Mexico City

Mexico City

Mexico City is one of the most overcrowded cities in the world, with a cloud of smog hanging over it all the time. But despite this, Mexico City remains a beautiful city with a peculiar colonial charm.

The site where Mexico City, the capital of Mexico today, is located is a fertile mountain valley located over 2000 meters above sea level.

Mexico City is surrounded on all sides by mountains reaching an altitude of 5,000 meters. It is located in a peculiar “bowl” of the mountain valley, so the air here often gets stagnant and a thick cloud of smog hangs over the city, consisting of exhaust gases from the metropolitan traffic and emissions from urban enterprises.

Mexico City has a rich history and cultural heritage that is reflected in its architecture, museums, monuments, and art. For example, Mexico City’s historic center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its colonial buildings, including the famous Metropolitan Cathedral Church and the National Palace.


Mexico City was built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, which have now become the most important landmark of Mexico’s capital city. Adjacent to Mexico City’s central Plaza Socalo and the Cathedral of Mexico City is the Templo Mayor (or Pyramid of Huitzilopochtli), the ruins of Aztec cultic structures that still amaze us with their monumentality.

According to legend, this is where the Aztecs saw an eagle sitting on a cactus, holding a snake in its claws. The Aztecs were commanded by Huitzilopochtli, the god of sun and war, to settle where such a picture appeared. Executing the will of their god, in 1325 the Aztecs founded the city of Tenochtitlan.

It is hard to believe now, but the Aztec capital was a “city on the water,” rather like Venice than present-day Mexico City. Emerged on the shores of Lake Texcoco, the city was built on stilts because the soil was marshy. Over time, a whole system of man-made reservoirs and canals was built to be navigated by boats. Numerous levees and dams protected the Aztec capital from floods. Monumental temples, public buildings, stone palaces of the Aztec nobility, gardens, flower beds and vegetable gardens (the harvest from which was taken several times a year) – the beautiful city of Tenochtitlan amazed the Spanish conquistadors who came here in the 16th century by its magnificence.

By this time, about half a million people lived in Tenochtitlan and the city market, which surprised with its abundance, accommodated up to 100,000 people. The Spaniards were especially shocked by the order of the city – a kind of “sanitary control” passed all the goods in the marketplace, the population carefully monitored the observance of cleanliness, a network of aqueducts provided clean drinking water for the inhabitants of the city, there was practically no theft.

In 1519 the Aztecs kindly received a detachment of Spaniards led by Hernan Cortez (1485-1547) and allowed the conquistadors into Tenochtitlan. The Aztec ruler Montezuma even gave the Spaniards many pieces of gold jewelry. In his reports, Cortés attributed this to the fact that the Indians took them for messengers of their light-skinned god Quetzalcoatl, whose return to earth was foretold. However, relations between the Spaniards and the Aztecs quickly soured – even if at first the Indians did indeed think the aliens were their returning gods, this misconception quickly dissipated. The aliens were more interested in the Aztec treasury than in their religious beliefs.

In 1520 the Spaniards had to flee Tenochtitlan, but a year later they returned, and after 70 days of siege Tenochtitlan was overrun and destroyed, and tens of thousands of its inhabitants were killed. Henceforth the land became the possession of the king of Spain, and a Spanish colonial city was established there.
The Spanish could not maintain the intricate irrigation system of the Aztecs, and so they simply drained all the ponds. Dust storms and tumbledown houses in what is now Mexico City owe the city’s inhabitants to these very events.

Archaeologists began to take seriously the Aztec heritage only in the XX century. Today there are 10 archeological parks in Mexico City, and numerous finds decorate the city’s famous museums.


When Mexico became independent in 1821, Mexico City was proclaimed its capital. The city’s population growth continues to this day. Nearly 40% of Mexico City’s population lives below the poverty line, and Mexico’s capital is considered one of the most criminal capitals in the world for good reason.

