28 February 2009

Monument at Queretaro

Several years ago on one of my infrequent visits to the nearby town of San Miguel de Allende I wandered into a photo gallery and there I spotted a photo entitled "Monument at Queretaro" by an early California photographer named George P. Thresher. I immediately recognized the significance of this photograph. It is the spot where Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of the Hapsburg lineage and at the time, the presumed "Emperor of Mexico", was executed. The photograph is fascinating in that the surrounding area has long since been overrun with the trappings of modern humanity and today does not look anything like the terrain in the photo. I inquired about the owner of the photo and was told that it was part of a collection of a prominent California photographer named Malcolm Lubliner. I contacted Mr. Lubliner and during the ensuing discussion I learned how he had acquired the photo as part of a group of glass plate images belonging to Mr. Thresher that had lain dormant and hidden away for many years. When I told him that I recognized the location of the "Monument at Queretaro" he asked me to write an essay about it which I did and you can find on his website at:


Along with the essay you can see various pictures and illustrations of how the the execution site looked then and how it looks now. Be sure to click on the link that says "More Pictures" at the bottom of the essay. As a result of doing research for this essay I became fascinated with the story of Maximilian and I was lured even deeper into the study of Mexican history. The other day my friend Mike Lean from Queensland, Australia sent me the following link from Vistas - Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520 - 1820:


Vistas was created with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. There you can find many beautiful Spanish American art objects. From this site I followed a link to the Getty Research Institute's exhibit "Mexico: From Empire to Revolution" which is an overview of two Getty exhibitions of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Mexican photography which can be seen at:


From that website I obtained the three photo images shown below. One is the execution site of Maximilian shortly after the event. His is the marker with the cross. Many of the books about Mexico written from the time of 1867 when Maximilian was shot by a firing squad until around 1920 mention that every visitor to Queretaro felt obligated to visit the execution site even if they were reluctant to do so. In the later part of the 19th century the story of Maximilian and Carlotta had captured the imagination of people the world over and visiting this site was on their list of things to do. You will also see below a photo of Maximilian's shirt with bullet holes and a rather grisly image of him in the box in which his body was shipped back home to Austria. His eyes appear very black because they inserted balls of black obsidian glass in his eye sockets where his eyeballs had already shrunken.

I have followed Max's footsteps to quite a few places in Mexico and find him to be a fascinating if tragic figure. When we all get together again in the sweet bye and bye I hope to look him up and have a nice chat. In the meantime, I hope that when you go to Queretaro you take the time to visit Cerro de las Campanas and take advantage of the wonderful visitors center there. Read my essay before you go and you will enjoy the visit even more.

(Ckick on photos to enlarge)


Unknown said...

Es simplemente fascinante Bob, gracias señor profesor. It is said in Pueblo Nuevo, that Maximiliano de Habsburgo in his travels to Guadalajara passed by Pueblo Nuevo via the old, Camino del Paso de Guadalajara ¿?. That is what my grandparents used to say. No record of such event is available in town and of course, my pueblo was a little thing in the middle of bigger cities.

I read somewhere about Maximiliano's liberal ideas and I agree with him. Too bad his time was in a period when Mexico had too much differences between poor and rich, liberal and conservators. Liberal ideas of Maximiliano didn't get enough support from his supporters. Unfortunately for him, Juárez was there and won with support of most, including the United States. Maximiliano ended up paying with his life and dreams. The latter became a hero and the first one an unwanted foreigner, and dead. In any event, thanks for remind us of our great history.

Saludos Bob.

Tancho said...

Thank you Bob for taking the time to teach me well needed history of Mexico!
You do a great service, no matter how long it takes you! Keep it up!

Steve Cotton said...

Maximilian has long been one of my "favorite" figures in Mexican history. A liberal put in power by conservatives who then turned on him. And out of it we eventually get Profirio Diaz -- another intriguing character. Thanks for the details.

YayaOrchid said...

Wow! That is some exhaustive research you've done there Mr. Bob! Thank you for sharing with us all.

GlorV1 said...

Hi Bob, how very interesting and I need to get over there and read your essay. I always enjoy reading about historic figures. Thank you.

GlorV1 said...

Excellent essay that you wrote on City Visions. You covered just about everything. You know, I've thought about what you said about the cactus, and to me, the cactus is a "survivor," in that not only does it give us food but will actually be around way after we are all gone. Perhaps that is one of the reasons the cactus is shown as a dominant force in the painting and pictures. They died, but the cactus lives on. I don't know, I do know that all the cactus I have in my garden will be here long after I am gone. Thanks for the lesson in history. Take care.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.