The Casa de Leona Vicario is a historic building remembered for one of the most important figures of Mexico’s War of Independence. An informant for the insurgents, she’s also remembered for the money she raised and donated to the cause. The building is home today to the Josefina Lara Valdez Library.
The house itself has a long history, even older than the Independence war. In 1526, the land was donated to the Dominican order, and they built a quarters there as the Temple of Santo Domingo was being built across the street. The house was later sold to Juan Velásquez de Salazar, the Viceroy of New Spain, in 1571. He leased the building to the church until it was finally abolished in 1813. At that time, a Lottery headquarters was established here. The building was extensively renovated between 1680 and 1695. Successive adaptations on the structure were carried out the by acclaimed colonial architect, Pedro de Arrieta. His work constitutes most of what can be seen today.
By 1822, the Congress in charge of implementing the Constitution of 1821, voted to honor the memory of those who’d died during the fight for independence. Leona Vicario requested the restitution of some of the assets that had been seized from her by the former colonial authorities. The Congress accepted her proposal and granted her both the Hacienda de Ocotepec, and two houses in Mexico City. Vicario occupied the house with Andrés Quintana Roo until her death in 1842. Quintana Roo left shortly after and died in the La Merced neighborhood.
The house has been an art gallery, site museum, and the headquarters of the Santo Domingo Cultural Center, part of the National Institute of Fine Arts. In 1991, the Casa de Leona Vicario became the documentation center for the INBAL’s National Coordinator for Literature which was founded here.