Alhóndiga de Granaditas
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (November 2006)|
The Alhóndiga de Granaditas (public granary) is an old grain storage building in Guanajuato City, Mexico. This historic building was created to replace an old granary near the city's river. Its construction lasted from 1798 to 1809, by orders of Juan Antonio de Riaño y Bárcena, a Spaniard who was the quartermaster of the city during the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The building received World Heritage listing as part of the Historic Town of Guanajuato in 1988.
The Alhóndiga measures 72 by 68 metres, with a height of 23 metres, and occupies an area of 4,828 square metres. It is constructed on the side of a hill and two of its sides are surrounded by elevations, a consequence of the odd geography in the city. There are no ornamental facets on the exterior, except for a few windows at the top of each storage room. It has cornices built in a Doric style, constructed with two types of regional stone—reddish and greenish. This gives it a curious appearance, resembling a stronghold or a castle, which it has come to be called by the people of Guanajuato. In the interior, there is a porch that leads to a spacious central patio. The porch contains Tuscan columns and adornments. There are two staircases that lead to the upper floor. The Alhóndiga has only two access doors, a small one facing the east, adorned by two columns, and a large door of the same basic style, facing the north. The edifice was used for the buying and selling of wheat, corn, and other grains. Prior to the Mexican independence from Spain, it was used as a warehouse, military barracks, and prison. Currently it serves as a regional museum.
When Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's insurgent troops threatened to take over this city during the Mexican War of Independence, Riaño secured himself in the Alhóndiga on 28 September 1810, along with many other Spaniards and some rich criollos. Riaño believed that the strength of the building and its positioning would make it easy to repel the insurgents' attacks. This belief held up at first, but soon the insurgents surrounded the building and began throwing rocks. Riaño died in this attack. The insurgents decided to burn down the eastern door to be able to enter and attack their oppressors. The man chosen to perform this task was Juan José Martínez "El Pípila", an extraordinarily strong local miner. He tied a large flat stone to his back to protect himself from the bullet and rock storm expected once he entered. He poured petroleum on the door and lit it using a torch. When the door burnt down, the attackers stormed into the Alhóndiga, led by Martínez. Most of the people hiding in the building, most of them Spanish families from the outskirts of the city, were murdered, the building sacked. At the end of the day, hundreds of bodies were buried, and the whole city of Guanajuato pillaged. This event would encourage Hidalgo not to attack Mexico City, afraid his followers would repeat the massacres and looting of Guanajuato.
These first insurgents eventually fell. The four main participants - Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, and José Mariano Jiménez - were shot by Spanish firing squads, and their bodies decapitated. The four heads were hung from the corners of the Alhóndiga, to discourage other independence movements. The heads remained hanging for ten years, until Mexico achieved its independence. They were then taken to Mexico City and put to rest under el Ángel de la Independencia.
Attached to one side of the Alhóndiga is a large plaza with a set of wide steps that rise to meet the edge of the building. During the annual International Cervantino Festival, this space is converted into a large open air auditorium for live performances. The shows (often music and dance by groups of worldwide acclaim) are free to the general public, with reserved seats directly below the stage.