México 200 years. The birth of a nation

The year 1821 definitely changed the history of the Mexican nation, by linking trends, actors and processes, which generated the conditions for the birth of a country.

Mapa de la República Mexicana de 1826 (1826) by Miguel L. BuenoArchivo General de la Nación - México

Map of the Mexican Territory

Mexico was born in 1821 as an independent state in the form of an empire, amid the dispute between local elites and the once insurgents to shape the new nation and manage political power. The resulting empire integrated a vast territory, from the highlands of California to the center of the American continent, under the principles of Religion, Union and Independence that were embodied in its coat of arms. However, the monarchical form of government did not subsist long and in 1823 the Mexican Federal Republic was established, as part of a new rearrangement of political forces and groups within the country.

Morelos y sus tropas by Buznego y CiaArchivo General de la Nación - México

Taking of the site of Cuautla

In 1815, after the capture and death of José María Morelos y Pavón, the insurgent movement weakened strongly as the various groups fighting for independence had dispersed to various areas to keep the resistance alive. Among the main insurgent leaders who maintained the war were. 

Ignacio Allende y sus tropas by Buznego y CiaArchivo General de la Nación - México

For example, Manuel Mier y Terán, who settled with his troops on Cerro Colorado, located at the crossroads between Puebla, Veracruz and Oaxaca, where it remained until early 1817; Francisco Xavier Mina, liberal defender of the Constitution of Cádiz, and Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, who were located in Soto la Marina, on the coasts of Nueva Santander (current state of Tamaulipas), from where they went to Guanajuato and joined the forces of Pedro Moreno. 

Vicente Guerrero (1873)Archivo General de la Nación - México

Vicente Guerrero

For his part, Vicente Guerrero maintained an intermittent struggle with small attacks by armed groups from the mountains of the south of the country. However, in general the insurgency remained fragmented with its local leaderships without being able to unify and without being able to change the situation between the contending forces to advance more forcefully in the war. After the ups and downs of the resistance and the guerrilla struggle, in 1820 Vicente Guerrero and Pedro Ascencio Alquisiras put in trouble the royalist troops established in the mountainous region of the south and commanded by Colonel Gabriel Armijo, who after the constant defeats resigned from his position.

Cortes de Cádiz (1813) by AnonymusArchivo General de la Nación - México

                In that same year of 1820 the King of Spain, Fernando VII swore the Constitution of Cádiz of 1812. This meant a new triumph for the Cadiz liberalism that fought for the rights of the people, representative government and freedom of printing. However, this political situation in Spain worried the interests of sectors of the clergy and the army, who considered their privileges in New Spain threatened. These sectors managed to convince the viceregal government to appoint Agustín de Iturbide as Commander General of the South, with the task of ending the insurgent troops of Guerrero and Alquisiras. However, the deep political significance was that Agustín de Iturbide was intended to provide a viable and peaceful way out of the war.

Plan para conciliar los intereses de los Insurgentes (1821) by Agutín de iturbide and Agustín de IturbideArchivo General de la Nación - México

Agustín de Iturbide

Because Iturbide had been personally affected by the decisions of the viceregal government and the Crown of Spain, he adopted a new position in which he ended up embracing the idea of mexican independence. From then on, Iturbide established communication and exchanged correspondence with Guerrero with the aim of agreeing on an alliance that would put an end to the bloodshed. Both parties reached an agreement after considering a political plan that supported the independence of the territory of New Spain. To seal this pact, Guerrero and Iturbide met in February 1821 in Acatempan, current state of Guerrero, where they gave the famous "Embrace of Acatempan", which marked the beginning of the pacification of the nascent country.

Plan de Iguala (1821) by Agustín de IturbideArchivo General de la Nación - México

The Plan of Iguala

After agreeing, Iturbide sent Vicente Guerrero the Project of the Independence Plan of New Spain, a document that later became known as the Plan of Iguala. Guerrero accepted the plan for the most part, with the exception of the point heraised  to offer the crown of Mexico to the King of Spain.

Plan de Iguala (1821) by Agustín de IturbideArchivo General de la Nación - México

Iturbide continued with the plan and by February 24, 1821 it was signed in Iguala by Guerrero and Iturbide himself, later the manifesto addressed to the entire population of New Spain was presented to the troops, which in 24 articles declared devotion to the Catholic faith, the independence of New Spain and the equality of Americans without distinction of origin.

Plan de Iguala (1821) by Agustín de IturbideArchivo General de la Nación - México

To defend these guarantees, an Army called the Three Guarantees or Trigarante was formed, commanded by Iturbide himself; This plan proposed that the government be a moderate monarchy and its ruler, the King of Spain or anyone from the ruling house; and that the property of all people, Spanish, American, and of the clergy, would be respected.

