31 January 2010

The House of Padre Miguel Hidalgo

One of my favorite activities is to photograph old buildings and street scenes and then compare my recent photos with photos that I find in old books or magazines to see how things have changed. Because of the fact that this year we celebrate the bicentennial of Mexico's fight for independence from Spain, I thought it would be interesting to show you some comparison photographs. The subject of the photos is the house where Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (Padre Hidalgo) lived when he gave the shout called "El Grito de Indpendencia" in the early morning hours of September 16th, 1810. The house was constructed in 1779 by a man named D. José Salvador Fajardo and it was the parish house when Miguel Hidalgo moved to the town of Dolores in 1803 to become the parish priest. He moved to Dolores from a town not too far away called San Felipe Torres Mochas where they also still preserve the house that he lived in. Both former houses of Padre Hidalgo are really worth a visit.

After Padre Hidalgo was captured and executed the house in Dolores was confiscated by Spanish authorities and used for various purposes until Mexico finally won the war and gained independence in 1821. The house then reverted to the control of the Catholic Church. In 1859 it fell under Benito Juárez's reform laws regarding the separation of church and state and in particular under a law called the "Law of Nationalization of Church Property". In June of 1863 President Juárez passed through Dolores on his way to San Luis Potosí and declared the house a national monument. From that time on it was called the "Casa de Hidalgo". Just a year later the new Emperor Maximilian passed through Dolores and on the 15th of September, 1864 he celebrated "El Grito" (The Shout) with a ceremony during which he gave a speech from one of the windows of the house. That was the last leader of the country to do so until president Lázaro Cárdenas celebrated "El Grito" on September 15, 1940 in Dolores. He initiated a tradition whereby each succeeding Mexican president, during the fifth year of his six year term in office. celebrates "El Grito" in the courtyard of the church called "Nuestra Señora de los Dolores". The "Casa de Hidalgo" was made into a museum in 1946.

The first photograph below was taken by a wonderful man named Harry A. Franck in 1916 and was taken from his book, "Tramping Through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras — Being the Random Notes of an Incurable Vagabond". Harry Franck was a world traveler and a graduate of the University of Michigan where he majored in languages. He wrote over thirty books about his travels. If you would really like to know what life was like in Mexico about one hundred years ago I suggest that you read this book. You can find it at a used book dealer or on e-Bay or you can download it for free from Project Gutenberg.

The second photo was taken by me in 2004 while standing in the same spot that Harry did eighty-eight years earlier with a camera lens of a slightly different focal length. One of the things that you will notice is that the building appears to have been better cared for in 1916 that it was in 2004. It had been restored in 1968 in time for the Mexico Olympics but I don't think much had been done after that. I haven't gone back to see it in a few years and I plan to do so very soon to see what they have done to prepare it for the Bicentennial. I am guessing that it will probably look very nice. In Harry's photo you will see a corner piece at the top of the building that is not there in my photo. I believe that corner piece was put there by order of Maximilian and not removed until a few years after Harry took his photo. I have forgotten the details about this so if anyone knows them please remind me. The third thing of note is the big tree that has grown in the courtyard behind the building since Harry's visit. I never met Harry Franck. He died in 1962. However, he is a role model for me and his influence on me is probably one of the reasons why I write this blog. May he rest in peace.


Anonymous said...

Estimado Bob:
Felicidades por tu recuperación, pues todos hemos tenido batallas con la gripe pero muy pocos se recuperan como lo has hecho tú, muy interesantes tus obserbaciones y la labor investigativa invertida en esta piesa.
Keep up the good work
Your Amigo Javier C.

bordersaside said...

How interesting its not something I would have thought to do but so neat.

YayaOrchid said...

Bob, now you've got me wanting that book really bad! If it has photographs, I doubly want it! I'd like to see what Mexico was like during the time of my beloved Abuelita's childhood in early 1900's. She grew up in Leon,Gto. near some huge Church, or across from it, I'm not sure. One of her Brothers was a shoemaker by trade. And the last info was that his daugters had a small factory of 'medias' or stockings. Boy I would love to travel to that city! Someday!

I want to add that I so appreciate all the wonderful information you share with us. You are truly a blessing Senor Bob!

Alice said...

Am going to read that book -- sounds fascinating!

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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.