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Apaseo el Grande

Apaseo el Grande is a city and municipality in mexican state of Guanajuato.

The municipality covers more than 415 square kilometres (160 sq mi).
According to the 2010 census the municipality of Apase el Grande had a population of 85 thousand inhabitants.

Following the spanish conquest in 1525, Apaseo was the first town founded in what is now the state of Guanajuato.

It received its present name of Apaseo el Grande in 1957, to avoid confusion with the neighboring town of Apaseo el Alto.

Geography & Climate

The city is located at an altitude of 1,767 metres (5,797 ft) on the margins of the watercourse of the Querétaro river, a tributary of the Laja River which flows into the Lerma River. Apaseo el Grande extends over an area of 415.26 km2 (160.33 sq mi).

The Sierra de los Agustinos range enters the town from the south, and the Sierra Codornices from the west.

The main body of water is the Apaseo River, a tributary of the Laja River. In Querétaro, it forms currents and rivers like Huipal, from the state of Querétaro, that enters streams to the municipality of San Bartolo and Ixtla and the river Apaseo el Alto.

There are two springs of sulphurous water, namely the Marroquín and the Mandujano. The town also has three alkaline water springs: El Nacimiento, Agua Tibia and Llanitos. The waters of Cañada Mandujano Cedazo and Ojos de Apaseo el Alto, gathered into streams, are used to irrigate the valley lands.

The flora consists of deciduous forest and mesquite. The reported species in the area have endured heavy pressure from urbanization, and include the opossum, coyote, hare, rabbit, and birds like the thrush.


It is mild and pleasant throughout the year, with a maximum temperature of 37.1 °C (98.8 °F), and a minimum of 0.9 °C (33.6 °F). The annual rainfall is 606 mm (23.9 in).

The northern part of the municipality has a dry climate, with an annual average temperature between 12 and 22 °C (54 and 72 °F), and rainfalls of 400–600 mm (16–24 in). In the central part there is a semi-dry climate, with annual temperatures between 18 and 20 °C (64 and 68 °F) and precipitation of 557–615 mm (21.9–24.2 in).

To the south is a warm climate with summer rain totaling less than 5% of the winter rain, and average temperatures ranging between 7 and 14 °C (45 and 57 °F). June is the warmest month.

Origin of the Name & Heraldy

In pre-Columbian times, this region was known as Andahe (“close to the water”) and Atlayahualco (“place where water flows”) by the otomí and nahua inhabitants.

It was eventually known as Apatzeo (“yellow flower”) by the purépecha.

The initial name of the town and municipality was Apatzeo, first used by Hernán Pérez de Bocanegra y Córdoba, who was apparently influenced by the expression in the Purépecha language meaning “place of weasels”.

Other names of the city of Apaseo el Grande were Andehe (in the otomi language) which appears in an inscription that is in the choir of the parish church and means “by the water”.

Another name, used by the viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, was Atlayahualco, from the nahuatl language, meaning “by the lake”.

On February 22, 1957, the city and the municipality of Apaseo took the nickname “Apaseo el Grande” (“greater” or “larger”).

This change was intended to resolve conflicts caused by the use of the nickname “Apaseo el Bajo” (“Lower Apaseo”) by residents of the smaller neighboring town of Apaseo el Alto (“Upper Apaseo”).

History & Timeline

The location of Apaseo el Grande was inhabited by various indigenous groups of nahuatl, otomi and guamar peoples from ancient times and as a place of refuge following the spanish conquest of Mexico.

Spanish colonization

The territory was conquered by Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán in 1530, but its formal incorporation into the spanish empire did not occur until 1538, by act of congregation of indian villages issued by Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza.

In 1537, Don Hernán Pérez de Bocanegra began buying properties from Don Fernando P. Motoci, lord of Xuaxo, and on October 11, 1564, entailed these under the mayorazgo[es] system so the properties would be passed down in his family via primogeniture.

This area became eastern Bajío, the name by which spaniards, creoles, mestizos, indians, blacks and mulattos called the property belonging to the principal landowner of the region.

By 1571, Apaseo had 50 spanish families, 200 blacks, 150 mulattos, and 240 Otomi indians who also spoke nahuatl.

