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Guanajuato, population 78,364 (2005), a city in Mexico best known as the leading producer of silver in New Spain and the world in the second half of the eighteenth century. Guanajuato was founded as a small mining camp in the northern Bajío about 1554. Alexander von Humboldt, a German traveler who visited the city in 1803, deemed the veins in Guanajuato (La Valenciana) to be the richest in the world. He also reported an estimated "5,000 miners and workmen" were occupied with mining operations there.

Guanajuato was not surrounded by primordial indigenous communities, but by only a few settler pueblos of Otomí and Tarascans. Nevertheless, it represented an attractive lure to Indians seeking work. Owing to both immigration and natural increase, its population jumped from 156,140 to 397,924 between 1742 and 1793. Compared to the central highlands, the region was much more urban and ethnically mixed, features that created a considerable internal market for the agricultural and manufactured goods of the Bajío.

Resistance to governmental controls and Jesuit expulsion prompted uprisings in Guanajuato in the 1760s. But it was the Hidalgo revolt of 1810 that endowed Guanajuato with even greater notoriety. Home to some three hundred peninsular-born Spaniards and the silver jewel in the crown, the city represented a prize conquest for the insurgents, who took it by storm in September of that year. Its capture was achieved largely through the defeat of the city's elite at the municipal granary, or alhóndiga, where many Spaniards sought refuge. The memory of bloody independence pursuits at Guanajuato stayed with Mexico's establishment for a long time afterward. Mining activity picked up again at the end of the nineteenth century and, along with agriculture and stock-raising, sustains Guanajuato today. Investment and the designation of the city's colonial mines and historic center in 1988 by UNESCO as a World Heritage site has spurred tourism. Remittances from migrants in the United States are important to the state's economy.

Guanajuato is the administrative center for state government, and in recent years the National Action Party (PAN) has produced several governors, including former president Vicente Fox Quesada. The city is also the base for the University of Guanajuato.

See alsoMexico, Political Parties: National Action Party (PAN); Mining: Colonial Spanish America; New Spain, Colonization of the Northern Frontier.


Eric R. Wolf, "The Mexican Bajío in the Eighteenth Century," in Synoptic Studies of Mexican Culture, no. 17, edited by Robert Wauchope (1957), pp. 177-198.

Hugh M. Hamill, Jr., The Hidalgo Revolt (1966), pp. 51-52, 91-93, 124, 137-141, 149.

D. A. Brading, Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763–1810 (1971), pp. 223-339.

Alexander Von Humboldt, Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, translated by John Black and edited by Mary Maples Dunn (1972), pp. 151-156.

Additional Bibliography

Blanco, Mónica, Alma Parra, and Ethelia Ruiz Medrano. Breve historia de Guanajuato. México, D.F.: Colegio de México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2000.

Chowning, Margaret. Rebellious Nuns: The Troubled History of a Mexican Convent, 1752–1863. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Durand, Jorge, and Douglas S. Massey. Crossing the Border: Research from the Mexican Migration Project. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2004.

Meyer Cosío, Francisco Javier. La minería en Guanajuato: Denuncios, minas y empresas (1892–1913). Guanajuato, Mexico: Universidad de Guanajuato, 1998.

Serrano Espinoza, Luis Antonio, and Juan Carlos Cornejo Muñoz. De la plata, fantasías: La arquitectura del siglo XVIII en la ciudad de Guanajuato. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1998.

Serrano Ortega, José Antonio. Jerarquía territorial y transición política: Guanajuato, 1790–1836. Zamora, Mexico: El Colegio de Michoacán, 2001.

                                         Stephanie Wood