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Town Plan of Zitácuaro de Independencia with Manuscript Notes

This is a sketch of a plan of Zitácuaro, another copy of which is available at /gallery/detail/49465ba . It is not an exact copy, however, as it has some manuscript notes, including one referring to a possible artist.

The orientations of the two sketches are the same, but the roads leading from Zitácuaro are labeled differently in two cases. The buildings look largely the same, but the listed buildings and their locations are slightly different. On the other sketch, the following are listed:

  1. Prefectura y Aduana (Prefecture and Custom House)
  2. Ayuntamiento (Town Council)
  3. cárcel pública (Public Jail)
  4. Iglesia parroquial (Parish Church)
  5. Hospital (Hospital)
  6. Camposanto ó antigua parroquia (Graveyard or Old Parish)

On this copy, the following are listed:

  1. Casa Municipal
  2. Parroquia
  3. Gefatura Civil y aduana
  4. Camposanto
  5. Hospital militar

The second copy has most the buildings of the first, but drops identification of the jail. The hospital is also in a different place, farther south, but it is unclear if this is a different hospital, if the hospital is misidentified on the other copy, or something else. The cerro to the south of the town, labeled as Guadalupe in the first sketch, is not named in this sketch.

Perhaps the most interesting change between the two is the title. On the first, the plan is identified as " Croquis de la Ciudad de Zitácuaro de Yndependencia. 1864." One this sketch, it says, " Plano de Tzítácuaro de Yndependencia, conforme estaba en noviembre de 1864. R. Sierra á su amigo J. Barquera." This note suggests that this copy was made later, as the past tense is used for the verb "to be", estar.

As with the buildings, the title leaves tantalizing mysteries. Is this sketch made by R. Sierra for J Barquera, or it is implying the first sketch passed between those two? How long afterward was this copy made, if at all? The answers are unclear, but they are an intriguing and aesthetically pleasing pair.

The buildings listed here indicate that Zitácuaro was a prominent town in region. Zitácuaro housed so many important buildings not only because it was geographically central, but because it was historically significant. Zitácuaro is in the eastern part of Michoacán, bordering the state of México. In the colonial era, Zitácuaro sat on a royal road, en route from Mexico City to Valladolid.

It is the Independence era that made Zitácuaro famous, however. After the Grito de Dolores in September 1810, Zitácuaro rose up. The area fell under the leadership of Benedicto López, a creole farmer. Under López, the rebels defeated a regiment sent to take the royal road in early 1811. Later that year, Ignacio López Rayón declared the Suprema Junta Nacional Americana, or the Supreme American National Council. This is widely considered to be the first attempt by the rebels to set up a replacement government to Spanish control.

The royalists of course resented the Junta and attacked the city with a vengeance. They sacked the city on January 12, 1812 and burned much of it to the ground. The city was burned again on April 1, 1855, when troops with allegiance to Santa Anna took revenge on the city which had declared for a rival general, Juan Álvarez. The original map was made just nine years after this tragedy, so many of the building would have been new or repaired.

The city was burned a third time in 1865, when French imperial troops retaliated against the Republican victory in the Battle of Tacámbaro. This troubled past marked Zitácuaro as a place of national resilience. In 1868, President Benito Juárez decreed that the city would now bear the name Heroica Zitácuaro, or Heroic Zitácuaro. The cerro labeled shown here to the south of town became known as Cerrito de la Independencia.