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  • Natalie Taylor


The house on Cuadrante

On the Calle Cuadrante 18, just a few steps from the corner with Hernandez Macias stands a grand house, dating back to 1780. It was the original home of Victoriano de la Fuente, the Inquisitor, and it has been aptly named: the house of the Inquisitor. He was an official of the Catholic Church, responsible for searching out, and punishing anyone suspected of heresy. The members of the community lived in fear of De la Fuente, because an accusation by him could mean transportation to Mexico City to face the Tribunals of the Inquisition. While awaiting transport, prisoners were held in the Inquisitor’s Jail, just around the corner on Hernandez Macias. That building is marked by a green cross within a corner niche. A beautiful decoration, on a grim site.

But the house on Cuadrante, was the residence of the official, a solitary man who became more and more isolated, until he stopped going outside altogether. The residents of the city claimed that he had been trapped inside the walls of the house, and died there. Indeed, he was never seen again.

Years passed, and the War of Independence broke out in 1810. Wealthy residents fled for their lives, abandoning their stately homes, leaving everything behind, and the city descended into chaos. The inquisitor, and his disappearance, were forgotten. Eleven years later, when the War of Independence ended, and the city had returned to a semblance of normality, stories began to circulate about the house on Cuadrante 18. Neighbors heard noises and footsteps late at night, and a strange fog would sometimes cover the house.

A wealthy young man came to San Miguel, and when he saw the old Inquisitor’s house, he was immediately enchanted. No one could dissuade him from this fascination, it was as if a spell had fallen upon him, and he had to own the house.

When he moved to the old house, he found none of the strange things that the neighbors had told him about, and he slept soundly for many nights. But then one night, he was awakened to the faint sounds of music and chatter coming from downstairs. He got out of bed, put on his robe and slippers, and descended the staircase. The ballroom was full of guests, all of them wearing very ancient garb—such as would have been worn a century before.

Nobody paid him any attention as they continued their dancing and conversations, while the musicians played on. But despite the fact that he was among them all, the sound of voices and the music seemed to be coming from far, far away.

Suddenly he had a distinct feeling that someone was staring at his back. He turned his head, and saw a man glaring from the corner of the room. The man’s orange eyes seemed to glow, and his lips were slightly parted as if ready to speak.

Horror-stricken—because the man was obviously not from the present, perhaps not even from this world—the young man turned around, and bounded upstairs as fast as he could. He scampered into his bedroom and locked the door.

Moments later, he heard the sounds of heavy footsteps resounding on the wooden floor in the hallway, and then, without an effort the door opened.

In the doorway stood none other than the Inquisitor himself. He stared at the young man for an instant, and then disappeared into thin air. This was enough to terrify the young man, and he left the house the next morning never to return.

The Inquisitor’s house remained vacant for many, many years and throughout that time people nearby could hear music late at night coming from within. Sometimes the face of a man appeared in the upper window, staring out with orange eyes. They say that anyone who looks into that face in the window, will be overcome with an irresistible urge to own the house. The Inquisitor’s ghost still wanders the halls of the house, and tries to draw you in.

Be careful when you walk by the old mansion, particularly after sundown. And please, do not look up toward the upper windows!

Hotel Sierra Nevada

Not far from the Inquisitor’s phantasmagorical house, there is another building. Along the same Calle Cuadrante, a few blocks away, where the street changes its name to Hospicio, stands a beautiful building that predates the house of the Inquisitor. The current Hotel Sierra Nevada was part of a much older complex of buildings, including a 17th century fort, and what was once the residence of an archbishop in the 16th century. All those buildings were integrated into one unit, set around a courtyard with fountains, and are now part of the hotel.

With such an old history, it is no wonder that a legend has evolved over the years. The yarn has been passed from generation to generation, and embellished with every telling. Unlike the tale of the House of the Inquisitor, with a macabre phantasm causing dread to the neighbors, the story that is told about the Hotel Sierra Nevada is benign, and quite pleasant.

It is told that many years ago, there was a dedicated butler on the premises. Perhaps he was a private

butler to a wealthy resident in one of the old mansions; he may have even been attendant to the archbishop in the 1600s. Whomever he served, he apparently truly enjoyed his position, so that even death did not stop him in continuing with his job.

It seems that even to this day, this butler or attendant, shows up in the gardens or the hallways of the hotel. His appearance is always preceded by a strong aroma of coffee, and he readily interacts with guests, exchanging pleasantries, and even offering them a cup of coffee. He wears clothes dating back centuries, but nobody seems to be surprised by this; they presume it’s a costume used as a reminder that this is an ancient building.

Only afterwards, if they ask, they are told that there is no such individual on the grounds. By then the man has long disappeared, leaving the lingering smell of coffee where he passed.

What a great opportunity for someone who loves history to come upon this fellow. Ah, the stories he could tell…the answers he could provide. If only I had the chance to talk to him!

The story of the Inquisitor’s House is an adaptation from “Leyendas San Miguel de Allende,” by Paulina Cadena Gallardo, published by the city in 2021.

The story of the butler is oral history, related to me by a long-term resident of the city.

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