In 1547, silver deposits discovered in Zacatecas resulted in a steady stream of migration to the region, seen by the semi-nomadic chichimecas as intrusions on their ancestral lands.

Underpaid dpanish soldiers raided native villages to acquire slaves for the mines, and the chichimicas made attacks against herders and traders on the border.

Led by Bocanegra, the village of Apaseo defended itself against the chichimecas, and the nearby town of Celaya was founded to bolster the region’s defence.

As the costly chichimeca war entered its fourth decade, the colonial authorities reversed their aggressive treatment of the chichimeca and introduced the “peace by purchase” policy, countering the insurgency by rewarding peaceful behavior while taking steps to settle them in villages and assimilate them.


During the 1640s, Apaseo embarked upon a period of economic expansion through ranching in Ixtla, el Peñón and Apaseo el Alto, and fabric manufacturing in Ixtla.

The village was inhabited mostly by Indians, especially Otomi, who were already in the process of assimilating. Many had adopted Spanish surnames such as Valencia, Arrieta, Esparragoza, Sánchez, and González; others translated names like Águila (Eagle) or Conejo (Rabbit). Blacks and mulattos were employed as servants on farms centered around the village of Ixtla.

In 1690, Apaseo’s baptistery was expanded to a parish church with its existing architectural form as the town’s main building. These were times of economic prosperity for Apaseo that united traditional grain and fruit farmers with cattle and sheep farmers. Sheep produced meat and wool, which was especially valued to create garments woven in Obraje de San Diego de Ixtla and Obrajuelo. Wool supplies fueled wholesale and retail markets in Zacatecas, Guadalajara, Mexico City and the Bajío zone through the Camino Real (Royal Road).

By 1748, Apaseo was the fourth-largest city in what would be the state of Guanajuato. The indigenous people of Apaseo started to build a temple on the Camino Real, which was completed in 1824 and was dedicated to the Divina Pastora, better known today as the Pastorcita.

In December 1786, the village of Apaseo and its jurisdiction were incorporated into the Municipality of Guanajuato, along with the city of Celaya. Problems soon arose over land distribution and legal funds, and Apaseo clashed with the Mayorazgo over water rights.

War of Independence

The leaders of the Hidalgo Revolt, theologian Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and military officer Ignacio Allende, were known and esteemed in Apaseo – Allende’s sister was married to the village’s Síndico Procurador (city attorney), Don Domingo Busce. When the uprising approached Celaya in September 1810, a panic broke out in the city. Starting on 22 September, Spaniards fled to refuge at Querétaro.

On September 26, in perhaps the first offensive action, colonial troops attacked Apaseo to arrest Busce, who was accused of complicity with the insurgents. During mid-November, 7,000 men under command of Don Felix Maria Calleja stayed overnight in Apaseo, while preparing to engage Allende’s rebels.

On September 9, 1812, the rebel Colonel Don Antonio Velasco attacked Apaseo, defeating the village’s small colonial garrison. The following year, Apaseo established additional colonial garrisons at the haciendas El Tunal and Obrajuelo. Agustin de Iturbide began a relentless war against the insurgents in Bajio, working with Apaseo Parish Priest Don Manuel María Rodeles and families of the village.

In late 1815, the insurgents were active near Apaseo and on December 19 they killed three soldiers form the El Tunal garrison. Using tactics of damaging the economic base, insurgents attacked the Hacienda de Ameche on April 25, 1818. On July 9, 1818, safeguards were ordered so merchants and artisans from Celaya could attend to business in Apaseo with minimal risk.

On December 30, 1819, Pablo Esquivel, leader of the Picacho rebels, was captured and beheaded by the Apaseo garrison. On January 6, 1820, insurgent José Trinidad Aguado was captured and executed, and it seemed there was victory of the royal arms over the insurgency in Apaseo.

After Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero agreed to end the conflict in 1821, the Spanish garrison left Apaseo. By November 1821, independence was recognized across the country. Apaseo retained its municipal status under the new government, and on April 14, 1826, elected its first constitutional mayor, Don José Pablo Gomez.

In 1830, Apaseo’s textile mills failed, as did others across the country due to the impact of British textile imports. This brought economic hardship, and the same year a severe cholera epidemic killed 680 people.

