Juan N. Almonte was born in 1803 in Nocupéntaro, in the district of Carácuaro, in the state of Michoacán to Father José María Morelos y Pavón and Brigida Almonte, who is believed to be of Indian heritage. Nocupéntaro is located west southwest of Mexico City about halfway between it and the Pacific coast of Mexico. Because he was illegitimate, Juan took the name of his mother. Father Morelos is thought to have been the father of at least two other male children by other women and perhaps a sister by Brigida.
His father, Morelos, was a Roman Catholic priest who was politically active in the early days of the Mexican Revolution against Spanish rule. Father Hidalgo, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, was a successful leader of the rebels early on, but fell to a Royalist general named Félix Calleja in a battle near Guadalajara in 1811, Hidalgo had regrouped, but never again had the success he once enjoyed against the Spanish. Hidalgo was eventually captured and turned over to the prison at Durango, where Bishop Francisco Gabriel de Olivares had him officially defrocked as a priest and excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church on July 27, 1811. He was subsequently declared guilty of treason by a military court. Hidalgo was tortured and finally killed, likely by a firing squad that same year.
Morelos is understood to have taken up leadership and revolutionary activities following the execution of Father Hidalgo. In the midst of the revolutionary years, Morelos was arrested and accused of heresy against the Spanish religious and later by the political regime. Morelos was finally tried and executed by the Spanish establishment in 1815. Juan had been sent by Morelos to the United States at the age of thirteen for his education and safety. After the death of his father, he remained there for a number of years. He took jobs to support himself, including working as a clerk in a hardware store. Almonte returned to Mexico in the early 1820s after Mexico had gained its independence from Spain.
Almonte, then at around twenty years of age, is next mentioned as serving on the staff of José Félix Trespalacios, a former insurgent leader in Mexico’s drive for independence from Spain. Trespalacios is also associated with James Long and Ben Milam in their early efforts to establish a republic in Texas. Ironically, Trespalacios is also rumored to have supported Long’s killing in Mexico. After the end of the conflict with Spain, Trespalacios was appointed governor of Texas. After this, Almonte was sent to England to help negotiate trade and other agreements with Britain. He began to edit a newspaper named El Atleta, in which he criticized Mexican President Anastasio Bustamante for his foreign policies and in 1830, Bustamante ordered his arrest. The newspaper failed and Bustamante relented, and Almonte was able to return to Mexico. He again served Bustamante in other capacities.
Almonte went on to serve in the Mexican government and in 1834 was assigned to go to Texas and report on the conditions there. There was a strong sentiment early on that Mexican settlers would be preferred over Anglo settlers. It had not been that many years since the American Revolution and the War of 1812 and Mexican authorities were well aware of the Anglos bent toward independence.
During the Texas Revolution, Almonte was placed on the staff as aide de camp to Antonio López de Santa Anna when Santa Anna brought his army to stop the rebellion. Almonte was serving in that capacity under Santa Anna during the siege of the Alamo. Almonte also was serving under Santa Anna at San Jacinto and was captured with the dictator after the battle. During Santa Anna’s captivity, he acted as interpreter and participated in the negotiations for Santa Anna’s return to Mexico.
Anastasio Bustamonte served as President of Mexico three times, the last two of which followed the downfall of Santa Anna. During his last term as President, he appointed Almonte to serve as is Minister of War. He opposed the annexation of Texas to join the United States in 1845. He served as Secretary of War for the Mexican government during most of the Mexican-American War. After the war ended Santa Anna was still in power for several years until his final ouster and retirement in 1855. During these years, Almonte served in various levels of government including a term as senator from Oaxaca and representative to the United States.
Almonte had been one of two individuals designated to go to Coahila and Texas in 1934 to ascertain the situations there. The other was José Maria Diz Noriega. Noriega was commissioned to go to Coahila and Almonte to Texas. Each was also directed, among other goals, to “go to those same colonies and state to their inhabitants that with the restoration of peace in the Republic, one of the first concerns of the government has been to send a commissioner to that colony to offer them the protection and guarantee that they have desired for so long and which had not been given to them because of the state of agitations which happily now have ceased.” (1) His 1834 report to Santa Anna on the Texas rebellion was translated into English and has since been published in book form, along with his various letters to individuals. The English edition has chapters of history added to it. This version may be purchased and also can be accessed at various locations at no cost.
Almonte’s conclusions included the following: As well known as Stephen F. Austin was at the time, his imprisonment was likely not a major cause of the rebellion that was expected. More troops would be required to maintain order and stop the incoming flow of Anglo settlers. He estimated that the Texas forces might number 5,000 or less. He also concluded that the support for an independent state for Texas was divided, with some supporting independence and others willing to remain a state of Mexico.
Despite his long history of service for the government of Mexico, Almonte might be primarily remembered by Texans as having been with Santa Anna and the Mexican Army at the Alamo and San Jacinto. Because of his support for a foreign monarchy for Mexico, in opposition to Benito Juarez, he is likely remembered for having supported Emperor Maximilian.
Almonte favored outside intervention in the affairs and government of Mexico and supported the ascension of Emperor Maximilian who established a brief monarchy from 1864 to 1867. This was Almonte’s final role in Mexico’s government. When Maximilian was executed, Almonte fled to Europe and lived there in exile. He died in early March of 1969 and is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.
(1) Jackson, Jack, 1941-2006 & Almonte, Juan Nepomuceno, 1803-1869. Almonte’s Texas: Juan N. Almonte’s 1834 Inspection, Secret Report & Role in the 1836 Campaign, book, 2003; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth296837/: accessed July 17, 2022), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.
© 2022, all rights reserved.