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Juan Álvarez

Lifespan: (27 January 1790 – 21 August 1867)
Profession: Regular army officer and politician


Juan Álvarez Hurtado (1790-1867) was born in Santa Maria de la Concepción de Atoyac which is now in the State of Guerrero on 27 January 1790. He was the son of Antonio Álvarez from Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain, and Rafaela Hurtado who was a mestiza from Acapulco. He was a soldier during the crucial wars of Independence (1810-21) and Reform (1858-60) and participated in the Campaign of the Valley of Mexico during the Mexican-American War (1846-48) as well as in the war against French Intervention (1862-67). Álvarez was acting president of Mexico from 4 October to 11 November 1855.

Álvarez belonged to an affluent family and undertook his primary education in Mexico City at the Colegio de Ignacio Áviles but was forced to return to his hometown in 1807 following the death of both of his parents. Although he inherited a considerable fortune, he worked as a cowboy up until 1810, the year in which his guardianship under the sub-delegate of Acapulco ended. This tutor wasted most of the family fortune so that by the time Álvarez joined the struggle for independence under the orders of José María Morelos y Pavón, he was no longer a wealthy landowner.

Participating in various military campaigns including Aguacalito, Tres Palos, Arroyo del Moledor, Tonaltepec and la Sabana he rose to the rank of captain. He was wounded in both legs during an attack against the Fortress of San Diego in Acapulco on 19 February 1811, which almost cost him his life were it not for a soldier named Eugenio Salas. Later, under the orders of Hermenegildo Galeana he was responsible for the defence of Tixtla in May 1811.

After the death of Morelos it fell to the leadership of Vicente Guerrero to maintain the forces of the insurgent guerillas in the South where they frequently came into conflict with the Royalists. In 1821, Guerrero and Álvarez defeated a Royalist detachment in El Paso Cueva del Diablo, hastening the negotiations between Guerrero and Agustín de Iturbide that ultimately culminated in the proclamation of the Plan of Iguala and independence.

Álvarez upheld the Plan de Iguala of 24 February 1821 and became part of the Ejército Trigarante. He was responsible for the liberation of Acapulco on 15 October 1821. Although he tried to retire from service he was nominated Commander General and Governor of Acapulco in 1822, allowing him to secure his control over the region.

Álvarez who was a republican, a federalist and a liberal joined the struggle against Iturbide’s empire in 1822-23. In 1828 he opposed the expulsion laws of 10 May and 20 December 1827 that attempted to force the Spanish population in Mexico to leave the country. Álvarez protected many Spaniards and guaranteed them their property and privileges. In 1830 he fought to restore Vicente Guerrero to the presidency against the government that overthrew him as a result of the Plan of Jalapa of 4 December 1829. He participated in the actions of Venta Vieja, Acapulco, El Manglar, Dos Arroyos and Chilpancingo. This same year, despite his opposition to Anastasio Bustamante’s government, he was promoted to Brigadier General. However, in 1831, having failed to prevent Guerrero from being executed, following his capture, Álvarez retired to his lands.

In 1832 Álvarez joined Nicolás Bravo in Chilpancingo in support of the Plan of Veracruz of 2 January against Anastario Bustamante’s government. In 1833 also actively opposed the Plan of Escalada of 26 May 1833 which advocated the defence of ‘Religion and fueros’ . In 1838 he offered his services to defend Mexico from the French attack on the port of Veracruz during the so-called French Pastry War. He was promoted to General of Division in 1841 and was mainly responsible for the pacification of the Sierra de Chilapa and Guerrero in 1842 and 1843, succeeding in bringing an end to a number of indigenous rebellions. By the mid-1840s, Álvarez was the leading cacique or regional chieftain of the Tierra Caliente (including the present-day State of Guerrero, the south of the States of Michoacán and Mexico, and parts of the States of Morelos and Oaxaca). In 1844 he revolted against the fourth government of Antonio López de Santa Anna (1843-44). In 1847 he was at the head of the Division of the South during the Mexican-American War (1846-48), and controversially chose not to send his troops into the fray during the Battle of Molino del Rey (8 September 1847). A year later, notwithstanding, he was named Commander General of Puebla.

