The modern day state of Hidalgo is located within the pre-Hispanic region of Mesoamerica. Numerous migrations of indigenous people took place through here, mostly arriving or passing through from the north, with many eventually settling in the Valley of Mexico. The Toltecs initially settled in Xochicoatlán, now the municipality of Molango at the beginning of the 7th century. From here they dispersed to locales such as Huejutla and Tollatzingo (now called Tulancingo) where they eventually had their capital of Tollan, today known as Tula.
The Toltecs were eventually overrun by Chichimecas, who established their capital in Metztitlán. The Aztecs arrived in the 12th century, initially establishing themselves in Mixquiahuala, then founding Tizayuca later. Eventually, the Aztecs took over most of what is now the southern portion of the state, incorporating it into the Aztec Empire.
After the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, the conquistadors carved out territories for themselves from Aztec lands. Hernán Cortés took possession of lands to the northeast of Mexico City extending into modern Hidalgo state. Evangelization efforts followed soon thereafter with the first Franciscans arriving in 1523.This changed the social, economic and cultural structure of the areas as the Spanish took control of the natural resources especially minerals, and the labor the Indians provided. It also led to a massive decrease in the native population, especially during the governorship of the area by Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán. By the 18th century, the economy of the Hidalgo area was dominated by mining and agricultural haciendas. Much of the agricultural production during the colonial period was centered on livestock such as sheep and pigs as well as the making of pulque from the native maguey plant. However, the mining of silver, gold and other metals in the Pachuca/Real del Monte area would be the economic backbone of the area through the colonial period and into most of post Independence period. Mining’s fortunes would rise and fall during the colonial period with one of the most productive eras coming under the control of Pedro Romero de Terreros in the 18th century.
Monastery of San Francisco in Pachuca
Despite Spanish control and evangelization efforts since the 16th century, by the 18th century, many of the Otomi and other indigenous groups of the area had not been fully subjugated, especially in the Sierra Gorda and Sierra Baja areas. These groups and others manage a significant amount of success in maintaining cultural, political and economic autonomy through the colonial period. Much of the state still maintains a number of strong indigenous identities.
Many in Hidalgo, especially the indigenous, supported Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s cause, providing leaders such as José María Correa and José Antonio Magos, both of whom were active in the Mezquital Valley area. However, no major battles of the Mexican War of Independence were fought in the state. Instead, a number of smaller operations against local Spaniards were conducted. When the war ended in 1821, the country was divided into a number of states. The modern state of Hidalgo was initially part of the very large territory called “Mexico” (which extended in all directions from Mexico City), which eventually was split with the remaining portion becoming the modern State of Mexico. What is now Hidalgo was originally the districts of Tula, Tulancingo and Huejutla of the former entity. The state of Hidalgo would not be formally created until the 1860s.
The economic consequences to the mines of Pachuca and Real del Monte during the War of Independence were ruinous. In 1824, British mining companies were brought in to revive the sector. The British introduced steam-powered machinery and other modern techniques as well as a large quantity of Cornish miners. Many of these Cornish miners stayed and English names and foods such as pasties (called “pastes” in Spanish) help define the state, especially in the Pachuca and Real del Monte areas. These Englishmen were forced to sell their interest to Mexican capitalists in 1849, and the mining sector fell again.
In 1861, the government of the vast State of Mexico was centered in Toluca, east of Mexico City. The distance of the capital was one of the reasons why Hidalgo state would eventually separate. When French forces invaded central Mexico in 1862, the large territory of Mexico was divided into three military sectors for defense. The second district had its capital in Actopan and its borders were roughly commensurate with that of modern Hidalgo state. The French succeeded in placing Maximilian I on the throne of Mexico, who visited Pachuca in 1865. Soon thereafter, insurgent activity against the French government intensified and after Maximilian was overthrown, the new republican government decided to make this military district the state of Hidalgo in 1869. The state was named after Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the first leader of the Mexican Independence movement.
From the establishment of the state until the Porfirio Díaz period, the economy, especially the mining sector was erratic. In the late 1880s, a number of modern inventions, such as the telegraph, telephone and railroad helped the Hidalgo economy. It also brought in another wave of foreign investment in the mining industry. By the mid-1900s, much of the mining production in Pachuca and Real del Monte was controlled by U.S. based interests such as the United States Mining Smelting and Refining Company. Pulque haciendas, primarily selling to nearby Mexico City, were prosperous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The prosperity of the state was best seen in the capital of Pachuca with the construction of many civic structures, but many rural areas were still quite impoverished. This situation would make the state favor the oncoming Mexican Revolution.
During the Mexican Revolution, local armed groups, such as the one led by Francisco P. Mariel in Huejutla, faced off against government troops. Forces led by Nicolas Flores took Jacala and threatened Zimapan and Ixmiquilpan in 1911. Later that same year Gabriel Hernandez took Tulancingo and Pachuca, forcing the then-governor out of power. After Porfirio Díaz fled the country, several factions would vie for power here. The government of the state was seized in 1915 by Agustin Sangins, who declared himself in favor of Victoriano Huerta, prompting opponents to take up arms in the Huasteca area, Jacala and Tulancingo. Victory initially went to those in support of Huerta. When Huerta’s government fell, the state had a chaotic succession of governors, each of whom supported different factions. When the war finally wound down by 1920, the state had a new constitution.
In 1920, the first airmail flight took place with a biplane piloted by Horacio Ruiz Gaviño taking off from Pachuca and landing in Mexico City 53 minutes later carrying 543 letters, 61 postcards and other items.
The war left the mining industry in ruins again and the desertion of same by the American companies. Modernization of the nearly destroyed infrastructure began in the 1920s with the reconstruction of telephone lines and the construction of highways within the state. In the 1930s, a number of companies such as Cruz Azul Cement were expropriated and popular credit schemes such as the Banco de Credito Ejidal were created. Over 130 schools in rural areas were also built. Construction and modernization of infrastructure would continue through the rest of the 20th century.
This wave of mining activity would decline in the mid-20th century, causing the deterioration of the state’s economy, especially in the Pachuca area. In the 1950s and 1960s efforts were undertaken to shift the state’s economy from agriculture and mining to manufacturing. In 1952, an automotive motor production facility called Diesel Nacional (DINA) was constructed. The old Instituto Científico Literario Autónomo de Hidalgo was converted to the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo in 1961, with the purpose of turning out engineers and other professionals to provide the impetus for the development of industry. These efforts soon paid dividends and construction growth, especially of suburban subdivisions for workers in newly built factories.
The growth of the Greater Mexico City area reached the southern border of Hidalgo state in the late 20th and early 21st century with the municipality of Tizayuca formally added into the region in 2005.
One problem the extreme southern part of the state has had in the past decade is the contamination of water from the drainage of the Valley of Mexico. Mexico City pumps out excess water from the area, as the valley has no natural drainage, to the north into Mexico and Hidalgo states. This water is increasingly polluted and is causing damage to these northern zones. The state is negotiating federal and other help to treat and recycle this water so that it does not do further damage to state agriculture and environment.