions which exist to this day in Jalpan de Serra, Tancoyol, Concá, Tilaco and Landa de Matamoros.

This development made the city wealthy for the rest of the colonial period. Querétaro reached its height of the colonial period during the 18th century due to its strategic position with the northern territories and because of its livestock production. There was also a significant textile industry for local and regional markets. Querétaro was the first major producer of wool cloth in New Spain. At the end of the century, The Real Fabrica de Tabaco (Royal Tobacco Factory) was established, the second most important of its type in New Spain. There was also some mineral production, especially silver in an area called El Doctor.

The city of Querétaro was strategic in the development of events just before the start of the Mexican War of Independence. It was the site of the conspiracy among Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Ignacio Allende, Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez and her husband the Corregidor of Querétaro Miguel Domínguez. The plot was uncovered when another conspirator, Epigmenio González, was caught with a stockpile of weapons to start the war. Ortiz de Dominguez sent word to Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in Dolores, Guanajuato that the plot was discovered. At that point, Hidalgo decided to begin the revolt against colonial rule in on 15 September, rather than in December as planned. Gonzalez was imprisoned in the Philippines from 1810 to 1838 for his role. The Corregidor and his wife were caught and imprisoned for their parts as well. Soon after, the city of Querétaro was taken by royalist forces and would stay that way for much of the war. The only fighting in the state were skirmishes fought in the mountain areas. The city of Querétaro would be one of the last royalist bastions to fall.

After the war, Querétaro was made a state with the 1824 Constitution . However, the city and state would lose the economic and cultural prominence it had during the colonial period. The political instability of the 19th century took its toll on commerce, which made the area’s economy suffer. The status of Querétaro would change between state and department, depending on whether Liberals or Conservatives were in power nationally. Within the state, battles for power between the two groups would lead to the state having twenty five governors between 1824 and 1855.

During the century, the capital city was the scene of a number of important events. During the Mexican American War, the capital was moved from Mexico City to Querétaro. At the end of that war, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed here. The 1857 Constitution was published in the city as well and a coalition of states including Querétaro, Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Michoacán formed a coalition to defend this constitution against the Plan of Tacubaya. During the short reign of Maximilian I, there were battles between Liberals and Conservatives (with the latter supporting the emperor) in Querétaro. However, Maximilian lost the military support provided by Napoleon III, leaving only four states loyal to the emperor. Querétaro was one of them. Maximilian still resisted Liberal forces which eventually surrounded him at Cerro de Campanas, then outside the city of Querétaro. The emperor was caught and executed on 19 June 1867. Afterwards, the state wrote a new constitution based on Liberal principles. Another new state constitution would be written at the beginning of the Porfiriato in 1879. Despite the turmoil, there was still economic progress in the state, with the establishment of textile mills such as Hércules, Casa Rubio and two other factories in San Antonio and La Purísma. There was also some mining, especially in El Doctor, Río Blando, Maconí and Escanelilla with a total of 216 mines producing silver with some producing gold, copper, lead and more.

Before the end of the century, modern infrastructure such as electricity, telegraph and telephones began to appear. Industry grew and modernized, with El Hércules becoming the largest textile factory in the country. Haciendas and agricultural production also grew, especially in the north of the state. The capital was modified and expanded, and it was linked to the rest of the country via rail in 1882. Public education began in the state at the beginning of the 20th century with fifty-four primary schools and the first graduates of the state’s first teachers’ college.

However, at the same time, strikes and other movements against the Diaz regime had begun in the state and elsewhere in the country. The largest strike in the state was against the El Hércules factory in 1909. At the start of the Mexican Revolution, there were revolts in Jalpan de Serra and Cadereyta along with protests in the capital. Governor González de Cosío resigned in 1911, replaced by Joaquín F. Chicarro, who was allied with Victoriano Huerta and more authoritarian. In 1916 and 1917, the federal government of Venustiano Carranza had to abandon Mexico City, moving the country’s capital to Querétaro. The country’s current 1917 Constitution was promulgated from Teatro de la República in the city of Querétaro.

After the war, the economy of the state recovered slowly. Between 1940 and 1960, economic progress came more rapidly, with the industrial infrastructure growing and modernizing. During the same period, the population grew substantially as well. Much of industrial growth from then to the present can be seen in the various industrial parks located north of the capital city. In the following thirty years, the city grew to over four times its previous size. However, the state conserved the city’s historic center, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. The city’s official name, which had been changed simply to “Querétaro”, was restored to “Santiago de Querétaro” the same year.

In 1997, the National Action Party (PAN) won the gubernatorial elections and Ignacio Loyola became the first non PRI governor of the state since the Revolution. In 2008, the state’s constitution was amended to make Querétaro the official state name. The aqueduct Acueducto II was inaugurated in 2011 by President Felipe Calderón and state governor José Calzada Rovirosa. It transports water over 122 km from springs in El Infiernillo to the city of Querétaro. This is to supplement local water sources which are no longer able to meet the city’s needs.

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