Origin of state name: Spaniards settling in the area in the 1500s discovered the hot springs, or aguas calientes ("hot waters" in Spanish). They named their settlement Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de las Aguas Calientes (Home of Our Lady of the Assumption of the Hot Springs). This name was eventually shortened to Aguascalientes (which means hot waters).
Entered country: 1835.
Coat of Arms: The coat of arms of Aguascalientes has a fountain, a caldron, and coals. These represent the hot springs that are a main feature of the state. The image of Our Lady of the Assumption, accompanied by two cherubs, represents the foundation of the city. The gold chain, which is incomplete and surrounded by lips, depicts freedom and the emergence of the independent state. The grapes and dam signify agriculture supported by state irrigation systems. The bee imprisoned within a wheel represents the ordered, constant, and progressive labor of the inhabitants of Aguascalientes.
Holidays: Año Nuevo (New Year's Day—January 1); Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day—February 5); Benito Juárez's birthday (March 21); Primero de Mayo (Labor Day—May 1); Revolution Day, 1910 (November 20); and Navidad (Christmas—December 25).
Flag: There is no official state flag.
Time: 6 AM = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Aguascalientes, located in the center of the country, has an area of 5,197 square kilometers (2,007 square miles). It is about the same size as the US state of Delaware. It is bordered on the north by the Mexican state of Zacatecas and on the south by the Mexican state of Jalisco. Aguascalientes has 11 municipalities. The capital is also named Aguascalientes.
The state of Aguascalientes lies on the western side of the Mexican highlands between 21°23′ and 22°28′ north latitude and 101°53′ and 102°50′ west longitude.
The state has mountains (sierra), valleys, and plains. Its elevation averages 1,800 meters (5,940 feet) above sea level. The mountains lie in the western part of the state and form part of the Zacatecas Sierra. These mountains belong to the great mountain range known as the Sierra Madre Occidental. The best-known mountains are the Sierra Fria, El Pinal, Guadalupe, Laurel, Comanja and Tepezalá. There are 2 main valleys, the Aguascalientes and the Huajúcar (or Calvillo). The plains are located in the southeastern part of the state.
The most important rivers are the Aguascalientes (or San Pedro) and Calvillo; these form part of the larger Lerma-Santiago River system, which runs into the Pacific Ocean. Tributaries of the Aguascalientes River include the Morcinique, Chicalote, and Santiago Rivers.
The climate is dry and warm, with sum mer rains. Temperatures are fairly constant year round, averaging 19°c (°f), while its average yearly rain level is 480 millimeters (20 inches).
Native plants include scrubby pine trees and oak trees.
Sierra Fría is an ecological preserve where dwarf pine trees, oak forests, and a variety of animals can be found, including pumas, lynxes, boar, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and raccoons.
Aguascalientes had a total population of 944,285 in 2000; of the total, 456,533 were men and 487,752 were women. The population density was 168 people per square kilometer (435 people per square mile). In 2000, the capital, Aguascalientes, had a population of 643,360. The majority of the population speak Spanish. A small percentage (0.2%) speak one of the many indigenous Amerindian languages.
According to the 2000 census, 83% of the population, or 785,614 people, were Roman Catholic; less than 2%, or 15,857 people, were Evangelical Protestant. That year there were also 1,316 Mormons, 4,467 Jehovah's Witnesses, and nearly 12,700 people who reported no religion.
Aguasclientes has a well-developed system of highways and roads. Until the 1980s, when travel by railroad declined, Aguascalientes was home to the country's largest railroad repair facility. The Aguascalientes Airport serves the state.
The area of Aguascalientes was originally inhabited by different Chichimec (Amerindian) groups. Aguascalientes was first conquered by Spanish soldiers under the command of Cristobal de Oñate around 1530. The conquest was very bloody. The Spaniards indiscriminately killed natives and forcefully took their lands. The native resistance was strong and lasted for centuries.
Spanish settlers founded the city of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Aguascalientes in 1575. Twelve colonizers were given land rights. Vineyard agriculture and other fruit products were produced by the new settlers. Soon the area became an exporter of grapes and other fruits. Some wool production and iron- and wood-crafted products
Mining evolved in the municipality of Asientos de Ibarra, helping boost the local economy. Because of its central geographic location, the city of Aguascalientes became a commercial and transportation center between the Zacatecas and Jalisco regions.
In 1767, the members of the Roman Catholic Jesuit order were expelled from Mexico. This began a period of economic decline. The Jesuits owned a vast amount of land in Aguascalientes, so their departure severely hindered the local economy. In 1785, Aguascalientes was made a section of the Zacatecas Intendancy, a territory with connections to Europe. This caused discontent among the local leaders. They wanted more freedom to conduct their business and make their own decisions. A widespread famine in the late 1780s further hurt the local economy and reduced the population.
