What’s With These Hard To Pronounce St. Names?

They all have a significance and if you know it, maybe you can remember the name of the street with your favorite bar on it

Does it seem like every town in Mexico has the same street names? That’s because they do. And they are all named after Mexican heros: revolutionary leaders, presidents and the like. If it seems like we recyle just a few names, well, maybe we only have a few heros in our 400 year old history. 

Calle, (the word for street),  Miguel Hidalgo got it’s name after Mr. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla; a Criollo Catholic priest and independence leader. He was always a shit stirrer: when he fist started his service in Colima and Guanajuato, he was shocked by the deep poverty so he encouraged people to grow olives and grapes, which was discouraged by the authorities because these were import items from Spain, thus taking a little away from the king. Miguel Hidalgo gave his famous speech in the city of Dolores 1810, called  the “Cry of Dolores” which inspired independence, among Mexicans, to lift the people to arms, prevent them from being Napoleon’s slaves, and oppose the events in Spain. To this day, on the eve of independence day, the president gives el grito, the cry, singing out Hidalgo’s words. Fun fact: he did not vow for poverty and did not really enjoy clerical celibacy so he pursued business activities, had three haciendas, four women, eight kids (in and out of wedlock), and enjoyed gambling and dancing. Pretty cool for a priest who fought his own race. He never felt part of any group; he wasn’t Mexican, wasn’t full Spanish, and his fellow criollos behaved like (Can I write assholes boss?) while he fought with the indigenous people. So think of this dude when you drive down his street.

Calle Adolfo Lopez Mateos is named after one of our favorite presidents. He nationalized electric companies, created the national commission of free textbooks, and promoted the creation of museums. Lopez Mateos was also the first left wing president after Lazaro Cardenas, 18 years apart. He had a good run as a president, then became chairman for the 1968 summer Olympics while he suffered from massive migraines. He was finally diagnosed with several brain aneurysms, and told his friends that life had smiled at him in every way possible, but it was time to take whatever came. After he stepped down from power he was thin and fragile, telling his friends he was “pretty screwed up”. He died in 1969 at the age of 59.

Narciso Mendoza street is named after one of the youngest Mexican heroes in history. Also known as “el niño artillero” or gunner child, he was a 12 year old boy who fired a canon and pushed the Spanish troops to leave the town of Cuautla in the state of Morelos while the Mexicans were trying to take the town. He was then recruited by the Morelos armed party and reached the Lieutenant Colonel position, but was later exiled to South America for unknown reasons. It is speculated that he was expelled from the country because he supported the second empire army, which was leaded by one of his closest friends. He came back to his hometown Cuautla to die at 80 years old.

Calle Mariano Matamoros also comes from a rebel priest. He was a Mexican Roman Catholic priest, who studied art and theology. He sympathized with rebels and rebellious issues and was put into jail shortly after the independence war had started, but escaped and joined the revolutionary army under Morelos’ lead. After he was recognized by his ability in the battlefield and named colonel, he was ordered to make his own army, which he did, leading 2000 men. Matamoros became second in command for the army quite soon after he joined, earning him a treason charge and being executed at the age of 44. If only priests these days were like that...

Niños Heroes street is named after six revolutionary heroes who have had all kinds of stories told about them until they have become mythical in Mexican history textbooks. Official version: Six kids aged between 13 and 19 who stayed behind to defend the Chapultepec castle when their leader ordered them to retreat after realizing the United States army outnumbered them and they had no chance. Juan Escutia leaped from the castle wrapped in the Mexican flag to prevent the flag from being taken by the enemy. They were buried at the castle and given memorials, ceremonies and honor. Now for the people’s version: These were six kids who were not part of the army, they were junior and high school students who were held captive in the castle because they were caught drinking underage. The real army was composed of about 100 kids the same age as the heroes but actually enlisted and more than three fourths ended up prisoners of the American Army. It is also believed that Juan Escutia did not throw himself over the ramparts bravely, he and his five friends escaped their cell in the revolt and he tripped while drunk and fell among other people while they were shot. The flag was actually captured by the US army and returned 135 years later when president Truman stood in their memorial in 1947, laid out a wreath and said “Brave men don’t belong to any one country. I respect bravery wherever I see it.” It is said the Mexican government told the heroic story because there was a need for patriotism and civics and ethics lessons.

Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas is named after another president, Lázaro Cárdenas del Río. He was elected in 1934, and was the one responsible for the ejidos, a very familiar word in Cabo. (Communal land owners).  He also created the agrarian reform, (which changed the way agriculture, people and economy interact), nationalized the oil industry, (throwing out foreign oil companies),  and gave political refuge to the Spanish exiles during their Civil War. He also funded the National Polytechnic Institute, one of the most important in administration, science, engineering and technology research. He is also known for not making himself rich out of his time as president of the country. He retired to a small house by a lake and spent his last years supervising watering projects for land and promoting free medical clinics and education for the less fortunate. He died a victim of cancer after living a long happy post-presidential life.

Leona Vicario Avenue got it’s name after the “Sweet Mother of the Fatherland”, an insurgent woman who was one of the main characters in the Independence movement. She was a messenger, helped fugitives, sent money and medicines and helped any way she could. Eventually, at the age of 24,  she was arrested, sent to prison and all her belongings were confiscated. Months later she was freed by her fellow insurgents and escaped to Michoacan where she joined Andrés Quintana Roo and later became his wife. She was jailed again five years later and given a pardon under the promise to abandon the movement, and she was kept under vigilance along with her husband until the Independence movement finally succeeded in 1821. She also appears on one of the 200 year memorial five peso coins.

So there you have it, now you can drive down these streets and know who you’re supposed to be honoring. And, maybe it will help you remember these names so you don’t have to do the Gringo thing and refer to the street as the up street, down street, or street with a certain restaurant on it.