El Ángel de la Independencia ("The Angel of Independence"), most commonly known by the shortened name El Ángel and officially known as Columna de la Independencia, is a victory column located on a roundabout over Paseo de la Reforma in downtown Mexico City.
El Ángel was built to commemorate the centennial of the beginning of Mexico's War of Independence, celebrated in 1910. In later years it was made into a mausoleum for the most important heroes of that war. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Mexico City, and it has become a focal point for both celebration or protest. It bears a resemblance to the July Column in Paris and the Victory Column in Berlin.Description
The base of the column is quadrangular with each vertex featuring a bronze sculpture symbolizing Law, War, Justice and Peace. Originally there were nine steps leading to the base, but due to the sinking of the ground fourteen more steps were added. On the main face of the base, which faces downtown Mexico City, there is an inscription reading La Nación a los Héroes de la Independencia ("The Nation to the Heroes of Independence"). In front of this inscription is a bronze statue of a giant lion led by a child, representing strength and the innocence of youth during War but docility during Peace.
Next to the column there is a group of marble statues of some of the heroes of the War of Independence.The column itself is 36 metres (118 ft) high. The structure is made of steel covered with quarried stone decorated with garlands, palms and rings with the names of Independence figures. Inside the column is a two-hundred step staircase which leads to a viewpoint above the capital. The Corinthian-style capital is adorned by four eagles with extended wings from the Mexican coat of arms used at the time.
Crowning the column there is a 6.7 metres (22 ft) statue by Enrique Alciati of Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory, like other similar victory columns around the world. It is made of bronze, covered with 24k gold (restored in 2006) and weighs 7 tons. In her right hand the Angel, as it is commonly known, holds a laurel crown above Miguel Hidalgo's head, symbolizing Victory, while in her left she holds a broken chain, symbolizing Freedom.
Construction of El Ángel was ordered in 1902 by President Porfirio Díaz. Gen. Porfirio Díaz began the foundation work immediately and laid the foundation stone on January 2, 1902 and placed in it a gold chest with a record of independence and a series of coins minted in that epoch. But in May 1906, when the foundations were built and 2,400 stones placed to a height of 25 m, the sides of the monument collapsed, so Díaz created a study commission composed of engineers Guillermo Beltran y Puga, Manuel Marroquín y Rivera and Gonzalo Garita. The commission determined that the foundations of monument were poorly planned, so it was decided to demolish the structure. The work was restarted under the supervision of a steering committee composed of engineers Guillermo Beltran y Puga, Manuel Marroquin y Rivera and the architect Manuel Gorozpe, leaving the artwork in the care of architect Antonio Rivas Mercado. All the sculptures were made by Italian artist Enrique Alciati. The monument was ready for the festivities to commemorate the first hundred years of Mexican Independence in 1910. The opening ceremony was attended by President Díaz and several foreign dignitaries. The main speaker at the event was Mexican poet Salvador Díaz Mirón.
An eternal flame (Lámpara Votiva) honoring these heroes was installed in the base of the column at the order of President Emilio Portes Gil in 1929.
The monument suffered some damage during an earthquake on July 28, 1957 when the sculpture of the Winged Victory fell to the ground and broke into several pieces. Sculptor José Fernández Urbina was in charge of the restoration, which lasted more than a year. The monument was reopened on September 16, 1958. It survived the devastating earthquake of September 19, 1985 with some damage to the staircases and the reliefs, but none to the Angel.Mausoleum
In 1925 the remains of the following Heroes of the Mexican Independence were interred in a mausoleum at the base of the monument:
- Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla: Chief instigator of the Revolution and "Father of the Nation".
- José María Morelos y Pavón: Skilled general and leader of the independence movement after Hidalgo's execution.
- Ignacio Allende: Lieutenant general of the insurgent army and later rebel leader.
- Juan Aldama: A rebel captain and conspirator.
- José Mariano Jiménez: Hidalgo's lieutenant colonel.
- Guadalupe Victoria: Commander of the insurgent army and first President of Mexico.
- Vicente Guerrero: Insurgent general following the death of Morelos and second President of Mexico.
- Nicolás Bravo: Commander of the rebel army and later President of Mexico on three occasions.
- Mariano Matamoros: A priest who served as Morelos' lieutenant general.
- Andrés Quintana Roo: A prominent constitutionalist.
- Leona Vicario: Active supporter of the rebel movement and wife of Andrés Quintana Roo.
- Francisco Javier Mina (Xavier Mina): A Spanish officer who joined the rebel cause against the absolute monarchy of Ferdinand VII.
- Pedro Moreno: Insurgente
- Victor Rosales: Insurgente
More than 60 years after the mausoleum was erected, on September 16, 1998 it was permanently open to the public by President Ernesto Zedillo and Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, Head of Government of the Federal District.
On May 30, 2010, as part of the Bicentennial celebrations of the War of Independence, the remains of the National Heroes were exhumed and then escorted by the Armed Forces with full military honors to the National History Museum in Chapultepec Castle, where they will be subject of studies by members of the National Institute of Anthropology and History. After these studies, the remains will be temporarily exhibited at the National Palace until August 2011, when they will be returned to the mausoleum.Visiting
Visitors are allowed to enter the monument, view the memorial plaques at the base level, and climb to the top of the tower. Entrance is free. Visitors sign in and temporarily surrender their photo identification for a colored tag on a lanyard. Groups of about 12 are then allowed into the monument for about 15 minutes. There are more than 200 stairs, and the climb is ardurous. The first approximately 15 stairs, in the base, are wide and comfortable. The stairs in the column itself, approximately 185, are circular, metal, very narrow and without a landing or resting point until one reaches the top. Visitors who are not in good physical shape will find the climb exhausting—it is the equivalent of climbing a 12 story building in one go, and those not comfortable with tight spaces should avoid the climb as there is insufficient room to allow others to bypass. Some areas of the staircase are very dark, and there are only a few slits to let in light. The top balcony, though narrow, offers a commanding view of the wide avenues that surround the column. The return trip down is by way of the same circular staircase.
More recently El Ángel has become the traditional gathering place for celebration amongst Mexico City inhabitants, particularly following Fútbol (Soccer) victories and as a focal point for political rallies.