The HHistory of more than 260 years of the Teatro Principal It has been very complex. It not only functioned as a theater stage, it also served as a store for cannons and powder magazines, and was even used for bullfights and cockfights.
As if that were not enough, the old 18th century coliseum, suffered a fire that reduced it to rubble inside. The building was left abandoned and became a ruin covered in weeds and rubbish until the government took it back and renovated it.
A necessary and new restoration It brought with it the founding of the “principal” board of trustees, which restored its splendor to the colossus and revived the Puebla public’s taste for going to the theater. This is his story.
“The first 150 years of the city there was no theater as such but there were many enthusiasts, so people made plays in their own homes. They were called Corrales de Comedia, they took advantage of the interior patios to set up a stage and present themselves to the public ”, exposes the researcher David Ramirez Huitrónfounder of Puebla Antigua.
It refers that in the City of Angels there were four Comedy Corrals. The first was from Juan Gomez de Melgarejo, and it was in the old Calle de Herreros (3 west and 3 south). But this activity did not leave revenues for the authority and under the pretext that they distracted the population from their activities they were closed down.
Thus, the authority decided to build a “Colosseum” (the name by which the theaters were known), for which reason it requested a bull, that is, the royal authorization for it since the income that would be generated would enter the coffers of the crown.
The Pueblan Coliseum
In 1742 Colonel Miguel de Román of Castile and Lugowho was the mayor, chose the place where the Coliseum would be built under the architectural project of Francisco Javier Salazar.
Construction began but the bull (royal authorization) and the permits were slow to arrive, he says and adds that, although the building was not finished During that period, stagings were performed and people came with their own chairs or armchairs from their homes to see the show.
“The architect Salazar did not finish the construction and sold it to Juan Ruiz de Ayala, who in order to continue the work had to ask for a loan and the ones who lent him the money were the nuns of Santa Clara. The bull dates from 1752 but it still took nine years to finish the construction, the royal authorization is inscribed on the facade of the building“details.
The Colisseum it was completed in 1761 and operated until 1811 when the presentations were temporarily suspended by the independence movement that had broken out in 1810.
“The bishop said that it was not of God to be having fun when there were people fighting and killing each other, they had to go to mass to pray for the conflict to end,” he comments.
“The main” of Puebla
Functions resumed for 1821-22 but the passage of time had wreaked havoc on the Colosseum. It had to be maintained and the council did not have the resources to do it, so for some time it allowed bullfights and cockfights will take place inside.
“The city council was looking for a dealer to commit to repair it and to recover the investment with the functions, but they could not find who, it was a very unstable period and the presentations were intermittent. Then came the epidemics and wars and little by little it was ruined until the pure building remained. By 1856 it was already occupied as an artillery store; in fact, during the Siege of Puebla it was used as a store for provisions”, points.
At that time (1863) the governor of Puebla was Jesus Gonzales Ortega and as the economic situation of the council was very desperate, he sold the Colosseum to Manuel Azpirozwho could not claim it until the end of the French Intervention in 1867.
Azpíroz was a lawyer and a soldier from Puebla who participated in the Battle of Puebla, was also a member of the jury that convicted Maximiliano in Querétaro and later a diplomat in Washington.
After Azpíroz obtained the theater, its useful life began to be regularized. He rebuilt it, started it up and operated it as a businessman together with his descendants. It was his best time.
“Throughout the 19th century, other individuals opened their own theaters, such as progress, the Catholic circle, the genius, the roosters; and to differentiate the Coliseum from the others, they began to call it: Teatro Principal, because it was the oldest in the city, ”he underlines.
a greek tragedy
The TTeatro Principal came alive for more than three decadess in which he delighted locals and strangers with opera, zarzuela, comedy and drama.
On July 28, 1902, an unfortunate human carelessness put an end to the dreams of actors, directors, stagehands, props, set designers, etc., when the Teatro Principal caught fire until it was completely demolished.
“They say that after a show that ended at dawn, someone forgot to put out the candle in his dressing room and everything inside burned down. The fire was declared at 5 in the morning. The theater was reduced to rubble and the businessman declared it a total loss, ”he warns.
The old 18th century Colosseum was destroyed and the building was left in ruinsits walls, windows and balconies became a ruin covered with weeds and garbage for almost four decades.
It was then that in 1939 the government headed by Maximino Ávila Camacho expropriated the property to completely demolish the building.