Reform Era (1855–1876)

In 1856, Don Octaviano Muñoz Ledo purchased the Mayorazgo Hacienda and the adjoining haciendas of San Jose and San Cristobal, solidifying his family’s long-standing relationship with Apaseo.

During the Reform War (1857–1860), Apaseo saw much action due to its strategic location to access the Bajio region. In the Battle of Celaya (1858), General Luis G. Osollo’s army, in combination with Casanova and General Tomás Mejía, attacked General Don Anastasio Parrodi; Osollo chased Parrodi into Salamanca and defeated the Liberal forces.

Meanwhile, Apaseo witnessed an act of chivalry from General Miguel Miramón who – knowing that General Don Santiago Tapia was seriously injured and taking refuge in Apaseo – promised not to disturb the wounded and also sent his doctor to treat them.

The eventual Liberal victory meant full implementation of the 1857 Constitution and the reform laws, mainly the Confiscation (Disentailment) Act, which affected the church and community assets. In Apaseo, substantial church properties were expropriated, including several farms.

During the second French intervention in Mexico (1861–1867), when the capital was captured, President Juarez withdrew through Apaseo on June 5, 1863, taking the treasury to the interior. Liberal Apasean citizens received him and invited him to refreshment in Don Marcos Corona’s house. The resistance crumbled to Franco-Mexican forces and on November 29, 1863, Apaseo and Celaya signed the accession instrument to the Second Mexican Empire in the presence of Mejía. French troops appeared in Apaseo and Celaya on December 3.

Maximilian I took the throne, and toured the Bajío in August 1864. He was warmly received in Apaseo, though Liberals including Don Canuto Gómez hid the temple bell clappers, forcing improvisation using hammers to ring the bells for the Emperor’s party. Marshal François Achille Bazaine married on June 26, 1865, and Maximilian provided a dowry of two farms in Apaseo. The new government had seized and redistributed more than half of the old part of Apaseo: most properties had belonged to Liberals but the Mayorazgo Hacienda had belonged to Muñoz Ledo, a Conservative.

Among those who rose to defend the Republic and attack Franco-Mexican garrisons along the old Camino Real (then called the National Road) was a female bandit captain called “La Carambada”. Her main point of assault was cerca pinta near Caleras de Ameche.

With discontent throughout the country and the withdrawal of French support, Maximilian withdrew to Querétaro. On February 22 and 23, 1867, General Mendez’s Imperial Brigade of 3,000 men stayed in Apaseo on their way to join Maximilian. Behind them, the Republican army of 17,000 men passed through on March 4 and 8.

On June 30, 1870, the town of Apaseo received the title of Villa.

On May 18, 1874, Muñoz Ledo died at 68 years old. He had been a senator, minister, and governor of Guanajuato and Querétaro, and introduced the telegraph to the state. At end of his life, he had many difficulties recovering his properties.

Porfirism (1876–1910)

During the 35-year regime of Porfirio Díaz, peace allowed for the creation of much-delayed public works in Apaseo, particularly in the current Plaza Hidalgo, that was the court of the first parish church and cemetery.

By 1880, Apaseo had constructed an embankment, culverts and railway station. On March 31, 1882 the first passenger train came to Apaseo. The proximity to Querétaro and Celaya prompted Apaseo to become a metropolis of an agricultural area, where activities take place outside the village, at the haciendas and ranches. In 1904, the population of the town was 4,123 and the district was 27,587.

Mexican Revolution

Little local data exists on these years, but it can be inferred that Don Vicente A. Ruiz won the mayoral elections at the triumph of the Revolution Maderista, and continued his post as Political Chief until the Battle of Celaya. Ruiz managed to take several progressive measures, notably the introducing electricity, drilling for a water supply and organizing civil defenses.

Pancho Villa and Venustiano Carranza disagreed on how to reorganize the country and reached their breaking point on October 10, 1914. Apaseo witnessed fighting between the two sides in the Battle of Celaya (April 6–15, 1915). General Cesareo Castro’s cavalry emerged from the forests of the La Labor Hacienda, and played a decisive role in the victory over Villa’s army. Ruiz disappeared in the battle, along with many young Apaseenses who fought for Villa under his command. They may have formed the bandidos (outlaw group) “Los del Cerro de la Rosa”, whose uprising led to the abandonment of several haciendas and the village of San Miguel de Ixtla.