Álvarez’s reputation and regional power as a liberal leader/cacique was one of the decisive factors leading to the creation of the State of Guerrero in 1849. He served as the new State’s acting governor and was subsequently elected the State’s first constitutional governor (1850-1853). During his term in office as Governor of Guerrero he created the first Casa de Estudios de Enseñanza Superior , the antecedent to what is now the Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero.

Álvarez opposed Santa Anna’s dictatorship of 1853-55 and launched the Plan de Ayutla from Guerrero on 1 March 1854 which, eventually, resulted in the demise of Santa Anna’s sixth and last presidency. Following the end of the Revolution of Ayutla (1854-55), on 4 October 1855, Álvarez became acting president of the Republic.

Álvarez was president for two months. At this time Benito Juárez was minister of justice, Ignacio Comonfort was minister of war; Melchor Ocampo was minister of foreign affairs, and Guillermo Prieto was minister of finance. It was under Álvarez’s presidency that the constituent congress that was to write 1857 Constitution was summoned and that the military and ecclesiastical fueros dating from the colonial period were finally abolished in the Ley Juárez, that was implemented on 22 November 1855.

Álvarez handed over the presidency to Ignacio Comonfort in November 1855 and returned to his bailiwick in Guerrero. Nevertheless, he continued to play an active role in politics and fought in the War of Reform (1858-60) in support of Juárez leading the operations around Taxco and Cutzamala.

Álvarez died on 21 August 1867 in his hacienda La Providencia, in Guerrero, having witnessed the collapse of the Empire of Maximilian I and the restoration of the liberal Republic. He is regarded, to this day, as one of the great liberal warriors of the nineteenth century: a regional warlord and landowner who repeatedly fought against the more conservative, centralist, and dictatorial regimes of the day.


Relevant Recent Bibliography:

Fernando Díaz Díaz, Caudillos y caciques. Antonio López de Santa Anna y Juan Álvarez. Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1972.

Leader of
Pronunciamiento de la guarnición de Acapulco (12 August 1832; Acapulco, Guerrero)
Plan de Texca (23 March 1835; Texca, Guerrero)
Acta de una junta de vecinos de Durango (23 June 1835; Durango, Durango)

Author of
Convenio entre Nicolás Bravo y Juan Álvarez (13 April 1831; Chilpancingo de los Bravos, Guerrero)
Acta de la guarnición de Acapulco (22 November 1841; Acapulco, Guerrero)
Plan de Mineral de Temascaltepec (2 January 1849; Temascaltepec, Estado de México)

Signatory of
Artículos ratificados entre Juan Alvarez y Nicolás Bravo (26 August 1835; Chilpancingo, Guerrero)
Manifiesto de los generales D. Nicolás Bravo y D. Juan Álvarez (10 October 1841; Chilpancingo de los Bravos, Guerrero)
Plan y pronunciamiento de Nicolás Bravo y la guarnición de Chilpancingo de los Bravos (22 October 1841; Chilpancingo, Guerrero)
El general Juan Álvarez a los últimos restos de su división (15 November 1841; Chilpancingo de los Bravos, Guerrero)
Acta de adhesión al plan de la capital de 23 de diciembre de 1858, modificando el plan de Ayotla (26 December 1858; Ciudad de México, México D.F.)

Leader, author and signatory of
Bases propuestas por Juan Álvarez (25 March 1843; La Providencia, Guerrero)
El ciudadano general Juan Álvarez, presidente interino de la república (7 October 1855; Cuernavaca, Morelos)
Proclama de Juan Álvarez a sus conciudadanos (15 November 1855; Cuidad de Mexico, México D.F.)
Proclama de Juan Álvarez, General de División (10 December 1855; Ciudad de México, México D.F.)
Manifiesto de Juan Álvarez a los mexicanos (10 December 1855; Ciudad de México, México D.F.)
Manifiesto de don Juan Alvarez contra el movimiento de ‘religión y fueros’ (7 December 1856; Iguala, Guerrero)

Leader and signatory of
Proclama de don Juan Álvarez (25 December 1844; Chilapa, Guerrero)

Leader and author of
El general D. Juan Álvarez, al instalar el consejo en Cuernavaca (4 October 1855; Cuernavaca, Morelos)