History of Guadalajara

Mother Earth Travel > Mexico > Guadalajara > History

When you talk of Guadalajara, you are essentially talking about the 450 years of history which have made it what it is now. It is essential to know a bit about the past in order to live Guadalajara's present to the full.

The area of Jalisco was inhabited by various indigenous groups, up until the conquest. Among them were the Chapalas, the Huicholes and other groups, which in some way or other belonged to the Aztec Empire, but being rather separate from Tenochtitlán enjoyed certain liberties.

When the Spaniards began their conquest and colonization of Mexico, they tried to establish Guadalajara in order to have representatives of the Spanish crown in the Eastern part of the country. With this in mind, a group headed by Nuño de Guzmán was sent over to conquer the people who were settled there. They named the area Nueva Galicia.

There was a total of four attempts to found the city. The first attempt was in Nochistlán in 1531, when the indigenous people fought hard to avoid the colonization of their land. Then there was an attempt to found it in Tonalá, in 1533, were again it proved impossible. The third attempt was at Tlacotlán, but the Indians resisted, and the battles ended in death for many of the conquistadors. They then resorted to call in Pedro de Alvarado, who at the time was in the centre of New Spain. Far from succeeding in a proper foundation, he had to flee and later died.

On February 14th , 1542, Antonio de Mendoza y Cristóbal de Oñate, looking for shelter from the Indian attacks, found a safe place in the Valley of Atemajac, and decided to found the city of Guadalajara on that very spot. When Mendoza and Oñate were about to declare the city founded, no one dared cheer, fearful as they were from the three last attempts. However, Beatriz Hernández -a fabulous, courageous woman- stood next to them and cheered the crowd on, until they all accepted the chosen place and showed their support.

In many aspects, the area was not a good choice: it was a large plain, but was ideal for preventing attacks from the indigenous settlers.

Charles I, King of Spain, gave Guadalajara the title of city, as well as its Coat of Arms. Its name was given in honour of Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, who came from Guadalajara in Spain. The event of the foundation of the city took place where the Teatro Degollado and the Plaza de los Fundadores stand today. In this plaza you will find a freeze depicting the scene.

In the beginning, the main activities which Guadalajara concerned itself with were mining and agriculture. In a short space of time, large haciendas started to appear, which helped the growing city become a large commercial centre in Eastern Mexico.

On May 10th, 1560, Guadalajara was named the capital of the kingdom of Nueva Galicia, and so for many years carried this name. As the city growed in population and importance, the need for a cathedral became more evident. This was requested to Spain, and Fray Pedro de Ayala laid the first stone of the Catedral Metropolitana, the same which exists today.

In 1700 Fray Galindo y Chávez, Bishop od Guadalajara, points out the need for a university, but it isn't until 1742 that Mota Padilla starts the process of creating a university. In 1774 Charles III of Spain sends a document asking for reports from various places in New Spain, which specified the pros and cons of building a university in the city. Finally, in the late 16th centiry and with the adequate funding, the courses, timetables and subjects are approved, and the University of Guadalajara goes ahead.

In 1792 the first printing press is established in a place called Plaza de Santo Domingo. The frist publication which it produced was the "Elogios Fúnebres" (Funerary Elogies), a piece dedicated to Fray Antonio Alcalde.

In 1810 the first independent newspaper was born: "El Despertador Americano". Also during this year -while Don Miguel Hidalgo and Costilla (Father of Independence) was in town- slavery was abolished in the building that today houses the Palacio del Gobierno. Also measures were taken to establish the 'Gobierno Insurgente' in this same building.

After the War of Independence in 1810, the area got the name of Jalisco -a name which remains today, as Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco-, which means "place of jal", as the whole area is full of this type of stone.

In December 1926 the Cristera War started, and the state of Jalisco was one of the main centres where this was developed. Due to this conflict many people in the state of Jalisco sought refuge in Guadalajara, giving it an excessive population boost. The Cristera War finished the 29th June, 1929.

In 1965 the Fiestas de Octubre (October Celebrations)were definitely established as the city's local celebrations. These have survived till today as one of the most important events in Guadalajara. From the start, they were given a touristic value; in them, three basic activities of the state of Jalisco are combined: commerce, culture and entertainment.

In the last decade of last century, Guadalajara suffered one of the most dramatic events in tis entire history, which left its mark on people's lives, and somehow made people confront the government. on the 22nd April, 1992, a terrible gas explosion occurred, as a result of an accumulation in the drainage systems. It caused the destruction of part of the city, the death of 212 Guadalajarans and a high number of homeless families. After this event, there were help groups created, as well as groups created to remember the event. Guadalajara still mourns every year on the anniversary of the tragedy, and sadness prevails at this time.

The state of Jalisco has produced many different famous people, namely the excellent muralist José Clemente Orozco, and three great writers: Francisco Rojas González, Juan Rulfo and Juan José Arreola, among many others.

Today, Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco, the second largest and most important city in the country. It has around six million inhabitants, and is a large metropolis, with every feature which a cosmopolitan city should have.