From the first few Spanish settlers in 1709, Chihuahua grew to become both an administrative center for the surrounding territory and a commercial center for cattle and mining interests. The city had a hand in many of Mexico’s defining historical events. In the War of Independence, rebel leader Miguel Hidalgo, after being captured by the Spaniards, was brought here and shot. Chihuahua served as Mexico’s capital city from 1864 to 1866 after President Benito Juárez was forced to flee northward by the French troops of Emperor Maximilian.
The Porfirio Díaz regime brought railways to the city and helped consolidate the wealth of the huge cattle fiefdoms that surrounded it. Luis Terrazas, onetime governor, held lands nearly the size of Belgium: ‘I am not from Chihuahua, Chihuahua is mine, ’ he once said.
After Pancho Villa’s forces took Chihuahua in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution, Villa established his headquarters here. He had schools built and arranged other civic works, contributing to his status as a local hero.