DON JUAN MANUEL DE SOLORZANO HISTORY

In the life of one of the most famous assassins of the colony, history and legend are intertwined, realism and imagination. Don Juan Manuel de Solorzano, lived in a big house close to what is currently the avenue of “20 de Noviembre” in downtown Mexico City. In 1636, the opulent gentleman had married the daughter of a rich miner from Zacatecas, Miss Mariana de Laguna. From the beginning, Don Juan Manuel had been tormented by a terrible unreasonable jealousy that drove him to obsession; the legend tells that his jealousy increased when his Excellency, viceroy Marquis de Cadereita, neighbor of the Solorzanos, started frequenting the house of beautiful Mariana. Like Don Juan Manuel was in charge of the administration of certain branches of the royal I.R.S, the floats that arrived to the peninsula and the traffics of products were his business; such occupation forced him to leave his house frequently

According to the legend Don Juan Manuel suffered more because time passed and children didn’t come to their marriage. For some moments, the tormented spirit thought of retiring to the convent of San Francisco, in the search of peace. Among being dazzled and cautious, Solorzano sent for a nephew in Spain so he would manage his properties and on the way, take care of his beautiful consort. Nonetheless, such nephew was so handsome and brave that he was well received by Mariana, which drove Don Juan Manuel to total desperation.

Prey of the devil because of his jealousy, Solorzano offered to sell his soul to the devil in exchange of finding out with who his wife cheated on him with. The devil accepted and made the pact: Don Juan Manuel should have came out at night, get close to whoever passed by his house and kill him at 11 o’ clock sharp, the devil would point out to the guilty one appearing next to the corpse. At night Don Juan Manuel came out of his house wrapped in a wide cape, with a hat whose feathers practically covered his face and getting close to the innocent transient and asked him:

“Excuse me being customary, what time is it?” “Eleven o’clock”, answered the poor victim, then the crazed man answered: “lucky you, that knows the time when you die”, the knife shone among the darkness, you could hear a suffocating scream, the thump of the corpse falling to the floor and the assassin, mute and impassible, he would open the gate again and walk through his patio, go up the stairs and go to in his room. Of course, the frequent murders called the attention of justice and the neighbors started talking about hexes and spells in that street. With things this way, one night the air took him to the room of Juan Manuel, his unfortunate nephew. Once he realized his crimes, Don Juan Manuel ran to confess to the Friars of Saint Francis.

As penitence he should pray standing right in front of the public gallows, three straight nights, a rosary for the souls of the innocent that he had killed. Since the first night penitence, Don Juan Manuel saw horrible visions of funerals in which he was the corpse. The third night, Solorzano was found hanging from the gallows without knowing how or who had made justice, the popular imagination soon saw angel like hands that had choked the jealous man and that is how it is consigned by tradition

Nonetheless, the history provides another version, which became the forgotten chapter of this legend. Don Juan Manuel de Solorzano was a native of Burgos, Spain and had arrived to Mexico accompanied by the Marquis of Guadal who wanted to take possession of the charge of XIII Viceroy of New Spain in 1612. A rich man and with great social standards, Don Juan Manuel soon found a place among the dominating spheres and became very good friend and counselor of Lope Diez de Armendariz, Marquis of Cadereita that in 1635 was named XVI Viceroy. With Cadereita, Solorzano reached great presence in court and became the viceroy’s favorite; the Audience complained of certain administrative irregularities in which Solorzano was involved. The popular dislike towards the viceroy’s favorite increased so much, that an uprising was feared by everyone. But the viceroy settled the matter favorably and confirmed Solorzano in the position. However, to the Audience, the result wasn’t very likeable.

The opportunity to settle accounts came in 1640, when news arrived from the Catalan Insurrection that had the attention captured of all the royalty and of course of the viceroy too. One fine day, Don Juan Manuel was arrested and put in jail by the order of Francisco Velez de Pereira whose job was Mayor of Crime. In jail, Don Juan Manuel found out that Velez de Pereira besides envying him for being the viceroy’s favorite, he also envied his wife since he got to visit the faithful Mariana but she didn’t let anything else happen. A cellmate who was also rich thought of some ways that would allow Don Juan Manuel to leave the jailhouse for a while so he could go and see how Mariana was behaving. On one of those nights, he caught the Mayor in a nice little chat with his wife, blinded by fury, Solorzano killed him, the scandal was huge and the superior authorities of viceroyalty found themselves with a political complication and a passionate crime. The ignominy of the motives of the Mayor would come out to the public; he visited Mariana to convince her to give away her virtue in exchange of her husband’s freedom. The audience didn’t wish to proceed against the murderer; doing it, would dishonor the dead functionary even more and the Viceroy wanted to save his friend no matter what, the conflict ended when one October morning in 1641, Solorzano was found hung. The story says that there wasn’t any mystery or angel like hands but was just simply the order of certain Audience listeners

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