A series of public works initiatives and Roman Catholic Church constructions help boost the economy in the years before independence. Several local leaders helped promote independence ideas. Among them, Pedro Parga, Rafael Iriarte, Francisco Primo de Verdad y Ramos, and Valentín Gómez Farías championed the independence cause. On October 9, 1821, a month after the national declaration of independence, Aguascalientes patriots arrested Spanish authorities and joined the movement headed by priest Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla in central Mexico. Rafael Iriarte formed a 1,500-man battalion that joined the independence army.
After independence was formally declared in 1821, Aguascalientes was made a part of the state of Zacatecas. Independence leader Gómez Farías went on to serve as vice president and president in the 1830s. The political instability that characterized Mexico from the 1830s to the 1860s affected Aguascalientes. It was declared an autonomous state of Mexico several times, only to be periodically incorporated into Zacatecas, depending on the political alliances that controlled the military and political elites in Mexico.
Aguascalientes was occupied by French invaders in the civil war of 1863. The state joined forces with the reform army of Mexican revolutionary and statesman Benito Juárez (1806–1872) to resist the French. During the long government of Porfirio Díaz—who was president from 1877 to 1880, and again from 1884 to 1911—Aguascalientes progressed economically. Railroads were built and electricity was brought to the state in 1890. Telephone lines were installed in 1901.
During the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), different factions fiercely fought for control of Aguascalientes because of its strategic location. Local elites were divided among the different factions. When Álvaro Obregón became president (1920–24) and his faction emerged as winner of the revolution, control of Aguascalientes was easily achieved.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) went on to control Aguascalientes from 1934 to 1998, when the conservative National Action Party (PAN) candidate became the first non-PRI governor of the state. As of 2004, Aguascalientes ranked 27 among the 31 states in population. Aguascalientes has had a role in Mexican history much greater than what its size and population might first imply.
Aguascalientes holds gubernatorial elections every 6 years. The unicameral (one chamber) legislature is comprised of the Chamber of Deputies. Eighteen of the 27 Chamber members are elected from single member districts and 9 are elected at large, for proportional representation.
The state's constitution dates from 1950. It establishes formal separation of powers, an independent judiciary, and different mechanisms and provisions for government accountability and responsiveness. The state government is located in the municipality of Aguascalientes.
The state is comprised of 11 municipalities, each with its own government. Each elects a municipal president for nonrenewable 3-year terms. Former municipal presidents can run again for office after 1 term out of oﬃce. In addition, each municipality has a city council whose members are elected for nonrenewable 3-year terms.
The three main political parties in all of Mexico are the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the National Action Party (PAN), and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The PRI overwhelmingly controlled politics in Aguascalientes after the end of the Mexican Revolution. Otto Granados Roldán, governor from 1992 to 1998, was a close ally of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Mexican president (1988–94). Otto Granados Roldán was the last PRI politician to win a gubernatorial election in the state. In 1998, Felipe González González from the PAN won the gubernatorial elections for a nonrenewable 6-year term. Statewide elections were scheduled for 2004.
The Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Aguascalientes is comprised of 7 members elected for nonrenewable 15-year terms. Candidates are elected from a list presented to the state governor by the state court. The president of the Supreme Tribunal is elected by its members for a nonrenewable 4-year term.
The state judicial system is independent and autonomous. Its rulings must not challenge the jurisprudence of the Mexican Supreme Court. Other courts in charge of administrative matters are also part of the state judicial system.
In 2004, the economy of Aguascalientes was one of the fastest growing of any Mexican state. From 1997 to 2002, the state economy grew at almost 7%. Roughly one-third of the state's economy was based in manufacturing industries (principally machinery and equipment), textiles, and nourishing products.
There are at least 6 industrial parks in Aguascalientes. Nissan, Xerox, and Texas Instruments are among the companies that have manufacturing facilities in the state. Automobile manufacturing accounts for 20% of industry. Textiles (15%) and dairy products (about 10%) are other large industries.
There is almost no unemployment in the state. Employer-worker relations are generally good. There has never been a labor strike in Aguascalientes.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Mexican workers saw their wages increase 17%, from $2.09 per hour in 1999 to $2.46 per hour in 2000. (The average US worker earned $19.86 per hour in 2000.) The maximum work week is set at 48 hours by law. The average worker spends 40 to 45 hours per week on the job. Workers earn twice their regular hourly rate for up to 9 hours a week of overtime. When a worker works more than 9 hours overtime in a week, he or she earns 3 times the regular hourly rate.