Proclama del Virrey Juan Ruiz de Apodaca previniendo no apoyar los planes de Agustín de Iturbide (1821) by Juan Ruiz de ApodacaArchivo General de la Nación - México

  After the lack of printing by the forces of the Trigarante Army, a group of notaries was consigned to make hundreds of copies of the Plan of Iguala to send them to the authorities of New Spain, including Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca, who immediately reacted with a proclamation addressed to the people on March 3, 1821, in which he pleaded to ignore the subversive plans propagated by Iturbide and to keep the fidelity proclaimed to the King of Spain, warning that Iturbide wanted to lead New Spain along the same path that eleven years ago he had left the territory in instability, desolation and ruin. In contrast, he stated that his duty as the highest authority of New Spain was to protect the stability, civil and individual freedom of New Spain.

Orden de Juan Ruiz de Apodaca para atacar a las fuerzas de Agustín de Iturbide (1821) by Juan Ruiz de ApodacaArchivo General de la Nación - México

 Juan Ruiz de Apodaca accused Iturbide of being a traitor and of being outside the law, so he tried to organize an Army to fight him, for which he requested that a form, drawn up on March 15, 1821, be spread in all the towns of the region known as Nueva Galicia, a territory that today is made up of the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Colima, Guanajuato and Michoacán, to instruct that their troops have the indication to attack Agustín de Iturbide from behind, because they had news that it was near that area of ​​Valladolid.

Organización de las fuerzas en Nueva Galicia, en contra del coronel Agustín de Iturbide (1821) by Juan Ruiz de ApodacaArchivo General de la Nación - México

Considering that the Iguala Plan was a conspiracy contrary to the constitution headed by Colonel Iturbide, Ruiz de Apodaca circulated throughout the province of Nueva Galicia the accusations of conspiracy and going against the constitutionality declared on March 16 In 1821, the Provincial Council, the Territorial Court of Audience, made the troops and armed groups of that region and the province of Zacatecas, who answered to put regiments at the command of Viceroy Apodaca.

Informe al Virrey de la circulación en Veracruz de los planes de Agustín de Iturbide (1821) by José DávilaArchivo General de la Nación - México

Among the answers that were made to the statements circulated by Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca, information was added from the province of Veracruz that on March 16, it was learned that Agustín de Iturbide was staying in Iguala, while His troops had taken the territory of Cuernavaca meeting with people from the haciendas who joined the Trigarante movement, in addition to the fact that in Xalapa some military bodies joined the Plan of Iguala.

Batalla entre insurgentes y realistas (1812) by AnonymusArchivo General de la Nación - México

Battle of Insurgents against Royalists


Cartas del Agustín de Iturbide a el mariscal José de la Cruz para tomar parte en la independencia (1821) by José de la CruzArchivo General de la Nación - México

Iturbide and his men had already convinced most of the royalist military to join the Trigarante Army. By the end of April 1821 the military leaders Luis Cortázar, Anastasio Bustamante and Joaquín Parrés had already adhered to the Plan of Iguala. To try to reverse it, Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca offered to forgive those who had joined Iturbide. Although there were soldiers, they remained faithful to the instructions of the viceregal authorities. This was the case of Marshal José de la Cruz, in whose letters we can read that he informed the viceroy of the invitations that had been made to him to join the Trigarante troops. However, the viceroy's efforts were unsuccessful in the face of growing adherence to the Trigarantes.

Circular del virrey Juan Ruiz de Apodacapara dar de baja a los militares que se unieron a Agustín de Iturbide (1821) by Juan Ruiz de ApodacaArchivo General de la Nación - México

Given the great sympathy that Iturbide and the independence cause was adding, Viceroy Apodaca issued a circular on May 26, 1821. In it he instructed the high command of the royalist troops to take measures to prevent further desertions of the soldiers they had under his position, to take action to replace the casualties and to add more armed personnel.

Anastasio Bustamante by AnonymusArchivo General de la Nación - México

Anastasio Bustamante

Days before Iturbide had reported that José Joaquín de Herrera, a royalist colonel, was joining the independence cause by controlling the towns of San Andrés Chalchicomula, Tepeaca, Puebla and Córdoba. In addition, three divisions were organized, one under the command of Vicente Guerrero, another led by José Antonio Echávarri, and the third under the orders of Anastasio Bustamante, he marched to Valladolid ordering to demolish the fortifications and eliminate taxes, reasons for which the Royalist soldiers were passing over to the insurgent forces.

