Biography of Ignacio Allende, Champion of Mexican Independence

Statue of Ignacio Allende
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Ignacio José de Allende y Unzaga (January 21, 1769–June 26, 1811) was a Mexican-born officer in the Spanish army who switched sides and fought for independence. He fought in the early part of the conflict alongside the “Father of Mexican Independence,” Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. Although Allende and Hidalgo had some initial success against the Spanish colonial forces, both were eventually captured and executed in 1811.

Fast Facts: Ignacio Allende

  • Known For: Taking up arms in the cause of Mexican independence
  • Also Known As: Ignacio José de Allende y Unzaga
  • Born: January 21, 1769 in San Miguel el Grande, Guanajuato, New Spain (now San Miguel de Allende, Mexico)
  • Parents: Domingo Narciso de Allende, María Ana de Unzaga
  • Died: June 26, 1811 in Chihuahua, Nueva Vizcaya, New Spain (now Mexico)
  • Spouse: Maria de la Luz Agustina de las Fuentes 
  • Children: Indalecio Allende, José Guadalupe Allende, Juana María Allende

Early Life

Allende was born to a wealthy Creole family in the town of San Miguel el Grande (the name of the town is now San Miguel de Allende in his honor) on January 21, 1769. As a young man, he led a life of privilege and joined the army while in his 20s. He was an able officer, and some of his promotions would come at the hands of his future foe General Félix Calleja. By 1808 he returned to San Miguel, where he was put in charge of a royal cavalry regiment.


Allende apparently became convinced fairly early on of the need for Mexico to become independent from Spain, perhaps as early as 1806. There was evidence that he was part of an underground conspiracy in Valladolid in 1809, but he was not punished, probably because the conspiracy was quashed before it could go anywhere and he was a skilled officer from a good family. In early 1810, he became involved in another conspiracy, this one led by Mayor of Querétaro Miguel Domínguez and his wife. Allende was a valued leader because of his training, contacts, and charisma. The revolution was set to begin in December 1810.

El Grito de Dolores

The conspirators secretly ordered weapons and spoke to influential Creole military officers, bringing many over to their cause. But in September 1810, they got word that their conspiracy had been found out and warrants were issued for their arrests. Allende was in Dolores on September 15 with Father Hidalgo when they heard the bad news. They decided to start the revolution then and there as opposed to hiding. The next morning, Hidalgo rang the church bells and gave his legendary “Grito de Dolores” or "Cry of Dolores," in which he exhorted the poor of Mexico to take up arms against their Spanish oppressors.

The Siege of Guanajuato

Allende and Hidalgo suddenly found themselves at the head of an angry mob. They marched on San Miguel, where the mob murdered Spaniards and looted their homes: it must have been difficult for Allende to see this happen in his hometown. After passing through the town of Celaya, which wisely surrendered without a shot, the mob marched on the city of Guanajuato where 500 Spaniards and royalists had fortified the large public granary and prepared to fight. The angry mob fought the defenders for five hours before overrunning the granary, massacring all inside. Then they turned their attention to the city, which was sacked.

Monte de Las Cruces

The insurgent army continued to make its way toward Mexico City, which began to panic when word of the horrors of Guanajuato reached its citizens. Viceroy Francisco Xavier Venegas hastily scraped together all of the infantry and cavalries he could muster and sent them out to meet the rebels. The royalists and insurgents met on October 30, 1810, at the Battle of Monte de las Cruces not far outside of Mexico City. The barely 1,500 royalists fought bravely but could not defeat the horde of 80,000 insurgents. Mexico City appeared to be within the reach of the rebels.


With Mexico City within their grasp, Allende and Hidalgo did the unthinkable: they retreated back toward Guadalajara. Historians are unsure why they did: all agree that it was a mistake. Allende was in favor of pressing on, but Hidalgo, who controlled the masses of peasants and Indigenous peoples making up the bulk of the army, overrode him. The retreating army was caught in a skirmish near Aculco by a larger force led by General Calleja and split up: Allende went to Guanajuato and Hidalgo to Guadalajara.


Although Allende and Hidalgo agreed on independence, they disagreed on much, particularly on how to wage war. Allende, the professional soldier, was aghast at Hidalgo’s encouragement of the looting of towns and the executions of all Spaniards they came across. Hidalgo argued that the violence was necessary and that without the promise of loot, most of their army would desert. Not all of the army was made up of angry peasants: there were some Creole army regiments, and these were almost all loyal to Allende: when the two men split up, most of the professional soldiers went to Guanajuato with Allende.

The Battle of Calderon Bridge

Allende fortified Guanajuato, but Calleja, turning his attention to Allende first, drove him out. Allende was forced to retreat to Guadalajara and rejoin Hidalgo. There, they decided to make a defensive stand at the strategic Calderon Bridge. On January 17, 1810, Calleja’s well-trained royalist army met the insurgents there. It seemed that the vast insurgent numbers would carry the day, but a lucky Spanish cannonball ignited a rebel munitions dump, and in the ensuing chaos the undisciplined rebels scattered. Hidalgo, Allende and the other insurgent leaders were forced out of Guadalajara, most of their army gone.


As they made their way north, Allende had finally had enough of Hidalgo. He stripped him of command and arrested him. Their relationship had already deteriorated so badly that Allende had tried to poison Hidalgo while they were both in Guadalajara before the battle of Calderón Bridge. Hidalgo’s removal became a moot point on March 21, 1811, when Ignacio Elizondo, an insurgent commander, betrayed and captured Allende, Hidalgo and the other insurgency leaders as they made their way north. The leaders were sent to the city of Chihuahua, where all were tried and executed. Allende, Juan Aldama, and Mariano Jimenez were killed on June 26, while Hidalgo died on July 30. Their four heads were sent to hang on the corners of the public granary of Guanajuato.


It was unfortunate for the Mexicans involved in the struggle for Independence that Hidalgo and Allende quarreled so bitterly. In spite of their differences, the tactician and soldier and the charismatic priest made a very good team, something they realized at the end when it was too late.

Allende is today remembered as one of the great leaders of the early Mexican Independence movement, and his remains rest in Mexico City’s hallowed Independence Column alongside those of Hidalgo, Jiménez, Aldama, and others. His hometown of San Miguel el Grande was renamed in his honor: San Miguel de Allende.


  • Harvey, Robert. "Liberators: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence." Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 2000.
  • Lynch, John. "The Spanish American Revolutions 1808-1826." New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986.
  • Scheina, Robert L. "Latin America’s Wars, Volume 1: The Age of the Caudillo 1791-1899." Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s Inc., 2003.
  • Villalpando, José Manuel. "Miguel Hidalgo." Mexico City: Editorial Planeta, 2002.
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Minster, Christopher. "Biography of Ignacio Allende, Champion of Mexican Independence." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Minster, Christopher. (2023, April 5). Biography of Ignacio Allende, Champion of Mexican Independence. Retrieved from Minster, Christopher. "Biography of Ignacio Allende, Champion of Mexican Independence." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).