In 1917, the entrance of the United States in World War I, caused the price of garlic to rise rapidly, increasing the revenue of Apaseo and bringing considerable profits to speculators. In 1918, the Spanish influenza epidemic took 1,500 victims in a month.

The current town hall was completed in 1924, and on November 26 Apaseo received the title of city.

The administration of President Plutarco Elías Calles felt its revolutionary initiatives were challenged by the Catholic Church, and instituted anti-clerical laws leading to the Cristero War (1926–1929). On July 31, 1926 the Mexican Episcopate declared suspension of Catholic worship. The priests of the parish decided to hide in Apaseo, and the Apaseenses Cristeros faced federal army troops on January 4, 1927 at the Cerro del Capulin (now in the municipality of Apaseo el Alto). There were about 100 casualties on both sides. Cristero General Don Manuel Frías began to operate north of the town. Meanwhile, Catholic youths organized activities to raise funds for arms and ammunition.

On April 1, 1927, Frías unexpectedly surrounded the Plaza Hidalgo with his troops and arrested City Treasurer Ranulfo Molina, forcing him to deliver the public funds. Frías then robbed the railway station and telegraph office. They used some of the money to buy food for the Cristeros guerrillas and departed.

When diplomacy brought an agreement between the bishops and the Mexican government, the conflict effectively ended, and church bells were rung for the first time in almost three years. Public worship resumed in the Parish Church of Apaseo on July 12, 1929.

Modern era

In 1939, the Pan-American Highway was plotted through Querétaro on the route Apaseo el Alto – Celaya, which was completed in 1942.

In 1947, the District was broken into two municipalities: Apaseo and Apaseo el Alto. In 1948, a cinema opened on Plaza Hidalgo. On October 7, 1955, a prank involving exploding gunpowder caused a stampede in the cinema which left four dead and several injured.

In early 1956, Dr. Salvador Martínez Silva proposed that the city of Apaseo adopt the adjective “El Grande”. José Estrella Vazquez sent a memorandum to Congress requesting el grande (English: ‘the great’) as a nickname for the county. The XLIII State Legislature memorandum responded with Decree No. 64 of February 22, 1957, by which the city and municipality of Apaseo were collectively changed to the title of Apaseo el Grande.

In 1957, an earthquake occurred that closely marked the start of a slow and gradual drying of the spring El Nacimiento, bringing an end to cheap water and large-density irrigation in the municipality. The loss of arable land was estimated at 105 caballerías or 4,440 acres (18.0 km2), leading to Apaseo’s descent into poverty. This would be partially alleviated decades later, after the establishment of factories in the city.

In 1958, the construction of the Superhighway Querétaro–Irapuato began. On December 11, 1961, Apaseo City improved its services sector with the opening of a branch of the Bank of Commerce SA. On December 11, 1964, a branch of Banco Nacional de Mexico (Banamex) was founded on the north side of the parish.

On October 12, 1979, the first stone was laid for the municipal market, Antonio Plaza. On August 3, 1980, tax incentives were granted to attract industry to the town in what would become known as the Bajío Industrial Corridor. The first major move was the relocation of a Procter & Gamble factory. In October 1996, a new state hospital opened.

Tourist Attractions & Sightseeing

Palacio de Herrera

The Palace of Herrera (commonly called “Casa de los Perros” or the House of Dogs) is a prominent eighteenth-century colonial building. Constructed in a sober baroque style, this palace was commissioned by Don Francisco Fernández de Herrera y Antonio Merino Areávalo, landowner and merchant. Maximilian I stayed here while touring the Bajío. It is privately owned, with no public access.

Hacienda El Tunal

Fernández de Herrera owned several farms and ranches, some of which remained in the family for generations, as was the case for the Hacienda El Tunal. The hacienda was renovated in the latter nineteenth century, so it no longer represents the style of eighteenth century Bajío architecture. Access is restricted.

Temple and Franciscan Convent

This old set of buildings dates to the sixteenth century. The exterior of the church and its convent are in a military monastic style and the interior of the temple is neoclassical. Several chapels are attached to the temple with an open atrium.