Antonio Lopez de Santa AnaArchivo General de la Nación - México

Antonio López de Santa Anna

Gradually the Trigarantes forces gained ground in various provinces headed by new military chiefs. Antonio López de Santa Anna bet on Jalapa; Nicolás Bravo joined Pedro Zarzosa and together they entered Tlaxcala; Pedro Celestino Negrete declared himself in favor of independence in Guadalajara, one of the most protected regions of New Galicia, and Luis Quintanar defeated the royalist troops in San Juan del Río, while Iturbide arrived in the same region to meet with Guadalupe Victoria.  While the Trigarantes forces took several of the provinces, in Mexico City a group of Spanish soldiers, led by General Francisco Novella, forced the resignation of Viceroy Apodaca because he considered him lukewarm in his actions against  the  Trigarante Army. Novella himself took command under the charge of Senior Political Chief.  

Bando del virrey Francisco Novella (1821) by Francisco NovellaArchivo General de la Nación - México

On July 5, 1821, Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca was deposed by a group of royalists led by Brigadier Bucelli. The group was disgusted by the great advance that Agustín de Iturbide had in his independence project, so he decided to hand over the command to Field Marshal Francisco Novella. He barricaded himself in Mexico City and we know that he issued an order for every citizen, neighbor or passerby between 16 and 60 years oldto presenthimself  to the Board of Enlistment for the Garrison Service. In the document indicated, he referred that whoever did not do so would be apprehended and forced to serve on the front for six years. This action demonstrated the desperation in which the last royalist forces in New Spain found themselves in the face of their inferiority with respect to the Trigarante Army. He gave a tangible example of this relationship of military forces with a resounding victory in the battle of Azcapotzalco on August 19, 1821.

Agustín de IturbideArchivo General de la Nación - México

Agustín de Iturbide

With the departure of Apodaca, from Spain the order was given to appoint Juan  O'Donojú Superior Political Chief of New Spain. O'Donojú took his oath in Spain, took office and later arrived in Veracruz, where he launched his first proclamation, in which he manifested his liberal faith and offered to reconcile the interests of Americans and Europeans.   As soon as Iturbide learned of his arrival, he sought to meet with him to negotiate the recognition of the independence of the Mexican Empire.

Tratados de Córdoba (1821) by Agustín de Iturbide y Juan O´DonojúArchivo General de la Nación - México

Treaties of Cordoba

Finally, on August 24, 1821, the insurgents  led by Iturbide and O'Donojú met in the Villa de Córdoba, where they reached an agreement with the signing of the so-called "Treaties of Córdoba". In these Juan O'Donojú, as representative of the Crown of  Spain, accepted  the "Plan of Iguala" and  reconoció the total Independence of Mexico with respect to Spain. For its part, Mexico agreed to establish itself as a sovereign and independent nation that would be called the Mexican Empire; taking as a form of government a constitutional monarchy, which was to be governed by Ferdinand VII or the royal authority that the Crown of Spain disposed. While waiting for the appointment of the new Emperor, the  Mexican nation had the right to integrate a Provisional Government Junta, which would appoint a Regency that would govern until the arrival of the King of Spain. The treaty stipulated that in the event that the King does not appear or does not recognize his right to the crown of the Mexican Empire, this nation had the freedom to appoint its first emperor, which opened the possibility for Agustín de Iturbide to assume supreme command.

Aviso de un armisticio de 6 días (1821) by Francisco NovellaArchivo General de la Nación - México

  After signing the "Treaties of Córdoba" Don Juan O´Donojú wrote to Novella on September 7, 1821, to inform the royalist army about the 6-day peace agreement with the Trigarante Army, by which the troop positions where they were; civilians would be allowed in to bring food; It was also provided that any combatant who returned to his regiment would have to prove that he had done so during the peace period and finally notice was given of the meeting that would take place in the capital of New Spain, in Tacuba, between the generals of the Trigarante Army and the so-called Realist Army. 

Noticias del croquis que siguió el Ejército Trigarante hasta la capital (1823) by AnonymusArchivo General de la Nación - México

Novella andO'Donojú met at the Hacienda de Patera, between Azcapotzalco and the Villa de Guadalupe, where the former handed over command to the latter. Later they met with Agustín de Iturbide, with whom they agreed to provide guarantees to the royalists to go out to Cuba, freedom to all political prisoners, the restoration of freedom of freedom of entryinto New Spain andthe triumphal entry of the Trigarante Army to Mexico City.

Proclama del virrey en la que condena los planes subversivos del coronel Iturbide (1821) by Juan Ruiz de ApodacaArchivo General de la Nación - México

With this agreement the army followed a long road as shown in this document dated 1823, which lists all the provinces, cities and towns through which they passed, from their departure from the town of Iguala until their arrival in Tacubaya in the town of Azcapotzalco.