“The governor’s idea was to throw it away to build a gas station there, but at that time there were artists, scholars, and academics who interceded so that such an atrocity did not take place, among thems Francisco de la Mazawho sent him letters appealing to his sensitivity”, he says.
Finally, the governor decided to rescue the old Coliseum, which was the oldest on the continent, and commissioned Rodolfo Sarmiento to take charge of the restoration. In 1941 President Lázaro Cárdenas came to inaugurate it.
In the mid-1940s, the theater also began to serve as a stage for school festivals, graduations, union rallies, and all kinds of artistic events. It accommodated symphony orchestras, zarzuelas and music concerts.
The definitive restoration
Towards the end of the 1950s, the theater was again deteriorated by the activity that had been carried out for 20 years. Then a new restoration was undertaken, the definitive one, promoted by Manuel Reigadas Huergoknown as “The Lord of the Theater” and who has held various positions as a promoter of culture and theater, for the state and the Republic.
“I arrived at the theater to participate in Mr. Gómez Haro’s Don Juan Tenorio, it was horrible, very dilapidated. Later I was going to bring the play ‘Thirteen at a time’ and I went to rent it, they charged me 200 pesos and told me to agree to the stage job. When I went with him, he told me that they needed nuts for the benches and plugs for the lights because they didn’t exist and he asked me for 120 pesos, it was a lot but I said, well, at least next time it will be fixed.”points
“We did the show between fleas and lice. After two or three months I came back and again, all dilapidated. It turns out that the man removed the screws, removed the plugs and charged you again, as well as all those who came to rent the theater, ”he adds.
Remember that the dressing rooms were in the same place as always, but they were made of wood and were in worse and worse condition. One day he arrived very late and saw a man with donkeys who came knocking and got in.
“It turns out that they rented the dressing rooms to sleep. The merchants arrived with their donkeys loaded with coal or firewood and left them outside, they went into the dressing rooms to sleep. They got up at seven in the morning and went out to sell, that’s why there were fleas and everything ”, details.
After having presented three plays, he decided to stop having problems and fix the theater. He formed the Club Amigos del Teatro and each one contributed an amount, but it was over.
In February 1959 he formed the patronage of the Teatro Principal represented by Jorge Gomez Haro and integrated by Alfonso Sobero, Federico Bárcena, Pedro Ángel Palou, Manuel de la Fuente, Daniel Pacheco Fausto Andrés y Aguirre, Mariano Sánchez Sampedro, Joaquín Díaz Loredo, Carlos Menéndez, Mario Arrioja, Virgilio Cuétara, Manuel Otero, Enrique Reigh and Roberto Cañedo .
He obtained donations from the ERS Drama Club, the Puebla Rotary Club, the Cinco de Mayo Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the 2-30 Club, the Sembradores de Amistad Club, the Puebla Automobile Sports Club, the Chamber of the Textile Industry of Puebla and Tlaxcala, the National Chamber of Commerce, the Junior Chamber, the Dependent Mutual Society, the 20th Century Mutual Society, the Moral, Civic and Material Improvement Board; the State Conservatory of Music and Declamation.
But again the money ran out, so he asked for support from William Jenkins, who twice gave him a donation and thus the work was finished.
“I went to Jenkins and he told me: ‘Let me go and see what you are telling me (…) give me four days.’ On the fourth day he arrived at the theater and I received him along with a collaborator. He began to observe, he got into the pit and asked: What is this?, and I explained to him: “Here goes a wooden roof, put the shell on, whoever doesn’t know the paper is blown away” and He said: ‘Then it’s for the conchudos’, I was very amused because it would never have occurred to me. I told the entire board of trustees and they laughed”, remember between laughs.
Reigadas says that he asked Jenkins for a million and a half pesos, and he replied: “These four days I found out about you. You are the only one who does not steal in the government, come for your money “. But the money ran out again without completing the work and she had to return to see him.
“He told me: what do you want, more money? I said, yes sir. So he went to see the works and asked the architect for an account. Everything was in order and he gave me money again. When the theater was reopened, he was present, ”he points out.
The Teatro Principal recovered its splendor and began to offer a decent forum for theater companies and a space for groups of fans, as well as renowned actors, directors and musicians. The best of theater and shows at a national and international level were presented.
From then to date the Principal Theater has undergone three modifications and according to the teacher Reigadas, the patronage is extinct.