June 8 (May 29, o.s.)

Mexico: As ordered by the viceroy, the Conde de Galve, the royal prosecutor Juan de Escalante y Mendoza and the district magistrate Juan Núñez de Villavicencio arrive at the Mexico City grain exchange in the morning to oversee the distribution of maize and prevent the sort of problems that occurred the previous day when the exchange closed early when supplies were exhausted. Escalante tries to impose some order on the process by setting up multiple stations for distribution, but the crowd is so large and unruly that this measure does little to reduce the tension and desperation in the air. At 1:00 pm, after spending the whole morning dealing with the chaos at the exchange, Escalante goes home.

When he returns at 4:00 pm, the crowd is much bigger than it was when he left. The grain supplies soon run out, and about 150 are turned away empty-handed. To prove that there really is no maize left, Escalante opens up the granary and shows the crowd that all the bins are empty. He and Núñez then promise that those who haven’t received any grain will be served first the next day. This mollifies the crowd somewhat, and Escalante prepares to return home, believing he has done his duty and prevented any serious disturbances of the peace. On his way out of the granary he notices an Indian woman lying unconscious on a staircase. She is surrounded by friends of hers who tell him that she fainted in the commotion of the crowd at the grain exchange. Escalante takes the woman’s pulse and determines that she is not at serious risk, then asks a servant to bring her some Spanish wine, then send her home. He then goes home himself.

Soon, however, a group of about fifty people, mostly Indians, march to the palace of the archbishop, Francisco de Aguiar y Seijas y Ulloa, carrying this same woman, with a cloak covering her head. They are angry and describe the woman as “dead” to those they encounter, some of whom are skeptical and point out that she seems to be sweating and blinking. This only angers her companions more, as the woman is clearly in bad shape even if they are exaggerating a bit in describing her as dead. They attribute her condition to being beaten by the authorities at the grain exchange.

Angry and excited, the crowd arrives at the archbishop’s palace, seeking help in their dispute with the secular authorities over the grain shortage and the disturbances at the grain exchange. The archbishop, however, refuses to see them, and has a servant tell them to go see the viceroy instead. Since the crowd’s concerns are largely with the viceroy himself, along with his officials, this is not welcome advice, but the people are desperate for a place to air their grievances and they proceed to the royal palace, on the east side of the plaza. They arrive there at 5:30 pm.

The viceroy, however, is not at the palace. Today is the Octave of Corpus Christi, and after attending services at the friary of San Agustín he went to the church of San Francisco for further prayer and is still there. The restless and angry crowd that arrives at his palace is driven to the breaking point by the guards’ refusal to allow them entrance and by the news that the viceroy isn’t even there. Some of them begin waving their cloaks at the guards the way matadors do at bulls. The guards, undermanned because many of their number have been given the holiday off and severely undersupplied with ammunition and powder, are reluctant to take any action against the crowd. When some of the protesters begin throwing rocks, however, the guards decide to act, and about fifteen of them charge into the crowd, driving them into the middle of the plaza before being driven back themselves by a barrage of rocks. A few minutes later they try again, but are once again driven back. All the while, more and more people are arriving at the plaza and joining the crowd. Soon there are thousands.

Faced with this determined mass of people, and aware of their own massive inferiority in numbers, the guards decide to close and bar all the doors to the palace to keep the crowd from storming it. They also post sentries behind each door. The crowd, still throwing rocks, responds by setting the doors on fire. The rioters also begin to spread out, setting fire to the municipal buildings on the south side of the plaza, including the public jail, and beginning to loot the many shops of the plaza market. Some of the flimsier stalls in the market, made of reeds, are torn down entirely and used to feed the fires.

Despite the fires at the entrances to the palace, most of the Spaniards inside are able to get out quickly, and the ladies of the court manage to get out and join the viceroy and his wife at San Francisco church. Spanish officials are also able to get into the building to supply additional arms to the beleaguered soldiers of the palace guard, who are standing on the roof firing onto the plaza with their guns, keeping up the firing even when they run out of ammunition but still have powder. The prisoners in the burning jail break out of their cell and join five of the soldiers in making an attack on the rioters, killing one. All is chaos in the area of the plaza.

Seeing this, the archbishop, who rebuffed the crowd before when it was much smaller and more peaceful, comes out to the plaza and attempts to convince the rioters to stop by appealing to their consciences, to no avail. Two other priests, however, are able to keep the crowd from burning the palace of the Marqués del Valle.

The rioters, having set most of the public buildings on fire, mostly turn to looting the shops on the plaza. They take whatever they can get their hands on, both money and goods, particularly clothing, and freely help each other to get as much as possible. Many begin to go home to hide their ill-gotten gains.  Some shopkeepers try to guard their goods, but others decide that it isn’t worth it and wish the looters luck, and some even loot their own shops to keep the goods in their possession.

By around 7:00 pm, the rioters have dispersed enough for the Spanish authorities to mount significant counterattacks. Several such attacks occur, many of them succeeding in killing and wounding rioters. The fury of the Spanish in their revenge becomes harsh enough to disturb some priests, who try to restrain them to little avail.  The combination of Spanish attacks and the desire to hide stolen goods leads to a rapid petering out of the riot by 10:00 pm, when the plaza is eerily quiet and empty except for the bodies of the dead and wounded and the ruins of the looted shops.

The calm gives the viceroy a chance to address the situation.  To secure the grain supply he sends an official to the nearby agricultural area of Chalco with orders to requisition all the maize he can find and send it to the city and orders another official to requisition any grain arriving overland from another agricultural region, Celaya.  He also sends an official to investigate the city’s bakeries, but their workers, though mainly Indians, seem to have had little to do with the riot and bread production has continued as normal.  The viceroy also decides that the city needs a militia to restore order, and he puts the wealthy silver merchant Luis Sanchez de Tagle in charge of raising it.  Sanchez spends the night going door-to-door to gather recruits among fellow merchants, and gets a substantial response, with over two hundred men ready to muster in the morning.  Sanchez tells the viceroy that he will pay the militiamen himself and that the treasury will incur no cost for them.

Advertisements
Published in: on June 8, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments (9)  

9 Comments

  1. […] Filed under: Politics, Urban Living — by teofilo @ 12:00 pm On this day in 1692, a massive riot broke out in Mexico City.  The ultimate cause of the riot seems to have […]

  2. […] with the sentence handed down against him on June 12 in connection with his response to the riot on June 8. Published […]

  3. […] suspicions that the Indians of Mexico City were primarily responsible for the riots there on June 8, orders that all Indians living in the central part of the city except those working in bakeries or […]

  4. […] The special court convened to try those arrested in connection with the rioting on June 8, having already dealt with most of the suspects, convicting most and sentencing some those accused […]

  5. […] all the roughest elements of society come together. The clear implication is that the rioting of June 8, widely blamed on the Indians in the city, came about as a result of plotting under the influence […]

  6. […] the widespread belief that the Indians of Mexico city were primarily responsible for the rioting on June 8 and the disturbances at the city grain exchange preceding it, decrees that grain will no longer be […]

  7. […] the report issued by the officials of the cathedral on July 1, that the rioting in Mexico City on June 8 was largely the fault of Indians who were overly fond of the native alcoholic beverage known as […]

  8. […] de Posada and Juan de Urrutia y Lezama issue a report estimating the cost of the damage from the June 8 riot in Mexico City at more than 400,000 pesos. Published […]

  9. […] Juan de los Santos, the Indian shoemaker accused of being a leader of the June 8 riot whose trial began on June 30, is convicted on account of the enormous amount of evidence […]


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: