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City of León
View of Gran Jardin Neighborhood
Motto: Labor Omnia Vincit
("Work conquers all")
Coordinates: 21°07′N 101°41′W / 21.117°N 101.683°W / 21.117; -101.683Coordinates: 21°07′N 101°41′W / 21.117°N 101.683°W / 21.117; -101.683
Country  Mexico
State  Guanajuato
Founded January 20, 1576
 - Mayor Ricardo Sheffield PAN
 - Land 1,219.67 km2 (470.9 sq mi)
Elevation 1,815 m (5,955 ft)
Population (2005)
 - City 1,137,465
 Urban 1,278,087
 Metro 1.634.917
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
Area code(s) +52
Telephone exchange 477
National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Data Processing[1]

The city of León, formally León de los Aldama[2] is the fifth most populous city in Mexico and the first in the state of Guanajuato. It is also the seat of the municipality of León. It has a strong leather industry, offering shoes, boots, belts, jackets, and other leather accessories both to national and international markets.


General data



In the 2005 census the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Data Processing (INEGI) reported 1.137.465 people living in the city of León, 1.278.087 in the municipality of León, and 1.634.917 in the metropolitan area, which includes the neighbouring municipality of Silao, Purísima del Rincón and San Francisco del Rincón. The municipality of León, which has an area of 1,219.67 km² (490.92 sq mi), also includes numerous smaller outlying communities, the largest of which are Centro Familiar la Soledad, Medina, and La Ermita.

There is a large Argentinian immigrant community in the city, as well as one formed by descendants of Lebanese immigrants.

Public transportation system

An Optibus at the Centro Historico station

The city's public transportation system features a mix of buses and the Optibus bus rapid transit colloquially known as "La Oruga" (The Caterpillar). The municipally-operated Oruga started its operation on September 27, 2003; León pioneered its use in Mexico. León is served by Del Bajío Aeropuerto Internacional.


León is a regional health center, there are important hospitals like Aranda de la Parra, Angeles, Medica Campestre.

Industrial parks

60% of the shoes produced in Mexico are made in León, and there are also chemical industry, leather, transportation, plastic, polimer, box companies. There is also cluster of automotive industries, including a General Motors plant. León is also national headquarters of the bank Banco del Bajío owned by Salvador Oñate, and is the headquarters of regional divisions of banks such as Banamex, HSBC etc.


In the Poliforum there are trade fairs throughout the year. The principal two are Sapica (Shoe Fair), and ANPIC (suppliers of the shoe industrie)


  • La Plaza Mayor: This is one of the largest malls in León and the sixth in all Mexico. Retail outlets include Liverpool, Sears, Dorian's, Lacoste, Tous, Zara, Mixup, Starbucks, Apple, and many more. Restaurants & Fast Food: Chilis, McDonalds, Sirloin Stockade (Outside) and others. Entertainment: Cinema (MMCinemas)
  • Centro Max
  • La Gran Plaza
  • Galeria Las Torres
  • Plaza del Zapato
  • Plaza Las palmas
  • Plaza la Eskina: It is a small mall with restaurants like Italiannis, El Panteon Taurino, El Barezzito, and Rubens Burgers


Madero street

In the León area there are ten distinct archeological zones, dating from the preclassic Mesoamerican period.[3] Most of these are identified with the Chupícuaro culture.[4] By the Classic period, the area was under Teotihuacan and Toltec influence. In the 13th century, the Chichimecas, mostly of the Guamare and Guachichil subgroups, overran the area, migrating from an area of what is now San Luis Potosí. They and remained through the Colonial period.[3][4]

Original church on main plaza

In 1530, Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán arrived with allied Tarasco Indians to the area, naming it Nuestra Señora]].[3] Homesteads were granted by the governor of Nueva Galicia Francisco Vázquez de Coronado to Spaniards Rodrigo de Vázquez and Juan de Jasso.[4] Farming and cattle-raising was introduced here around 1546 by the Spaniards but these settlers were under constant threat by the Chichimecas, who recognized the Spanish as invaders. These settlers requested assistance from the viceregal authorities in Mexico City.[3][4]

As a response, viceroy Martín Enríquez de Almanza ordered the founding of a city here, with the name of León, in 1575. To carry out the order, Juan Bautista de Orozco founded the village of León on 20 January 1576, creating its first town council and laying out its initial streets. In 1580, it attained the rank of "alcadía mayor" meaning it has governing authority of much of the land and smaller towns surrounding it from the Sierra de Comanja to the Lerma River.[3][4] For example, two other towns founded in the area were San Miguel and Coecillo. In San Miguel, the Spaniards settled the Otomi peoples and in Coecillo were settled the Purépechas, Mexicas and the Chichimecas that did not oppose Spanish rule. As the population of the area grew, a number of municipalites would eventually break off, such as San Francisco del Rincón, Purísima del Rincón (Purísima Concepción), Cd. Manuel Doblado (San Pedro Piedra Gorda), Huanímaro, Abasolo, Cuerámaro and Pénjamo.[4]

In 1582, the first hospital of San Cosme y San Damián was established by Father Espino.[4]