Acta de Independencia del Imperio Mexicano (1821) by Supreme Provisional Governing BoardArchivo General de la Nación - México

Act of Independence of the Mexican Empire

By September 28, a proclamation was issued informing all Mexicans of the end of the war. That same day Iturbide published the invitation to all the royalists to join the triumphant Trigarante Army and dedicated himself to electing the members of the Provisional Governing Board, for which he selected 38 members, which included aristocrats, clerics, generals and merchants, who signed the Act of the Mexican Empire. This board met on September 28, 1821 in the Cathedral and elected a Regency of which Agustín de Iturbide was elected  as  president. Likewise, Juan José Espinosa de los Monteros, who served as  Secretary  of the Provisional Government Board, drafted the Act of Independence of the Mexican Empire, which was signed by the members of the Board, except for five of them (among them  O'Donojú,who would die a few days later). In this Act it was solemnly declared that the Nation was Sovereign and Independent of the ancient Spain,  would relate amicably with the other powers and that it would maintain, at the cost of everything, its independence. With this, Mexico formally emerged as an Independent Nation after 300 years as a colony.

Aviso desde Guatemala con la volundad de unirse para conusmar la Independencia (1821) by Gabino GainzaArchivo General de la Nación - México

The process of independence initiated by Agustín de Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero on February 24, 1821 in Iguala, Guerrero, not only marked the history of Mexico, but also five of our sister republics of what today constitutes Central America. These were Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, who joined the new independence stage that was lived in the old New Spain and declared their independence on September 15, 1821. For example, in our collection we have a manifesto, dated January 1822, in which you can know the will of a faction of the Guatemalan government, headed by Gavino Gainza, to join the nascent Mexican Empire. However, accession tendencies such as the one shown revived the independence positions of these nations. This would eventually lead them to constitute themselves as independent republics.

Decreto de Agustín de Iturbide como Almirante Generalísimo (1821) by Junta SoberanaArchivo General de la Nación - México

On October 23, 1821, the Regency of the Mexican Empire issued a decree to the Sovereign Provisional Government Junta to determine that Agustín de Iturbide obtain the powers and duties as Admiral Generalissimo. This meant that Iturbide would have to take charge of the military forces by sea and land, he would direct the military colleges and corps of arms, while monitoring the performance of everything related to the military Treasury. 

Decreto de la conformación de la Hacienda Pública (1822) by Regencia del ImperioArchivo General de la Nación - México

With the creation of a Sovereign Mexican Constituent Congress, the institutions began to be formed in a more stableway. One of them was the Public Treasury in charge of customs, financial management, civilian and military jobs. Before the installation of the Constituent Congress, the Soberana Provisional Government Board had issued provisional measures for the Treasury system in February 1822, which were modified with the Decree of February 28 that began to shape the Public Treasury. The process involved the recruitment of staff,  even if the new institution was not fully organized. Hence, on May 7, the Regency issued a decree that ordered the process of providing civilian and military jobs in customs, for the management and collection of flows, a communication that was sent to the political leaders of the provinces, as the communication of said decree by Luis Quintanar makes known, Political Chief  of the Province of Guadalajara.

Decreto que establece la pena por el delito de conspirar contra la Independencia (1822) by Regencia del ImperioArchivo General de la Nación - México

Thus the Sovereign Congress  issued a decree on May 13, 1822 to ensure internal security that imposed penalties for the crime of conspiracy against Independence. The decree stated that the penalty that this penalty that had been reserved in the Plan of Iguala to Agustín de Iturbide would be the same as that indicated by the laws in force promulgated until the year 1810 used to punish the crime of human majesty. In the following days, the order was transmitted to the courts, justice institutions, chiefs, governors and various authorities to monitor its compliance.

Caricatura de Insurgentes y Realistas (1812) by AnonymousArchivo General de la Nación - México

Coronation of Iturbide I

Augustine of Iturbide was appointed emperor amid conflicts between the powers of the new nation. As president of the Regency he entered into tension with the   liberal-made Congress over the resolution of the country's most pressing economic problems, the payment to troops, and the formation of the   machines that placed limits on his power. The confrontation was resolved with a coup d'état  that   mobilized  Iturbide's troops  and  exalted him as emperor on May 18, 1822. In the following days, in the midst of heated discussions and attempts to hold a consultation in the provinces, Congress ratified the de facto election, for which on May 21 Augustine I was sworn in. The coronation was scheduled for June 27, but was postponed for a month due to Iturbide's indisposition, a period during which a congressional commission made preparations with a ceremonial aimed at exalting his figure. A procession  was held that crossed the ornate streets, a main square with portraits of Iturbide,culminating  in the coronation held in the  catedral  metropolitana on July 21, 1822,with the presence of the imperialfamily, representatives of the corporations of the city and the Congress. Rafael  Mangino,president of the Congress, placed the crown on Iturbide's head in the symbolic act of delegation of power to the new emperor.     

