Mexico City I - Around Zocalos Square

Please Click on the thumbnails to view pictures.

The capital, the largest city in Mexico, and one of the largest in the world, with a population of some 19.2 millions (2005). That is close to one fifth of Mexico's entire population. Originally built by the Aztec empire in 1325 (then known as Tenochtitlan), the town was torn down, seized, and rebuilt by the invading Spanish in the early 1500s. It quickly became an urban center for Spanish colonies, until Mexico's independence in the 1820's.

We stayed at El Zocalo, formally known as La Plaza de la Constitution, a vast public square that's been the center stage of Mexico City since the Aztec age. It's the gathering place for public ceremonies, holiday celebrations, and military displays. Our hotel (Hotel Majestic) is the only major hotel at the square, with a neat terrace restaurant. The food was so so, but from the restaurant we could overlook the entire square.

The Zocalo appears to be a popular gathering place at night. Free concert at Friday night; 11/20 was the Revolution Day, the Zocalo was flooded with millions of people until late at night.


In the north side of the Zocalo is the Metropolitan Cathedral, reportedly the largest and earliest cathedral in the Americas. It was built after the Spanish conquer, then was damaged and rebuilt in the 1570s. New buildings and extra elements, such as the neo-classical styled bell towers and the dome, have been added since then.

Vast interior.


Placio Nacional, or National Palace houses Mexico's executive, legislative, and jurisdiction power.

On the staircase and main walls are large, vivid, and bold murals by Diego Rivera (1886-1957), who are widely considered the greatest contemporary Mexican painter. The murals depict the entire history of Mexico from Aztec to Spanish conquer, to its independence. This Senor Rivera is an interesting figure. In 1933 he was hired to produce a mural in the Rockefeller Center in New York. In the mural titled "Men at the Crossroad," he integrated the portrait of Lenin, the first premier of Soviet Union. While Rockefeller, one of the leading capitalists in the world, was enraged; he fired Rivera, chipped the mural off the wall, and broke it into pieces. That actually make the Crossroad Rivera's most famous work. He later reproduced the mural later in Mexico and renamed it "Man, Controller of the Universe." This time beside Lenin he added the exiled Leon Trotsky into the painting. It's in Mexico, after all. If you remember the academy award-winning movie Frida (2002, Best Make up/music etc.), it's about his student and wife Frida Kahlo, also a celebrated painter.

The interior. In many objects we've seen the repetitive theme of a Mexican golden eagle catching a snake on a cactus. Such themes originate from the Legend of Aztec, whose god commanded that the place where the Aztec saw the divine sign of a golden eagle devouring a snake, is the chosen spot to build an Aztec city. So there was Tenochtitlan, which we now call Mexico City.


Temple Mayor, an archaeology site in the heart of Mexico City. In 1978, when building the metro system near the Cathedral, workers dig out a huge stone inscribed with images of the moon goddess (Coyolxauqui). With it came out of the dark a ruin that's been buried for over 500 years, right underneath the bustling town center of Mexico City. Today it's believed that the majority of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, whose roof rose 60m above ground once upon a time, is buried under the Metropolitan Cathedral. Imagine all those years, people came for their Sunday service in the cathedral, not knowing they're stepping and kneeling on the former sacred temple of their ancestors. Is it the irony of history or mischief of God?

The ruin, surrounded by city buildings.

More Ruin. The 4th pic is actually a drainage pipe built in 1900's, which damaged part of the site:

This area seems to be dedicated to the Rain God, Tlaloc. That black little stone block in the 2nd pic, much to our horror, is a chopping block for beheading human sacrifice. Speaking of human sacrifice, Aztecs are notorious for their habit of killing for all kinds of ritual, in many occasions thousands of lives. In fact the Aztecs claimed that they sacrificed 84,000 prisoners for the dedication of this temple, although the number was very likely exaggerated. In the last pic, this little building (Altar Tzompantli) decorated with 240 stone-carved skull probably symbolizes such bloody practice.

Much of the archaeological items recovered from the ruin are in display in the Museum of Temple Mayor, right next to the ruin. The 1st two pix are models of the ruin and its original structure. What a majestic pyramid it used to be...

Statues of gods and other mythic creatures, among which I could only recognize Tlaloc, the God of Rain and Fertility (last pic).

Artifacts. Some of them are surprisingly delicate and artistic.



Around Mexico City. We highly recommend this restaurant called El Cadenal, near El Zocalo. Fine silky hot chocolate, good food. In the 2nd pic is ant's egg, a strange delicacy we tried there. Next 4 pix is taken at the Angel of Independence (El Angel), an gold-plated statue for centennial commemoration of the Mexican Independence War. It's probably the most famous landmark of Mexico City.


Feel free to email us or join our Forum.

(c), all rights reserved