The neighborhoods of Mexico City differ radically, and it’s hard to believe it’s the same city. The city of beautiful colonial-style buildings, villas of the rich, various monuments, archaeological parks, recreation parks, internationally recognized universities, fashionable stores, restaurants and hotels, the mysterious ruins of Tenochtitlan – all this is also Mexico City, which attracts millions of tourists. And the city rightfully bears the informal title of the cultural capital of Latin America.

Center of Mexico City

The center of the city is the SoCalo Square (the second largest in the world), where stands the largest Catholic Cathedral in Latin America, built in 1563-1667. And very close to it are the Templo Mayor ruins of an Aztec religious complex. Research has shown that these temples were up to 60 meters high. A model of Templo Mayor is in the National Museum of Anthropology (Chapultepec Park). But the remains of the Aztec temple complex were rediscovered to the world only recently, they were discovered in 1978 during the laying of the cable.

Archaeologists are still conducting research in Mexico City, discovering more and more pages of the lost history of the Aztecs. The National Museum of Anthropology, which is considered one of the most important state museums in the country, has a unique collection of artifacts from different pre-Columbian Indian cultures such as stone heads of the Olmecas and treasures from the Maya civilization. One of the most famous exhibits is the Sun Stone, an Aztec calendar.

Another interesting archaeological area in Mexico City is in the Plaza de las Cultras, where the stone foundations of Aztec buildings have been preserved.

The Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s central avenue, was created in the 1960s following the model of European boulevards such as the Champs-Elysées of Paris. Its length – 12 km, the buildings of the XIX century create a romantic flavor. On the avenue there is one of the symbols of Mexico – 45-meter Angel of Independence.

The column with a gilded statue of the Winged Victory (Angel) on top was erected to commemorate the centennial of the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810-1821. The monument later became a mausoleum for the heroes of that war. The Angel statue is made of bronze and covered in gold. At the foot of the Independence Column in 1925 were reburied the ashes of the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla, who led in 1810 the rebellion in the village of Dolores, which began the war.


The name of this part of the metropolitan area, Coyoacán, means Land of the Coyotes in Nahuatl. When the Spaniards conquered and captured the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, these places near it were considered quite wild.

In the X-XII centuries, the settlement of Coyoacan, founded by the Tepanecs, already existed on the western shore of Lake Texcoco. It appeared in a place covered with volcanic rocks, poured on the surface after the eruption in the III-IV century of the now extinct volcano Chytle. Six kilometers to the south was the oldest city of the valley of Mexico, Cuicuilco, abandoned by the inhabitants after the eruption. The southwestern part of the municipality of Coyoacán (not to be confused with the historical district of the same name) actually stands on the ruins of Cuicuilco.

In the 1520s, the Aztecs, seeing the strengthening of Coyoacán, seized it and exterminated all the Tepánecs. From them the settlement passed to the Spaniards. They used the territory as a bridgehead for the complete conquest of the Aztec Empire, and then proclaimed the settlement the first capital of New Spain. In 1,527 Cortés founded in Coyoacán the Royal Audiencia, the highest court of the Kingdom of Mexico as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

During Spanish rule, Coyoacán was a colonial town, and several very old houses from that period remain. Including the church of St. John the Baptist, built between 1520 and 1552. The city remained completely independent of Mexico City until 1857, when it was absorbed into the sprawling federal district.

In 1907, the artist Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, lived most of her life, and died in 1954. Her house-museum contains Frida’s ashes (the urn is made in the form of the artist’s face resting on the bed).

Her husband, the great Mexican painter Diego Rivera, also lived in this house. Because of the color of the exterior and interior walls, the house is called La Casa Azul, or the “Blue House.” In general, the museum shows the lifestyle of affluent Mexican bohemia of the first half of the 20th century.

In the same neighborhood is the Anahuacalli Museum. Diego Rivera was a great admirer of pre-Hispanic culture and gathered a huge (more than 60,000 pieces) collection of artifacts from that era. The museum building somewhat resembles an Aztec pyramid and is built of black basalt. Diego did not live to see seven years of work completed on the building and its exhibits.

In 1952, the Central Campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico City was completed in Coyoacán. It was later listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings of the 40 faculties and institutes, the cultural center, the central library, and several museums were built in the modernist style. The city is home to the Olympic Stadium of the 1968 games.