The Jesuits arrived to León in 1731, founding the "Compañía Vieja" which is now the site of the the Temple of the Immaculate. They also constructed the Temple of the New Company, which would become the Cathedral,however they never finished it as they were expelled from Mexico in 1767. On 2 July 1732 arrived an image of Our Most Holy Mother of Light. She would later be declared the patron saint of the city, in 1849.[4]

The population of the area suffered epidemics in 1643, droughts in 1630 and 1712-1714), famines in 1714 and 1786, and flooding in 1637, 1749, 1762 and 1803.[4]

Independence forces under José Rafael de Iriarte arrived at the town on 4 October 1810. However, two months later royalist forces under Felix Calleja retook the town, with insurrectionist sympathizers facing reprisals.[3] About 2,000 insurgents on horses attacked the town but were repulsed by Count Pérez Gálvez.[4] Royalist forces were attacked here in 1817 by Francisco Javier Mina without success. The town remained in royalist hands until the end of the Mexican War of Independence, when Agustín de Iturbide arrived.[3] The town did not celebrate its first Grito de Dolores to mark independence until 1825. In 1827, it became one of the four "departments" of the newly-created state of Guanajuato, and in 1830, it gained city status.[4]

In 1840, Father Ignacio Aguado founded the College of San Francisco de Sales and the College of La Madre Santísima was founded in 1844.[4]

During La Reforma War, the city changed hands various times between Liberal and Conservative forces between 1858 and 1860. The most notable battle of that war here was when General José Iniesta attacked the town on 18 February 1859. In that same year, León even separated for a time from the rest of the state of Guanajuato.[4]

In 1862, the bishopric of León was founded, separating the city of León and nine other municipalities such as Irapuato, Guanajuato and Dolores Hidalgo, from the bishopric of Michoacán. Bishop Diez de Sollano opened the Conciliar Seminary in 1864. This bishop consecrated the Basilica Cathedral in 1866, even though it was not completed, giving the image of the Virgin of the Light a permanent home.[4]

From 1863 to 1866, the French occupied León during the French Intervention, with Emperor Maximillian visiting the city in 1864. His arrival was much celebrated here, with fireworks and a hot air balloon exhibition put on by the Alemán brothers. However, when Liberal forces finally had permanent control over the town, two incidents occurred. On 30 Septiember 1867, Coronel Cecilio Delgado Estrada ordered his men to shoot over the heads of people who prayed in the streets, causing some to be wounded. Another incident of this type occurred in 1877. The second was more permanent. The Liberals decommissioned the convent and college of Saints Peter and Paul, converting it into offices for city government. It remains such to this day.[4]

On 2 January 1946, a mob gathered in the plaza in front of the municipal palace to protest elections seen as illegitimate. These protesters were fired upon, killing many. This plaza has been named the "Plaza of the Martyrs" in their honor.[3]

Notable sites


Spires of the main cathedral

The main church is called the Basilica Cathedral of Our Holy Mother of the Light and is the seat of the Archdiosis of Leon. Construction of the church was begun in 1746 by the Jesuits and is a combination of Baroque and Neo Classic architectural styles. Construction was halted only eight months after it began when the Jesuit order was expelled from Mexico by the Spanish Crown. The Obregon family, however, took over its construction, continuing into the 19th century. The Archdiosis of Leon was created in 1864, with its first bishop, José María de Jesús Diez de Sollano y Dávalos helping to get the towers and cupola completed as he chose the church as the seat. It was finally completed and consecrated on 16 March 1866.[5]


View of the Templo Expiatorio
Inside the Templo

Its full name is the Santuario Expiatorio del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Expiatory Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). Construction of this temple was begun in 1920 by Bernardo Chavez with the support of Bishop Emeterio Valverde y Téllez. It is neo Gothic in design, based on the old European medieval cathedrals but much of the outide wallspace is without decoration. Its work was halted by the Cristero Wars. Since then construction has continued off and on and it is considered 80% complete. An important source of income for the temple's construction is the sale of crypts. This practice was begun in 1924. A chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Lourdes was begun in 1935 and later a chapel dedicated to the Virgen of Guadalupe, which is separate from the main building, built between 1935 and 1939.[6]

Municipal Palace

Casa Municipal

The current Municipal Palace is of Ionic architectural style and occupies part of the site of the old "Colegio Grande del Seminario de los Padres Paulinos" (Grand Seminary College for Pauline Priests) who had to abandon the city in 1860.[7]

From 1861 to 1867 it was a military barracks. After the French Intervention, it was remodeled to conserve its original architecture by Coronel Octaviano Rosado to become the seat of government on 21 March 1869. The patio of the building contains a bronze statue of Benito Juarez to commemorate the centennial of his death in 1972. Since then, the building has had a number of additions such as the dome that now covers this patio, and a number of murals. These murals were painted in 1972 and 1973 by Jesus Gallardo covering the walls of the main stairwell and the hallway of the upper floor around the patio.[7]

Portal of the Millennium

This monument was built to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium and has become a landmark for arrival into the city. There was some concern that the monument would not be ready for New Year's 2000, however the 45-meter tall tower on five plinths was completed on time. It was built in a 5,400 square meter plaza, planted with trees. The project cost 4.5 million pesos.[8]

