A city that invites you to walk through it, to submerge in it with all the astonishment of a newly arrived visitor who will become lost in its mix of pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern cultures.
Deisy Francis Medidor
Few cities in the world have such a rich and ancient history like this one; an urban area which has been host to important human settlements for the past 2,000 years.
For the outsider, the city’s position at 2,240 metres above sea level is a constant challenge.
According to Aztec legends, a prophecy announced that the spot where the Mexican people would find an eagle eating a snake, perched on top of a cactus, is where they would have to build a temple to honour an important deity.
The prophecy became reality in 1325 in Lake Texcoco, a lake inside a valley in central modern-day Mexico. That is where they built the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire.
The Aztecs showed great ability building a city under those conditions. The most important construction technique was to dry small patches of land (nowadays called chinampas) in order to make canals that would serve for transporting people and goods.
Since then, one of the constant problems has been solving the recurrent flooding. Now, upon observing the buildings in the city centre, they give the illusion of leaning towards different directions, because their foundations were built on what was once a lake.
Surrounded by legend, they say the name Mexico comes from Mexica, the name the Aztecs called themselves in honour of their god, Huitzilopochtli, and the result of combining the Nahuatl words “meztli” (moon) and “xitli” (navel).
However, there are those who assure the term “navel of the moon” comes from an island in Lake Texcoco. The island was similar in shape to the rabbit which seems to appear on the surface of the full moon.
Names of avenues, neighbourhoods, waterways and aqueducts were already incorporated in the city when the Spanish came in 1521 and started to build on top of the Aztecs´ structures in what would become, to the eyes of many, a cultural encounter symbolized by the control and humiliation of the native people.
Then a secession movement came against Spain, the uprising of the creoles, a desire for independence from Spain. Modern Mexico City summarizes all of this. When retracing the city’s history, new and old sites appear.
The city’s soul is revealed in its streets and avenues, and in its unmissable places such as the Plaza de la Constitución, the city’s central square called Zocalo, home to the National Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral.
The Monument to the Revolution, in the Plaza de la República, is where hundreds of locals gather every day to learn more about the city’s history, enjoy the surrounding areas, and where couples kiss in front of everybody.
At the Angel de la Independencia, or Angel of Independence, overlooking the city’s most important events as they go by.
The Chapultepec Forest, a beautiful green lung in the middle of the city once known as the “City of Palaces”, now turned into a city packed with skyscrapers that reach out to every corner of its surface.
It is, in the end, a crammed city, packed with millions of people, millions of cars, millions of Spanish speakers, full of the evergrowing pollution, the sound of sirens, contrasts, tortillas and tacos, tequila and mariachi bands, and full of those historic buildings which refuse to crumble and fall.It is Mexico City, the city that gives us the Aztec calendar, the one which tried to pinpoint the details of time. PL
(Translated by David Buchanan (Google Docs) – firstname.lastname@example.org)