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El Ángel – Monument to Independence

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angel de la independencia

Mexico City’s Ángel de la Independencia (Angel of Independence)  and everything you should know.  

If you ask Mexico City residents which symbol best represents the city, nine out of ten will name El Ángel. More officially known as the Monumento a la Independencia, the Independence Monument has guarded its own glorieta on Paseo de la Reforma since the centennial celebrations of Mexican Independence in 1910.

Among the ten Glorietas of Reforma, it’s one few visitors will miss, but not one that much is known about.

The monument was designed and built by architect, Antonio Rivas Mercado. His house is today a museum but he’s perhaps best known for his Municipal Palace in Tlalpan.

  • It originally had nine steps at the base, but because the ground is sinking, 14 more were added in later years.
  • The bronze sculptures at the bottom represent law, war, justice, and peace.
  • Rivas Mercados’ bronze statue of a giant lion with a child symbolizes “the Mexican people, strong during war and docile during peace.”
  • The column is 36 meters (118 feet) high.
  • Inside, a 200-step staircase leads to an observation deck. This is not often open today.
  • The capital is Corinthian in style, adorned by four eagles with outstretched wings.
  • Above it all is a 6.7-meter (22-foot) statue of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike.
  • The figure was designed and cast by French-Italian artist, Enrique Alciati. It weighs seven tons.
  • The laurel wreath is held above Miguel Hidalgo’s head, below.
  • The 3-link chain in the other hand symbolizes 300 years of Spanish rule broken and, thus, freedom.
  • The cornerstone of the monument was laid in 1902.
  • During an earthquake on July 28, 1957, the figure crashed to the ground and was broken. Restoration took more than a year.
  • The original head of the sculpture is now kept in the Mexico City Historic Archive, within the Palace of the Counts of Heras & Soto.
  • Immediately inside the door to the monument is a statue of William Lamport, an Irishman executed by the Spanish crown for sedition, in 1659.
  • The remains of the 14 heroes of the War for Independence are buried within the monument.
    1. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla: “Father of the Nation” and the original leader of the movement for independence.
    2. Father José María Morelos y Pavón: A general and independence leader after Hidalgo’s execution.
    3. Ignacio Allende: Lieutenant general of the insurgent army and later rebel leader.
    4. Juan Aldama: A rebel captain and conspirator.
    5. José Mariano Jiménez: Hidalgo’s lieutenant colonel.
    6. Guadalupe Victoria: Commander of the insurgent army and first President of Mexico.
    7. Vicente Guerrero: Insurgent general following the death of Morelos and second President of Mexico.
    8. Nicolás Bravo: Commander of the rebel army and later President of Mexico on three occasions.
    9. Mariano Matamoros: A priest who served as Morelos’s lieutenant general.
    10. Andrés Quintana Roo: A prominent Constitutional supporter.
    11. Leona Vicario: A journalist, and rebel supporter.
    12. Francisco Javier Mina (Xavier Mina): A Spanish officer who joined the rebel cause against the absolute monarchy of Ferdinand VII.
    13. Pedro Moreno: Insurgent
    14. Víctor Rosales: Insurgent
  • An arduous climb to the top of the tower can be made on some weekends, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Angel of Independence is nearly always the site of celebrations after football or similar international competitions. It’s also usually the starting point for major protests and marches, and for many annual parades.

Sculpture of William of Lamport, immediately inside the mausoleum door.

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