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San Miguel de Allende »

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. 

History of San Miguel de AllendeThe town of San Miguel de Allende was founded in 1542 by the Franciscan monk Fray Juan de San Miguel. It was an important stopover on the Antiguo Camino Real, part of the silver route from Zacatecas, Zacatecas to Veracruz. The town featured prominently in the Mexican War of Independence. General Ignacio Allende, one of San Miguel’s native sons, was a leading player in the war against Spain for independence. Allende, captured in battle and beheaded, is a national hero. San Miguel el Grande renamed itself “San Miguel de Allende” in 1826 in honor of his actions.

Early History of San MiguelBy 1900, San Miguel de Allende was in danger of becoming a ghost town. Declared a national historic monument in 1926 by the Mexican government, development in the historic district is restricted in order to preserve the town’s colonial character. During the Cristero uprising in Mexico, when clergy and their families were persecuted, the grandchildren of Gen. Mariano Escobedo came to San Miguel de Allende, which was conveniently in a secluded condition while verging on being a ghost town. The six children of the daughter of Mariano Escobedo, Donna Maria del Refugio, were Don Anastasio Lopez Escobedo, Don Ezequiel Lopez Escobedo, Dr Ignacio Lopez Escobedo, and the sisters, Balbina and Isabella Lopez Escobedo. The elder child was a Cura, a charismatic head priest, Don Jose Lopez Escobedo, for whom the family was persecuted. The Cura Jose Lopez is interred at the main altar under St. Peter in the main Parroquia church of San Miguel, with a beautiful dedication to his work restoring the church in the 20th century. Lopez Escobedo is interred in the Church by the world-famous and miraculous Christ of the Conquest. The family fled their native home hacienda, Hacienda de los Lopez, to San Miguel Allende, where the Escobedo had a home, on Calle de Mesones and where a plaque still identifies the house. Few descendants from this family live in San Miguel, as only Don Ezequiel Lopez Escobedo had children. The eldest of his grandchildren is Marcela Andre Lopez, an international teacher and designer of jewel garlands now in residence in the historic district in one of Don Ezequiel Lopez Escobedo’s homes. Sr. Ezequiel Lopez Basurto, son of Don Ezequiel Lopez Escobedo, has presided over many works by the Rotary Club.

San Miguel in the 20th CenturyIn the early 20th century, the family fortune of the Lopez Escobedo brothers and sisters was largely donated to schools for girls, convents for nuns, or lost to older distant relatives and people helped by the family who falsified papers or discovered hidden treasure after Don Ezequiel’s sudden stroke and death. The impoverished barkeeper’s assistant who found Don Ezequiel’s property deeds and gold kept the find from Don Ezequiel’s widow and five children who suffered hardships as orphans. The barkeeper’s assistant had leased the store at Calle Relox and San Francisco Street from Don Ezequiel’s widow and in the abundant inventory found more than could have been imagined.

Stirling Dickinson Influence on San Miguel de AllendeIn 1938, Peruvian artist Felipe Cossio del Pomar established San Miguel’s first art school, the Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes. It was located in the former convent that houses the present Bellas Artes. He offered the position of Art Director to American artist and writer Stirling Dickinson. Dickinson taught Spanish, botany and landscape painting, as well as taking students on field trips as part of his “Aspects of Mexico” course. Dickinson’s impact on San Miguel was manifested in many ways. He had arrived in San Miguel before daybreak on February 7, 1937. At the Jardín, Dickinson looked up at the spires of the Parroquia poking through the mist. “My God, what a sight!” he said to himself. “I’m going to stay here.” After five years in San Miguel, Dickinson was named a Favored Adopted Son, the only American to be so honored by the mayor’s office. Two years later, he was honored by the governor for his work with founding a baseball team for young Mexicans. The baseball field he helped build and finance was named Campo Stirling Dickinson. Dickinson began what was probably the largest private orchid collection in Mexico, a lifelong interest that was highlighted by the discovery of Encyclia dickinsoniana and having a second named after him in recognition of his work, Cypripedium dickinsonianum. When Dickinson first arrived in San Miguel in 1937 he and his writing partner had purchased an old tannery on Santo Domingo on the way to the Atascadero Hotel above town for the equivalent of 90 U.S. dollars. The present property is worth in the millions of dollars. Despite his abundant gifts to charity, his tomb is a simple and unadorned, apparently unvisited as would normally be the case in Mexico. He is buried in the American section of the city graveyard of Sra. de Guadalupe.

 

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