By now Coyoacán is a metropolitan area of art in general and the counterculture in particular: the place is beloved by students and intellectuals. In terms of the number of museums – albeit relatively small – Coyoacán has surpassed all other parts of the city.

Residents of Mexico City love coming to Coyoacán: to spend their free time in the middle of the vast metropolis in an almost pastoral setting, in the beautiful parks of Hidalgo and del Centenario. The historic center of Ville Coyoacán ranks among the most livable areas of the city and the entire country.

San Angel

To the west of Coyoacán is San Ángel, a former suburb and now part of the vast Mexico City, which has largely retained its colonial character.

When Cortes conquered Tenochtitlan there was the Aztec village of Tenanitla. It attracted the Dominican and Carmelite monks who were looking for a place to build the abbeys of San Jacinto and El Carmen, fragments of which have survived to this day. The name of the settlement was originally San Jacinto Tenanitla.

At the turn of the 16th-17th centuries, the Abbey of El Carmen was built on lands donated to the Carmelites, and in 1613 the San Angel School was opened. Thanks to the suburban lands and the gardens laid out on them, the monastery complex became rich and powerful and the whole area became known as San Angel. After Mexico’s independence in 1810, the monks were expelled as “servants of the throne.

During the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) U.S. troops entered San Angel and destroyed part of the structures of El Carmen Abbey and after the war it was closed altogether. Until the middle of the 19th century San Angel remained a quiet rural town until the 20th century when it was absorbed by the Federal District of Mexico City. And it quickly fell in love with artists and writers, enchanted by the beauty and quietness.

What was left of El Carmen Abbey passed to the state in 1921 and in 1929 the Museum of Colonial Culture and Art in Mexico was opened there. The most prominent of the abbey’s surviving structures is the Church of Our Lady of El Carmen with its three enormous domes.

The second abbey is reminded by the name of San Jacinto Square, the center of San Ángel, where an ensemble of colonial buildings is preserved.

Bombilla Park is famous for the large monument to President Álvaro Obregón, who was assassinated nearby in 1928.

The one and a half kilometers long Francisco Coca Avenue is a place where many beautiful 19th- and 20th-century mansions have been preserved. At the beginning of the avenue is the chapel of San Antonio Panzacola, built in the 17th century and striking with its red façade (which is probably meant to compensate for its modest decor). There are also several houses lined up here, one of which is believed to have been built in the 16th century by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Apvarado. He had the title of adelantado (pioneer) and the king entrusted him, a man of great cruelty, with the conquest of Central America.


South of Coyoacán is the district of Tlalpan, of interest mainly because of the houses of the Mexican high society of the 19th century. Among them stands out the classicist Frissac house with the adjacent park which belonged to the president of the city council, Jesús Frissac Priego. Today it is a cultural center. The Santa Anna House belonged in the nineteenth century to one of the most famous characters in Mexican history, the 11-time president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Under him, Mexico first experienced a rise from empire to republic and then became involved in the American-Mexican War of 1846-1848 and lost much of its territory, which was annexed by the United States.


To the east of Tlalpan is the suburb of Socimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are 170 kilometers of canals whose construction began in pre-Columbian times. Originally the length of the canals was about a thousand kilometers. And until the 1880s there was a regular flow of steamboats to the center of Mexico City. Today it is one of the favorite vacation spots for Mexico City residents who come for a ride on the brightly colored covered boats – trachineras.

General Information

  • Official name: Mexico City, capital of the United Mexican States.
  • Mexico City comprises the outskirts and comprises the outlying districts of Mexico City, Mexico.
  • Language: Spanish, also Aztec, Mayan, Otomi.
  • Religion: 90% of believers are Catholics, Protestantism is also present.
  • Currency: Mexican peso.
  • Major airports: Benito Juarez International Airport. Benito Juárez International Airport.
  • The largest lake: Chapultepec.
  • Area: 1,485 km3.
  • Population: 9,120,916 (2018).
  • Agglomeration: 24,163,226 people.
  • Population density: 5872.7 people/km2.
  • Ethnic composition: more than 50% are Mestizo of Spanish-Indian descent, 20% are descendants of the indigenous population (Indians), about 30% are natives of Europe.
  • Date of city foundation: 1325.
  • The center of the city is located at an altitude of 2,240 m above sea level.

