Historical Facts About Mexico City
What are the facts about Mexico City
There is a saying in Mexico that all roads lead to Mexico City. The Distrito Federal , as it is commonly known, is the center and heart of the country. It is perhaps the defining city for the people of Mexico.
Mexico City is the fifth largest city in the world with a population of about nine million people. It is the seat of government for the Union of Mexico. Mexico City was officially founded in 1325 by the Mexica people. This is probably where the name 'Mexico' came from. These people were primarily the Aztecs, a native American tribe that allegedly migrated south from the plains "Indians".
Today, the magnificent city is a financial center for North America and a cultural mecca for patrons of the arts, anthropology and social studies. It is the largest city in the Western hemisphere.
Where is Mexico City on a map?
TenotchtÍtlan is the earliest known development near the modern day location of Mexico City. Little is known of the original builders of TenotchtÍtlan. The original pyramids are thought to have been built by the Toltecs who had left the city in ruins.
The arriving Aztecs in 1324 A.C.E. declared the island city theirs after seeing a sign from their Gods. The sign was an Eagle clutching a snake while perched on a cactus. This emblem continues to decorate the Mexican flag of today.
The Aztecs built the wondrous city that the Spaniards saw when they first arrived. Between 1324 and 1519, the Aztecs and TenotchtÍtlan grew to one of the largest cities in the world. It was twice the size of London or Rome. TenotchtÍtlan supported a population of 200,000 to 300,000 mexica.
The Aztecs have a rich and varied history. They are known for their warriors and leaders. The Aztecs also have a history of poetry, drama, beautiful art and incredible construction skills. The whole city was built by shoring up the marshy land that surrounded the city.
They built canals and bridges that struck the Spaniards with awe. Especially noted was how clean the city was. All refuse was removed from the city daily and recycling was standard practice for the people. The Aztec were master ecologists.
Montezuma and Hernan CortesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Men From Spain
In 1519 Hernán Cortes saw TenochtÍtlan for the first time. He was amazed by the city. It was larger than any city he had ever seen and more modern and clean than any city of his past.
As the Aztecs tell the story, November 8, 1519 is the day the great city began its dying. Cortes had convinced many native tribes to join him in the quest for the leader of the empire. They told Cortes that he was part of a prophecy to reclaim the country and be its God. He was returning just as Quetzalcóatl had predicted.
Cortes marched into the center of the city, crossing one of the great causeways and went straight to the center pyramid where Montezuma, the Aztec King, came out to greet him. He presented Cortes with gifts and invited him to stay as his guest.
Cortes turned the tables on Montezuma by tricking him into believing he was the God returning as foretold in ancient prophecy. Cortes went so far as to force Montezuma to do his bidding. Eventually, the Aztecs figured out that Cortes was just a man sent to conquer them and they took to arms to force the Spaniards to leave TenochtÍtlan.
As the Spaniards tell the story, it was "La Noche Triste" - The Night of Sadness, June 30, 1520.
The Destruction of TenochtÍtlan
Cortes and his men had introduced Smallpox which decimated the native population of Central Mexico. After regrouping his men and the native followers that were left on his side, Cortes returned to TenochtÍtlan and retook the city.
The Spaniards looted and razed the city, renaming it "Mexico" just because it was easier to pronounce. They tried and put to death many of the old leaders and wealthier, important Aztecs. They built Catholic churches over the ruins of the old temples.
Cortes did not claim the throne of the new world for himself, but he did establish a residence for the King of Spain who sent a representative to govern the new city-state.
Colonial Architecture in Mexico City
Mexico City Rebuilt
Mexico City had relatively easy access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It was also not terribly difficult to get to the Pacific side of Mexico. Trade began to flourish and many people immigrated to Mexico City.
The weather was like a perpetual Springtime. Due to its location near Lake Texcoco, Mexico City was also beautiful. The mountains around Mexico produced silver, copper and tin mines. There was room for ranching and architecture alike.
The Old City was rebuilt as an outstanding Colonial settlement that produced gentrified, titled land owners and traders. Titles of nobility were awarded to the "right" families. Its nickname was the "City of Palaces". The Aztecs became a race of slaves.
Mexican Independence Day!
On September 16, 1810, Mexican citizens had had enough of Spanish rule. The "grito" or shout for independence came from central Mexico in the state of Guanajuato.
The former slaves and people of Mexico revolted and conquered the City of Mexico and established the Federal District to run the new country of Mexico.
On September 27, 1821, after ten years of fighting, Mexico gained its independence from Spain. During this time other countries also fought over the right to rule Mexico, including France and the United States which briefly did occupy Veracruz and Mexico City during the Mexican-American War. The Mexican Constitution was based in a large part on the U.S. Constitution.
The Men of Mexico
Mexico City continued to grow and grow. The City was rich while the rest of the country was steeped in poverty, but the Federal District was the center of trade and finance.
The 1800's saw a couple of major skirmishes between the people of Mexico and the Federal District all vying for control of the country.
- The Reform War produced a renaissance movement for the City resulting in a better infrastructure. New roads, schools, transportation services and a postal service for communication were constructed.
- The Mexican Revolution was a military coup commanded by General Huerta to take control from President Madero.
The Twentieth Century Mexico City
- By the early 1900s, Mexico City had grown to 500,000 and was probably the most modern city once again in the Western Hemisphere.
- The 1950s saw the addition of the first modern skyscraper.
- The 1960s to the 1980s brought a doubled population and by the time 1980 rolled around there were greater than eight million people living in and around Mexico City.
- In 1968 Mexico City hosted the Olympic Games and many sporting facilities were built.
- 1969 brought the Metro system to the city once built upon a marshy lake bed.
- On September 19, 1985 Mexico City was struck by an 8.1 magnitude earthquake which nearly destroyed the entire infrastructure and local governing organizations. The government was so corrupt and disorganized that the people of the city were pretty much on their own.
- Mexico City and the Federal District have been modernized and free elections are now held at periodic intervals similar to the United States. Mexico has a 'Statute of Government' and an Assembly of Representatives.
- The elected official over Mexico City is the Mayor, and the President of Mexico is a separate individual. As of 2012, the President of Mexico is Felipe Calderón. The President is also considered Commander in Chief of the Mexican Armed Forces.
- Mexico City is the Art and Cultural center of the country with many fine museums for art, archeology, anthropology and cultural studies.
- Modern Mexico City is the tourist center of Mexico and has a large bustling international airport.
Modern Day Mexico City
Guide to Mexico City
Julie Doherty Meade lived as an expat in Mexico City. In this book, she shares the city with you, including unique itineraries like the Best of Mexico City, Historic Mexico City, Public Murals, Best Markets, and Mexico City by Design.
© 2012 Austinstar
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