About 35% of the land is devoted to agriculture. The wide plains are well suited to raising cattle and therefore good for the related production of dairy products. Aguascalientes is one of Mexico's leading producers of dairy products. Various crops thrive in the moderate climate. Crops include alfalfa, corn, wheat, and chilies. Peaches and grapes for wine are also grown.
The most notable natural resources are the hot springs that flow under about one-third of the state's land area.
Electricity is provided by the Federal Electricity Commission and Central Light and Power. Both utilities are run by the Mexican government. As of 2004, the government was considering allowing the development of private utilities.
The state of Aguascalientes has 9 general hospitals, 107 outpatient centers, and 28 surgical centers.
Housing in Aguascalientes is some of the best available anywhere in Mexico. Most (85%) is in good repair. The majority of residents own their own homes. A large percentage of those renting their homes are citizens of other countries living and working in the state temporarily.
President Benito Juárez launched the system of public education in 1867. Public education in Mexico is free for students ages 6 to 16, but most who can afford to go to private schools. This has created a gap in education between the social classes. The number of school-age children in Aguascalientes (3–19) was 452,173 in 2000.
For post-secondary education, students may enroll in Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes (Autonomous University of Aguascalientes) or the Instituto Tecnológico de Aguascalientes (Technical Institute of Aguascalientes).
Aguascalientes sponsors the Ballet Folklórico Ehécatl. There are many art galleries and 6 performing arts auditoriums in the state. There is also a cultural institute (Casa de Artesenias). There are 3 theaters: Teatro de Aguascalientes, an example of modern architecture, seats 1,650; the Teatro Morelos, originally a parish house; and the Teatro del Parque Victor Sandoval, used for theatrical, musical, and film presentations.
The national library system has 57 branches in the state of Aguascalientes.
Aguascalientes has 15 museums dedicated to art, science, religion, bullfighting, and railroading. The Aguascalientes Museum (Museo de Aguascalientes), the main museum of fine arts, was built in 1903. Other museums in the state include the Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo del Arte Contemporáneo); the Interactive Museum of Science and Technology, which houses an IMAX theater; a museum dedicated to the works of José Guadalupe Posada, a revolutionary artist; and the Museum of Regional History. Specialized museums include La Cristiada, which commemorates the Roman Catholic Church's struggle against the government; the Museo Taurino, which showcases bullfighting; and the Museo Ferrocarril, a museum of the railroad.
The capital city, Aguascalientes, has 2 newspapers: El Sol del Centro and Hidrocalido.
In 1991, the government-owned phone company, Teléfonos de Mexico, was sold to private investors. Since then service has improved but rates have risen. Teléfonos de Mexico provides 95% of telephone service in Mexico.
Aguascalientes is famous for its therapeutic hot springs. There are many parks and recreation centers for camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, and fishing. El Tunel de Poterillo offers a beautiful canyon with waterfalls and native flora and fauna. The park at El Ocote has prehistoric wall paintings of humans and animals. The Sierra de Laurel has a wildlife park and places to go mountain biking. The Cerro de Muerte offers rock climbing and rappelling. The San Marcos National Fair, held in late April or early May each year, features art exhibits, rodeos, bullfights, a gambling casino, pageants, and music.
The city of Aguascalientes has a professional basketball team, the Panteras. The baseball team, Los Rayos de Nexaca, also plays in Aguascalientes at the 20,000-seat Estadio Victoria (Victoria Stadium). Another baseball team, Los Gallos de Aguascalientes, plays in the 10,000-seat Estadio Municipal (Municipal Stadium). There are two bullfighting rings; the 16,000-seat Plaza Monumental and the smaller 5,000-seat Plaza San Marcos.
Early leaders in the movement for independence were Pedro Parga (1792–1873), Rafael Iriarte, Francisco Primo de Verdad y Ramos (b. Jalisco, 1760–1808), and Valentín Gómez Farías (b. Jalisco, 1781–1858). Sculptor Jesús Contreras (1866–1902) created 18 statues of famous Mexicans that line the Paseo de la Reforma (Avenida Reforma) in Mexico City. Other notable citizens include composers Alfonso Esparza Oteo (1894–1950) and Manuel M. Ponce (1882–1948), and poet Ramón López Velarde (1888–1921).
Carew-Miller, Anna. Famous People of Mexico. Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers, 2003.
DeAngelis, Gina. Mexico. Mankato, MN: Blue Earth Books, 2003.
Supples, Kevin. Mexico. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2002.
Gobierno de del Estado Aguascalientes (Government of the State of Aguascalientes), English version. http://www.aguascalientes.gob.mx/english/ (accessed on June 11, 2004).
Mexico for Kids. http://www.elbalero.gob.mx/index_kids.html (accessed on June 11, 2004).