Juan de la Barrera (1828-1847) was a brave young man who died defending Mexico City during the battle of Chapultepec. In every year, September 13 commemorates his heroic acts, which are an integral part of his country’s folklore. A biography of Juan de la Barrera allows you to relive the story of a figure who symbolizes courage and audacity for Mexicans.

Summary of Juan de la Barrera’s biography

The index

  • As a tribute to his father

  • An eager learner, Juan de la Barrera

  • Times are hard

  • Under Monterde’s orders, Juan de la Barrera

  • Attack on the horizon

  • Battle of Chapultepec

  • Juan de la Barrera and his child heroes

To honor his father

On June 26, 1828, Manuel Juan Pablo José Ramón de la Barrera e Inzáurraga was born in Mexico City. He was the seventh child of Ignacio Mara de la Barrera Troncoso and Mara Josefa Vicenta Inzáurraga Carrillo, who had been married 10 years previously. Spanish ancestors who had arrived in Mexico two centuries earlier formed his father’s purely Spanish ancestry. He was a son of an artillery adviser, a law clerk, a governor, and a lawyer from a paternal family.

Juan’s father, Ignacio de la Barrera, served as a notary for Spanish military institutions. Ignacio was promoted to lieutenant within the Mexican military after Mexico achieved independence. Juan de la Barrera was able to enroll in the prestigious Heroic Military College of Mexico thanks to his father’s contacts. His superiors noticed the young man’s interest in participating in military movements shortly after he joined.

After only one year at the Military College, Juan de la Barrera was removed from the student group and added to the artillery brigade. A brigadier general, however, granted the young man permission to study without ceasing to serve in the army. Juan’s teacher, Ignacio de la Barrera, who died in 1840, had instilled in him a passion for learning.

An eager learner, Juan de la Barrera

Juan de la Barrera was finally allowed to return to the Military College in 1843 after months of insistence from the Brigadier General. The permit was granted with certain conditions; De la Barrera had to maintain excellent grades during his time at the institution and would work for the Mexican army upon graduation.


One of the Mexican heroes with the most structures and avenues named after him is Juan de la Barrera. At least 70 locations in Mexico bear his name, from streets to monuments to educational centers.

The agreement Juan de la Barrera had with the army was followed to the letter. In 1845, he graduated as a military engineer with honors. For the next two years, De la Barrera would assist in training new students at the Military College. He had the opportunity to meet Antonio López de Santa Anna, Mexican president and general, upon returning to the institution.

Times are hard

As Juan de la Barrera returned to the infantry brigade, a conflict between Mexico and the United States escalated. His companions – who were of lower rank – were sent to the Texas border to control the US army’s advance. April 1846 was the date of a confrontation involving this platoon. As a result of information provided by his superiors, De la Barrera was aware that tensions between the two countries were increasing.

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After discovering the enormous advantages military engineering had brought to other countries, the Mexican government really began investing in it. One of the first promotions to receive the necessary funding to study the degree was Juan de la Barrera.

In May 1846, the United States declared war, forcing the Mexican army to seek more and better soldiers. During the next year, Juan de la Barrera continued his preparation in Mexico City. He had never been sent to border states or seen battle action because of his engineering degree.

Under Monterde’s orders, Juan de la Barrera

Juan de la Barrera was relieved of his duties at the Military College when Antonio López de Santa Anna appointed him lieutenant of engineers. In spite of this, Mariano Monterde, the institution’s director, immediately asked for De la Barrera’s integration into his regiment. The young man was therefore able to receive orders from Monterde without leaving the castle of Chapultepec, where the academy was located.

As a result of Mariano Monterde’s tutelage, Juan de la Barrera’s training intensified profoundly. When Monterde served as governor, he understood the dangers facing Mexico City. The other generals did not heed his warnings of a surprise advance by the US Army, despite his experience. In light of this situation, the director subjected his platoon to an intense regime in order to prepare them for a confrontation.

Mariano Monterde provided Juan de la Barrera with almost all of his knowledge of armed combat. As the head of the brigade, he trained the youngsters himself, which allowed them to learn from his experience and expertise. In addition to covering basic concepts of combat, the preparation included strategic decision-making. Juan de la Barrera’s correspondence shows that he respected and admired his superior despite being an extremely strict individual.

Attack on the horizon

Mariano Monterde was searching for alternatives to protect the Military College from a US attack as the days passed. Juan de la Barrera, his most brilliant engineer, was tasked with building barricades at the entrance to the Chapultepec forest, just below the hill leading to the school. Since the castle was the only structure separating the port from Mexico City, De la Barrera knew the castle would be a target for North American forces.

Juan de la Barrera and the students under his command were unable to build adequate protections due to lack of materials and labor. When the Mexican government realized it had to defend Chapultepec Castle, the US army had already reached Veracruz port and was on its way to the capital. In and around the castle, Mexican soldiers defeated in battles near the capital took refuge.

Chapultepec battle

In the Battle of Chapultepec, Juan de la Barrera’s defenses were bombarded. The strategic point was managed by General Nicolás Bravo, hero of Mexican independence. On September 12, 1847, more than 150 soldiers under the command of De la Barrera fought at the base of the hill against the additional fortification.


Even though the six child heroes are especially remembered, all the young people in the Chapultepec castle at the time of the attack showed great courage. More than 50 young people decided to stay at the academy despite being permitted to return home since September 8.

Nicolás Bravo ordered Juan de la Barrera to bring all his soldiers to the castle to take refuge there. In the academy, the generals established an escape route that had not been discovered by the Americans. There had already been more than 500 casualties on each side, but the US troops outnumbered the Mexicans greatly.

Child heroes: Juan de la Barrera

Juan de la Barrera and five other young men decided to remain in Chapultepec Castle during the Mexican army’s withdrawal on September 13, 1847. Juan Escutia, Francisco Márquez, Agustn Melgar, Fernando Montes de Oca and Vicente Suárez accompanied De la Barrera and fought with him. It was the sacrifice of these young people that enabled the other cadets to escape without being discovered, according to various historians.

This story of the child heroes of Chapultepec combines reality with mysticism in an exquisite way. These young men’s heroic deed is surrounded by almost fanciful details that may or may not have been created to elevate them. Enrique Krauze, Mexican historian, argues that the Mexican does not consider how real the story is, but rather absorbs the motivation and courage it conveys.

Juan de la Barrera, along with the other five soldiers who died at Chapultepec Castle, is considered a member of the hero children. It is through myths that Mexicans have been able to continue fighting despite adverse circumstances over the years. Every year, on September 13, child heroes are remembered at a national level.

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