Climate and weather

  • Subtropical, the average temperature in January: -12 ºС. In July: +16 ºС.
  • The average annual precipitation is 750 mm.


  • Ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, cement plants, mechanical engineering, electronics, light industry.
  • The largest banking, commercial, exhibition, transport and tourist center of the country.


  • National Palace
  • National Museum of Culture
  • Mexico City Cathedral
  • Templo Mayor
  • National Art Museum
  • Palace of Fine Arts
  • Diego Rivera Museum
  • Franz Mayer Museum
  • De La Ciudad de México Museum
  • National Institute of Fine Arts and Letters
  • Alameda Park
  • Angel of Independence
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • National Museum of Anthropology
  • Chapultepec Park (Palace)
  • Our Lady Church
  • Garden of Arts
  • Monument to Cuauhtémoc
  • Columbus Monument
  • Monument of the Revolution
  • Monument to the Mother of God

Fun Facts

  • Using algae and lake silt, the Aztecs created chinampas, artificial fields that were fertile enough to produce several harvests a year.
  • On July 1, 1520, the Spanish fled Tenochtitlan. This retreat was later called the “Night of Sorrow” – the invaders had not only to abandon all the loot, but also to engage in bloody battles. According to various sources, up to 1,000 Spaniards died.
  • The remains of Hernan Cortez in 1566, according to his will, were taken from Spain to Mexico City. They have been moved several times, and since 1981 the location of Cortez’s burial has been classified – a group of nationalist Indians threatened to destroy the conquistador’s tomb.
  • Small earthquakes are common in Mexico City – the inhabitants of the city got used to them a long time ago. But sometimes happens a truly devastating catastrophe – so, September 19, 1985 killed 10 thousand people and collapsed 100-meter high television tower.
  • The subway in Mexico City was built according to a French design. It carries more than four million people a day and is second in passenger numbers only to the Tokyo subway.
  • The blue house of Frida Kahlo was for a long time little known even in Mexico City: the name of the artist herself was unknown among the local bohemia until the early 1980’s. The fame returned to her together with the then gaining popularity movement in the art, called Neomexicanismo. Kahlo instantly became a cult figure, and her paintings now sell for millions of dollars. Her museum is now the most visited in Coyoacán and one of the most popular in all of Mexico City.
  • The campus was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 with the wording “a fascinating example of 20th century modernism, illustrating the interpenetration of urbanization, architecture, building technology, landscape architecture and the art of combining them with elements of Mexican tradition.”
  • The Capuchin Chapel in Tlalpan was built between 1954 and 1960 by Mexico’s most famous architect, Luis Barragan. He designed mostly private mansions where entry is closed. The Capuchin Chapel is a rare exception; visitors are allowed here.
  • On Avenida Francisco Coca not far from the chapel of San Antonio Panzacola is the residence of President Miguel de la Madrid, who resigned in 1988 because he did not do enough to deal with the aftermath of the 8.1 magnitude earthquake. In 1986 it nearly destroyed the entire city. Thousands of buildings in the center and north of the city were destroyed due to design flaws and inadequate construction controls.
  • A big event in the life of the San Angel neighborhood is the annual Feria de las Flores flower fair, which is held in July. The origin of this event dates back to pre-Hispanic times, when the Aztecs held a festival in honor of the flower god Schiutecutli, aka the god of fire and lord of volcanoes. By making sacrifices to the god, the Aztecs begged for divine patronage and a good harvest of root crops and fruits. The Carmelite Fathers, having settled in the area, used the ancient ritual, but now in favor of Our Lady of Carmen, who became the new patroness of the village. In the program of the modern fair, the influence of both Catholicism and the pagan faith of the Aztecs is noticeable.
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