Arch of the Hero's Pathway

The arch with its signature bronze lion

This arch (Arco de la Calzada de los Héroes in Spanish), topped by a bronze of a lion, was begun in 1896 and has been modified a number of times in the hundred years or so since then. The first lion was added in 1943 by Francisco Lozornio Castillo made of bricks and mortar. This was replaced by the bronze one in 1958. The idea for a bronze lion was that of famous matador Antonio Velázquez, a native of Leon, whose bravery in the ring earned him the nickname of the "Heart of Leon".[9] Not long before his death in 1959, he complained that the brick lion should be replaced with a better work of art, causing something of a commotion in the Leon community. This caught the attention of sculpture Humberto Peraza Ojeda who made the one that sits on top of the arch today.[9]


Del Bajío International Airport (Guanjuato International Airport)

The Del Bajío International Airport (Guanjuato International Airport) serves the city.



The city's main professional soccer team is Club León, which is one of the foremost teams in Mexico, five-time league champion, now playing in the Primera División A. The team's stadium, Estadio León, also bears a Catalan name: Nou Camp. FIFA World Cup games have been played there (1970 and 1986), and world-class stars, such as Diego Maradona, Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini have played in both official and exhibition games.

The city had once another two football teams, which also played in the Primera División de México: San Sebastián, which participated in the league in the early 1950s – and was the first team in Mexico to get relegated to the Segunda División – and Unión de Curtidores, that disappeared in the middle 1980s.

A new franchise with the name of Curtidores appeared in the Primera División A in the mid-1990s, but, after being champion in 1999 and earning the right to play in the Primera División, was sold and moved to Puebla to become Puebla, F.C. In 2007 a new franchise named Union de Curtidores began playing at Segunda división. Nowadays, there are several soccer teams in the city playing in the Tercera División: Atlético ECCA, Juventud Cuerera and Conmudaj, among some others along with the women's league, Super Liga Femenil de Futbol.

Rally Mexico (WRC)

Since 2004 the city has hosted the headquarters of Rally Mexico, one round of the World Rally Championship. Thousands of fans camp at the nearby Sierra de Lobos to watch the rally.


Since 2004, León has a basketball team, Lechugueros, which plays in the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional (LNBP) . They play in the Domo de la Feria (formerly known as Auditorio Municipal). Before this team, the city had other professional basketball teams: Lechugueros (original franchise), Zapateros, Pony-León and Atléticos. These teams participated in the CIMEBA (Circuito Mexicano de Básquetbol), which was the main basketball league of Mexico in the 1970s and 1980s.


León had two baseball teams in the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol: Cachorros de León, in the late 1970s, and Bravos de León, in the late 80's. Bravos, after becoming champions of the league in 1992, and due to financial problems, were sold and moved to Minatitlán, Veracruz. Since then, attempts to bring a new baseball team to the city have failed.

Notable natives and residents

The Teatro Doblado, located in the historic center
  • Vicente Fox, President of Mexico from 2000 to 2006 and Governor of Guanajuato, owned a ranch in San Francisco del Rincón.
  • Carlos Medina Plascencia, politician affiliated to the conservative National Action Party and former mayor.
  • Antonio Carbajal, former football goalkeeper that played in five World Cups
  • Lucía Méndez, telenovela and film actress and singer.

International relations

Sister city


  1. ^ INEGI
  2. ^ E-Local -Guanajuato
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Enciclopedia de los municipios Guanajuato Leon" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Leon Guanajuato Historia" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  5. ^ "Catedral Basicilia" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  6. ^ "Templo Expiotorio" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  7. ^ a b "Palacio Municipal" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  8. ^ "Puerta del Milenio" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  9. ^ a b Rubén Rodríguez Molina. "UNA HISTORIA DIFERENTE" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  10. ^
  • Most of the content comes from translating an independent compilation, work of Roberto Ruelas. The following are references listed by him.
  • Andanzas. Biannual Magazine, published by the Human Sciences Department, Universidad Iberoamericana Plantel León. 1994-
  • Enciclopedia de México. Secretaría de Educación Pública. 1987.
  • "León. Trayectoria y Destino". González Leal, Mariano. Gonzalo Andrade Ed. H. Ayuntamiento de León, Guanajuato. 1990.
  • "León... Pueblo Accidentado". Rivera Tafoya, Antonio. 1983.
  • "Recordatorios Públicos y Privados, León". 1864-1908. Esquivel Obregón, Toribio. Consejo para la Cultura de León AC 1992.
  • "Remembranzas Leonesas de mi niñez". Torres Madrazo, Manuel. Imprenta Lumen, León, Gto. 1993
  • "Sitios Arqueológicos del Municipio de León". Ramos de la Vega, Jorge. Ramírez Garayzar, Amalia. #3 Colección Entornos. Universidad Iberoamericana. Plantel León. 1993.
  • Link to tables of population data from Census of 2005 INEGI: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática
  • Guanajuato Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México

External links

Simple English

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