The town of San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO world heritage site with a history extending back almost 500 years.
Founded at the time of the Spanish colonization and defeat of the Aztec empire, large deposits of silver were discovered in the nearby areas of Guanajuato and Zacatecas. In order to defend themselves from raids from Chichimeca Indians the Spanish ordered the creating of a city. In 1542, Fray Juan de San Miguel did just that, and started a mission that became San Miguel de los Chichimecas.
During the Colonial period the San Miguel de los Chichimeca became known as San Miguel el Grande (Saint Michael the Great). This grandiloquent title distinguished it from other cities known also as San Miguel, and showed the outstanding position that this city achieved in industry and commerce during the Colonial period.
The workshops, the tanneries, the haciendas (Plantations), the cattle and other industries of San Miguel made it a busy commercial center during the eighteenth century. Its sarapes, blankets, woollen stuffs, cloaks, rugs, harnesses, machetes, knives, spurs, and stirrups became popular within and outside of Mexico.
During that period the conspiracies which lead to the Independence of Mexico were conceived in San Miguel. The conspiracy was led by Ignacio Allende and Father Hidalgo. They were both of Spanish parents but born in Mexico. These people (called creoles) did not have the same opportunities as the pure Spaniards and were treated as second-class citizens.
Because of this, they decided to fight against the king of Spain. On the night of September 15th, 1810 their plot was discovered, so they agreed to begin their campaign that same night by giving the Grito de Independecia (scream for liberty) in Dolores. On the morning of the 16th, Father Hidalgo delivered a rousing speech to the townspeople. That day the fight for Independence started. The Independence from Spain did not become a reality until eleven years later, in 1821.
The town in the meantime endured difficult times: most of the leaders were executed and the industries were destroyed. In 1826, the town was given the status of city by Guanajuato´s government and after that its name was changed to San Miguel de Allende, in honor of the Independence hero, who was born here.