Hacienda El Vicario

The Vicar appears to be a single piece from the outside. It is rumored that in 1814, the royalist army stationed soldiers on the estates of Apaseo, including El Vicario.

Railway station

This was one of the main stations of Guanajuato state for a quarter of exports, including agricultural products. The train was also used for transportation to border cities until the late-twentieth century. It is now in disrepair with no public access.

Nearby Tourist Attractions

Hacienda La Labor

Erected in the late-eighteenth century by José Ignacio Villaseñor Cervantes, this hacienda retains the outlines of its facade with neoclassical alterations. It is reminiscent of Renaissance villas with a gallery of arches on columns, a tradition dating to the Conquista.

Hacienda de Obrajuelo

Another hacienda that retains historic elements, this belonged to Captain Fausto Merino from the mid-18th century. He donated it to the congregation of clerics of Our Lady of Guadalupe de Querétaro. In the mid-19th century, Maximilian I presented it, with the Buenavista Palace of Mexico City, to Marshal Bazaine as a dowry for his marriage.

Pueblo de Ixtla

Ixtla is the first settlement founded by Spaniards from Querétaro in the state of Guanajuato. Its peculiarity is that it has about 34 chapels, some preserved better than others, belonging to different families that were part of the early population. Some of the most emblematic chapels are being restored. San Miguel Ixtla was recognized as a town c.1550, as a reservation for Otomi Indians. The family chapels were erected as part of the campaign of Christianization undertaken by Franciscans in the Otomi region.

Gastronomy & Cuisine

“Vacas” (cattle) is a stew which typically consists of crackling with potato hash and even tuna. The dish is wrapped in a thin layer of bread.

There is also a sweet bread stuffed with melted cheese, known by the name “Gallo” (rooster).

Sweets are also made with jamoncillo milk, cheeses and sausages. In recent years “gorditas” have enjoyed popularity among visitors.

Traditions, Holidays & Festivals

Charreria is the traditional sport which has promoted the formation of churros through family heritage. The charros team of Apaseo el Grande won the 1961 National Charro Championship in Querétaro. The 4,000-seat Lienzo Charro La Guadalupana opened in 1996, and has hosted two national championships. In addition to charreria, the venue is also used for shows.


Regional Fair of San Juan Bautista – First organized in June 1950 as an agricultural parade. It is held every year on June 24, celebrating the founding of the city with San Juan Bautista as patron, featuring floats adorned with chariots and decorated with allegories about the saint’s life, scenes of conquest, and evangelization. Beginning in 2008, further investment was made for the title of regional fair.

Circumcision of the Lord – On January 1, this is a highlight of the festivals that take place in the municipal seat and in San Pedro Tenango.

Day of the Three Kings – On January 6, this symbolic parade features the Magi and gifting of toys to children.

Semana Santa (Easter) – This features processions through the different villages of the town, with a final destination in the town of Ixtla, where they worship the Lord of Ojo Zarco.

Virgen del Rosario – Held on October 30.

Día de Muertos – Held on November 2, people create traditional altars to honor their dead relatives in a festive atmosphere.

Immaculate Conception – Held on December 8.

Virgin of Guadalupe – La Villita has a stone with an image of the virgin where parishioners come to worship.

How to get there & Transportation

Buses from Santiago de Queretaro

Buses from Mexico City to Celaya
Then taxi from Celaya to Apaseo el Grande

Buses from Queretaro to Celaya
Then taxi from Celaya to Apaseo el Grande

Tourist Assistance + Emergency Numbers

You can dial 078 from any phone, where you can find free information about tourist attractions, airports, travel agencies, car rental companies, embassies and consulates, fairs and exhibitions, hotels, hospitals, financial services, migratory and other issues.

Or dial the toll-free (in Mexico) number 01-800-006-8839.

You can also request information to the email


General Information: 040 (not free)

National Emergency Service: 911

Radio Patrols: 066
Police (Emergency): 060
Civil Protection: +52(55)5683-2222
Anonymous Complaint: 089

Setravi (Transport Mobility): +52(55)5209-9913
Road Emergency: 074

Cruz Roja: 065 o +52(55)5557-5757
Firefighters: 068 o +52(55)5768-3700

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