Reglamento para el gobierno interior de su secretaría (1822) by Agustín de IturbideArchivo General de la Nación - México

On May 22, 1822, Agustín de Iturbide was proclaimed as the first constitutional emperor of Mexico and two days later, on May 24, the regulations for the internal government of his Secretariat were published. This document set out in three chapters the obligations of the four deputy secretaries in charge of documents and decrees issued, as well as the activities and salaries of the officers and scribes in that Secretariat, where an archive was already maintained.

Lista de insurgentes perseguidos por las autoridades novohispanas (1821)Archivo General de la Nación - México

Many of the former insurgents remained unhappy with the imperial form of government established after the proclamation of independence. The fundamental discrepancy was in the political project and the form of government to be adopted since this side was in favor of a republican form of government, which is why they were victims of persecution by Agustín de Iturbide. The work of surveillance and identification of political adversaries can be seen in this list in which suspects of conspiring against the Iturbide government are identified, among which Guadalupe Victoria and Nicolás Bravo are identified.

Guadalupe VictoriaArchivo General de la Nación - México

Guadalupe Victoria

Nicolás Bravo y sus tropas by Buznego y CiaArchivo General de la Nación - México

Nicolás Bravo and his troops

Plan de Casa Mata (1823)Archivo General de la Nación - México

Plan de Casa Mata

Despite political marginalization, surveillance and persecution,theinsurgent opposition managed to group together and promote a political initiative against the empire. After various communications and negotiations to achieve peace, Members of the Imperialist Army and rebels opposed to the imperial form of government led by Santa Anna and Guadalupe Victoria met on February 1, 1823 in Veracruz, in a powder keg known as  Casa Mata to agree on a Plan, known since then as Plan de Casa Mata. This political agreement called for the restitution of the Congress, which had been dissolved by Iturbide, and recognized Congress as the depositary of national sovereignty. Adherents to the political plan pledged to defend  Congress as the national representation, conferring on it the authority to define the form of government, while rejecting the imperial system of government. As a result of the action around  the Iturbide plan he lost the support of the army that held him in power and was defeated. In the same year he was banished and the Sovereign Mexican Constituent Congress was restored.

Acta Constitutiva de la Federación Mexicana (1824) by Congreso ConstituyenteArchivo General de la Nación - México

Constitutive Act of the Mexican Federation

After the departure of Agustín de Iturbide from power, the Federal Republic was established in 1823 and on January 31, 1824, the Constitutive Act of the Mexican Federation was promulgated by the Constituent Congress. This act sought to respond to and resolve the political problems of organization and administration of the recent Mexican nation. The Congress of 1824 was composed of elements with marked federalist ideas. Following the conclusion of the  discussion sessions, the document was adopted and promulgated. In the body of the text was assignedto the adoption of the representative, popular and federal republic as a form of government, the division of powers into Executive, Legislative and Judicial, with their respective functions  was recorded.  This  activity influenced the formation of the Magna Carta that was finally promulgated on October 4, 1824.

Tratado definitivo de Paz y Amistad entre la República Mexicana y España (1836) by Miguel Santa MaríaArchivo General de la Nación - México

For more than a decade and a half Spain continued not to recognize the independence of the new Mexican nation until December 28, 1836, during the interim of José Justo Corro as president of Mexico, the Treaties of Peace and Friendship between the Mexican Republic and the Spanish Monarchy were signed, in Madrid, Spain. This document, of which our institution retains a copy, was signed by the secretaries Miguel Santa María, on behalf of Mexico, and by  José María Calatrava, on the part of Spain. Through these treaties Queen Isabel II, as representative of Spain, recognized the independence of Mexican territory, as well as its character as a free and sovereign nation, diplomatic relations were established and the tensions between both nations arising from the war ended. For its part, Mexico undertook to respect Spain's overseas possessions: Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. 

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Referencias Documentales
AGN, Colección de documentos para la historia de México (Secretaría de Relaciones 1853-1880), vol. 48, Exp. 162, f. 430. MAPILU: 4268.
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AGN, Instituciones coloniales, Operaciones de guerra, vol. 1013 folio 356-357.
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AGN, Archivos particulares, Colección Fernando Iglesias Calderón, Caja 2, Exp. 5.
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