Aguascalientes, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Aguascalientes (Estado Libre y Soberano de Aguascalientes, literally: Hot Waters), is one of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided into 11 municipalities and its capital city is Aguascalientes.
It is located in North-Central Mexico. It is bordered by the states of Zacatecas to the north and Jalisco to the south. Its name means "hot waters" in Spanish and originated from the abundance of hot springs in the area. The demonym for the state's inhabitants is hidrocálido or aguascalentense.
Pre-Columbian era arrowheads, potshards, and rock paintings in the caverns of the Sierra del Laurel and near the present village of Las Negritas testify to the presence of man in this territory for more than 20,000 years. Later in the colonial times, Pedro Almíndez Chirino was the first Spaniard who entered the territory, perhaps by the end of 1530 or the beginning of 1531, following the instructions given by Nuño de Guzmán.
Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the territory of what is now the State of Aguascalientes was inhabited by Chichimecas, who made the territory difficult to access. In fact, the total occupation of the lands of El Bajío was a task that would take about two centuries. With respect to this, Viceroy Luis de Velasco offered municipal benefits to those who established settlements to confront the Chichimeca. And for his part, Viceroy Gastón de Peralta decided to confront them directly, which did not end with good results.
It was in order to be in the territory that is presently the state inhabited by Chichimecas, the so-called Guachichiles, that the conquistadors built several forts or presidios.
This was a system devised by Martín Enríquez de Almanza following the strategy that had been developing in Spain throughout the Reconquista period. Therefore, in order to protect the Camino de la Plata, which stretched between Zacatecas and Mexico City, three presidios [garrisoned fortifications] founded by the Indian fighter Juan Domínguez, were to be created, which were: the presidio at Las Bocas, later called Las Bocas de Gallardo, situated on the border of Aguascalientes, in what was the jurisdiction of the mayor of Teocaltiche, presently the border of Aguascalientes and Zacatecas; the presidio at Palmillas, which was located near what is now Tepezalá; and the Ciénega Grande presidio, established around 1570. The latter was located on what are now Moctezuma and Victoria Streets, although some historians place it on the Calle 5 de Mayo (once the Camino Real) at Moctezuma, just in front of the Plaza de Armas. This was a fortress whose purpose was the protection of the Valle de los Romero and the road to Zacatecas, entering this way to secure the passage of convoys loaded with silver and other metals.
The founding of Aguascalientes as a town came from the order that King Felipe II gave the judge of the court of Nueva Galicia, Don Gerónimo de Orozco, in which he stated that he should look for a rich man to settle in the territory with the purpose of expelling the Chichimecas and of assuring safe passage. Gerónimo de Orozco, following that order, looked for someone who would accept the king's order and found a man named Juan de Montoro in the city of Santa María de los Lagos. He accepted the assignment and, accompanied by eleven other people, headed to the territory and thus founded the town of Aguas Calientes on October 22, 1575. It has been noted that it was called San Marcos originally, changing its name on August 18, 1611, to the Villa of Our Lady of the Assumption of Aguas Calientes. And finally, from June 2, 1875, it was called the Villa of Our Lady of the Assumption of Aguas Calientes; later changing to the city of Aguascalientes, which remains its name today.
In the act of its establishment, the Villa de San Marcos (Aguascalientes) was awarded the highest mayoral jurisdiction under the Kingdom of New Galicia. As of December 4, 1786, on the occasion of the issuance of the "Ordinance of Mayors," it became a quartermaster sub-delegation.
On April 24, 1789, by order of the Superior Board of Royal Property, the sub-delegation of Aguascalientes became a dependency of Zacatecas.
In the Mexican War of Independence, in the territory which is today the state of Aguascalientes, the fires of independence were stoked by illustrious and courageous men such as Valentin Gómez Farías, Rafael Iriarte, Rafael Vázquez, and Pedro Parga.