San Luis Potosí

Early History
While scant information exists on the state’s pre-Hispanic era, the Huastecos, Chichimecas and Guachichile Indians are believed to have inhabited the lands that now comprise San Luis Potosí as far back as 10,000 B.C. Their descendants make up a large segment of the state’s present population, many of whom continue to speak their native language.

Did You Know?

In December 1853, General Santa Anna selected an untitled poem by Francisco Gonzalez Bocanegra, a poet from San Luis Potosí, to be the lyrics for the country's new national anthem. A Spaniard, Jaime Nuno Rocco, provided the musical score.

The Huastecos culture left behind two cities that have recently been discovered in the area: Tamtok and El Consuelo, both of which probably had their golden age between the 3rd and 10th centuries. Researchers suspect that these cities influenced other groups in the region including the Chichimecas, Pames and Otomis and are examining the relationships between the cultures.

The name Chichimeca came from the Mexica (Aztecs), who applied it to a wide range of fierce, semi-nomadic peoples who inhabited the northern parts of the country.

Middle History
The Chichimecas eventually dominated the region, but were conquered by Spaniard Hernán Cortés not long after his arrival in October 1522. Soon after, Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán was appointed governor of the region by the Spanish crown. In 1539, Franciscan priests Antonio de Rosa and Juan Sevilla arrived from Spain and began converting the Indians to Roman Catholicism. When minerals were discovered in 1546, Spanish settlements grew quickly throughout the area, outraging the Chichimeca Indians, who rebelled against the Spanish in 1550. The ensuing Chichimeca War cost thousands of lives and threatened the operation of many Spanish-held mines.

On October 18, 1585, Alonso Manrique de Zuñiga, the Marqués de Villamanrique, was appointed the seventh viceroy of Mexico. Villamanrique was convinced that he could end the bloodbath and restore peace to the area. One of his first gestures was to free the Indians who had been captured during the war. He then launched a full-scale peace offensive, negotiating with Chichimeca leaders and providing the Indian population with food, clothing, lands and agricultural supplies. On November 25, 1589, the war between the Spanish and the Chichimec Indians came to an end and peace was, for a time, restored. However, the Spanish population and their power continued to grow after the end of the Chichimeca War, further aggravating and marginalizing the indigenous tribes. In 1592, the year that the city of San Luis Potosí was founded, the area experienced another gold rush after new deposits were discovered.

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the state remained Mexico’s most prolific mining center. In 1772, silver was discovered in the local mountains of Real de Catorce, located in San Luis Potosí’s desert region. A town of the same name was quickly erected, and the area became another of the state’s many lucrative mining operations.

The Mexican independence movement reached San Luis Potosí in 1810. Nevertheless, Spanish loyalists continued to control the region, and the state functioned as a base for conservatives who wanted the country to continue under the dominance of Spain. The country extricated itself from Spanish rule in 1821, and San Luis Potosí received its statehood in 1824. A constitution was drafted two years later.

Recent History
San Luis Potosí, like every state in Mexico, experienced a time of political and social turmoil during the latter part of the 19th century. In 1846, Mexico´s army led by Santa Anna marched through San Luis Potosí to fight against the U.S. troops invading Mexico. No battles were held in the state, but locals provided the Mexican army with supplies and moral support.

When the French invaded Mexico in 1862, Mexican President Benito Juárez relocated the federal government to San Luis Potosí. Juárez continued to move the country’s seat of power until the death of Maximiliano–the emperor installed by the French government–in 1867. Juárez briefly ruled from San Luis Potosí again after Maximiliano was executed by Mexican Republicans in Querétaro.

A period of relative calm followed the defeat of the French, and in 1877, Porfirio Díaz was elected president, an office he would hold on and off over the next three decades. At the close of the 19th century, San Luis Potosi experienced economic growth that mainly benefited Spanish landholders and merchants. While the area’s indigenous groups continued to struggle for the right to own land and to lead free and fulfilling lives, factions opposed to Díaz’s corrupt and violent regime began to grow in number and intensity.

A particularly vociferous critic of the Díaz administration, Francisco Indalécio Madero, was arrested in July 1910 and sent to San Luis Potosí. He successfully escaped and issued the Plan of San Luis on October 5th, which encouraged Mexicans to take up arms against the government and marked the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.

Because the railroad from Mexico City to Laredo, Texas, passed through San Luis, it became a pivotal region in the Mexican Revolution, since controlling the city also meant controlling access to the Mexican-American border.

In 1911, Díaz was forced to resign the presidency due to increased pressure from revolutionaries. Madero was elected president the following year. His assassination in 1913 threw the country into turmoil and sparked further conflicts among political factions throughout Mexico, such as those loyal to Francisco Pancho Villa, Victoriano Huerta and Emiliano Zapata. Between 1914 and 1920, numerous power shifts occurred before a new party, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), was formed. The PRI won popular support and controlled the presidency until 2000.

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