Among the finest buildings erected in Guanajuato, at the time a town of some 70,000 inhabitants, was the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. The famine that had afflicted the city in 1786 convinced the city council to consider the construction of a sizeable grain store to avoid food shortages in the increasingly populous city.
Construction, which began in 1798, was overseen by architect José del Mazo y Avilés, on the orders of the Viceroy, Miguel de la Grúa y Branciforte under the direction of city Governor, Juan Antonio de Riaño y Bárcena.
The construction costs for the Alhóndiga were covered by means of a tax of 2 reals on each load of corn delivered to the city. The building itself is massive, and battlements and windows make it look more like a castle than a fort. Construction ended in November 1809.
From the time of its building it was known as the Alhóndiga de Granaditas or “Pomegranate Storehouse”, as in one of the 20 houses belonging to Antonio Mendizabal that were cleared for its construction, there was an orchard of pomegranate trees.
The word “alhóndiga” itself comes from Arabic and means “grain store”.
On September 24, 1810, the city governor, Riaño ordered both “troops and the people” into the storehouse in order to resist the armies of Miguel Hidalgo and survive long enough to receive the reinforcements he had requested from the city of San Luis Potosí.
He also brought with him all the royal and municipal funds – an immense fortune of up to 62,000 pesos – as well as the city and royal archives, and plentiful ammunition and provisions.
Shortly after the battle for the Alhóndiga commenced, Riaño was killed by a bullet fired during an enemy attack.