The conquistadors had a difficult time founding Guadalajara. A decade of Indian uprisings and Spanish crown interference caused the capital of sprawling Nueva Galicia to shift locations three times before it reached its present perch in 1542. According to popular legend, the founding occurred behind downtown's Teatro Degollado. (A plaza behind the theater commemorates the event.) Guadalajara's name comes from a similarly named Spanish city; the word is Arabic in origin meaning "river of rocks."
Often cut off from the capital during the rainy season, Guadalajara developed independently, with the Catholic Church as its dominant social and political influence. Miguel Hidalgo's final battlefield defeat in the War of Independence from Spain—which eventually ended nearly 300 years of Spanish rule—took place here in 1811. It was briefly the capital of Mexico from 1856 to 1857, during the tumultuous reform period. Later, the city had a tardy start in the Mexican Revolution, taking up arms four years after it began in 1910.
When anti-clerical president Plutarco Elías Calles effectively criminalized Catholicism in 1926, Jalisco-area Catholics launched an armed rebellion against the government. During the bitter Cristero war, many priests were executed. In recent years several dozen Cristero martyrs have been canonized by the Vatican, a great source of pride for Guadalajara's Catholics.
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