Historic Monuments Zone of Querétaro
Historic Monuments Zone Of Querétaro
Cultural Mexico Latin America And The Caribbean Etat Querétaro, MunicipalitéDe Querétaro

Querétaro is an exceptional example of a colonial town whose layout symbolizes its multi-ethnic population. It is also endowed with a wealth of outstanding buildings, notably from the 17th and 18th centuries.

At the time of the Spanish invasion, the lands around the abandoned site of El Pueblito or El Cerrito were the territory of Otomi people from nearer the Aztec capital, who settled on the site of the present town around 1520. The Otomi leader Kho-ni adopted the Christian faith and was granted permission in 1532 to establish an indigenous village on the site, along with the Spaniard Juan Sanchez Alanis. Spanish settlers adopted the name Queretaro ('at the ball court'), a reference to the form of the narrow valley in which the settlement was situated. From the outset the town had a unique character: the indigenous settlement of Otomis, Tarascos and Chichimecas shared the area with the Spaniards. Thanks to its favourable environmental and geographical conditions, it quickly assumed a double pivotal role in the structure to the south-east that had to be crossed in order to reach the capital of New Spain, passing through the rich lowlands of the north-west, stretching some 700 km almost to the Pacific coast. At the same time it was the boundary between the southern lands, gradually settled by the Spaniards, and the northern region, which was under the control of hostile nomad peoples such as the Chichimecas.

It was also to have an important supply function for the mining towns of Guanajuato and Zacatacas. By 1680 it had become the third city of New Spain, after Mexico and Puebla, with a population of over 30,000. The wealth of Querétaro in the mid-18th century is reflected by the important buildings that were built or reconstructed at that time, giving the town its special Baroque appearance. In the early 19th century its prosperity was based on textile manufacture and tobacco production, which provided employment for one-third of its 40,000 inhabitants. Its considerable degree of autonomy, as witnessed by the appointment of a Corregidor in 1770, encouraged exceptional commercial activity.

However, Mexican independence in 1810 spelt the beginning of Querétaro's economic decline. The region saw many military engagements, continuing to the end of the century. It was also the site of important historic events: the peace treaty with the United States was concluded there in 1848, and in 1867 Emperor Maximilian was imprisoned and later executed there after the defeat of his army nearby. With the beginning of the revolutionary movement in 1909 Querétaro once again assumed a central place in the nation, as it was here that the new National Constitution was signed on 5 February 1917 by all the revolutionary groups after two months of debate in the Teatro de la República.

In this area, defined by two lines of hills with a level area some 1,500 m wide between them through which the river runs, there are 1,400 monuments, of which 20 are religious and 15 are used for public services. The first chapel (La Cruz) was built on a small hillock art the eastern end of the valley. The Plaza de Armas, the seat of government, was arcaded on two sides and surrounded by government buildings and the residences of the leading citizens.

It was not intended that Querétaro should become an Episcopal See and so no place was allocated in the plan for a cathedral. However, all the monastic orders established themselves there. First came the Franciscans, Augustinians and Dominicans, who founded large houses, followed by the Jesuits and Filipenses, as well as female orders. All have left imposing Baroque ensembles, of which the convents of Santa Teresa, El Carmen and, in particular, the convents of Santa Clara and Santa Rosa, are outstanding.

The many non-religious buildings in Querétaro, again mostly Baroque, are not innovative or exceptional in plan. Their special significance lies in the design and construction of a wide range of multilobate arches, to be found only in the interiors of the houses and palaces, which give the Baroque architecture of Querétaro an exceptional and original character, which is enhanced by the 'pink stone of Querétaro', eagerly sought and used in other parts of the region.