Ciudad de México

(Part II)


On this page, I will present all the places I visited in Mexico City and some cities nearby. Indeed, not all the places I could visit and maybe not the best, but the ones piqued my interest.

I'll try to present them by region when possible.

Ciudad de México

around Alameda Central

The Alameda Central Park is a green garden with paved paths, decorative fountains, and statues in the center of the City of Mexico. The area used to be an Aztec marketplace. On 11 January 1592, Viceroy Luis de Velasco II ordered the creation of a public green space for the city's residents. The name comes from the Spanish word "álamo", which means poplar tree planted here. This park was part of the viceroy's plan to develop what was, at that time, the city's western edge. It has become a symbol of a traditional Mexican park, and many other parks in the country take on the name "Alameda" as well. "The Alameda Central Park is a green garden with paved paths and decorative fountains and statues in the center of the City of Mexico.

The Palacio de Bellas Artes photographed from the balcony of "Finca Don Porfirio" restaurant.

It is usually from here the visitor starts his/her exploration of the city as the park is adjacent to probably the city's most iconic building, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a prominent cultural center in Mexico City.

The Palacio, often called the "Cathedral of Art in Mexico", was built on the site was the Convent of Santa Isabel, whose church was built in 1680. The Gran Teatro Nacional was built here between 1840 and 1844, to be demolished between 1900 and 1901 to extend the Avenida Cinco de Mayo. The demolition was justified with the promise that the Palacio de Bellas Artes would replace the theatre, whose construction began in 1904 but was interrupted by the Mexican Revolution and finally opened in 1934. In the more than 30 years between the demolition of the old theatre and the inauguration of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, opera performances took place at the Teatro Principal and the Teatro Arbeu.

The initial design of the Palacio de Bellas Artes and construction was undertaken by Italian architect Adamo Boari in 1904, but complications arising from the soft subsoil and the political problem both before and during the Mexican Revolution, hindered then stopped construction completely by 1913. Construction began again in 1932 under Mexican architect Federico Mariscal [es] and was completed in 1934. It was then inaugurated on November 29, 1934 and was the first art museum in Mexico dedicated to exhibiting artistic objects for contemplation.

Double-click here to add your own text.The exterior of the building is primarily Art Nouveau and Neoclassical and the interior is primarily Art Deco.

Inside the the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The main Entrance.

"El hombre controlador del universo" (Man at the Crossroads), 1934, by Rivera. At the west end of the 3rd floor of the Palacio de Bellas Artes

José Clemente Orozco's La Katharsis (Catharsis), depicting the conflict between humankind's 'social' and 'natural' aspects. At the west end of the 3rd floor of the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

The building is best known for its murals by Diego Rivera, Siqueiros and others, as well as the many exhibitions and theatrical performances it hosts, including the Ballet Folklórico de México. The building is characterized by its yellow-orange colored dome made of ceramic tiles.

Two parts of Rivera's four-part Carnaval de la Vida Mexicana (Carnival of Mexican Life).

Rivera's "Man at the Crossroads"

"Man at the Crossroads" (1933) was a fresco by Mexican painter Diego Rivera. Originally slated to be installed in the lobby of the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center in New York City, the fresco showed aspects of contemporary social and scientific culture. As originally installed, it was a three-paneled artwork. A central panel depicting a worker controlling machinery, flanked by two other panels, The Frontier of Ethical Evolution and The Frontier of Material Development, represented socialism and capitalism.

The Rockefeller family approved of the fresco's idea: showing the contrast between capitalism as opposed to communism. However, after the New York World-Telegram complained about the piece, calling it "anti-capitalist propaganda", Rivera added images of Vladimir Lenin and a Soviet May Day parade in response. When these were discovered, Nelson Rockefeller – at the time a director of the Rockefeller Center – wanted Rivera to remove the portrait of Lenin, but Rivera was unwilling to do so.

In May 1933, Rockefeller ordered Man at the Crossroads to be plastered over and destroyed before it was finished, resulting in protests and boycotts from other artists. The fresco was peeled off in 1934 and replaced by a mural from Josep Maria Sert three years later. Only black-and-white photographs of the original incomplete fresco were taken when Rivera suspected it might be destroyed. Using the photos, Rivera repainted the composition in Mexico under the variant title "Man, Controller of the Universe" ("El hombre controlador del universo").

The controversy over the fresco was significant because Rivera's communist ideals contrasted with the theme of Rockefeller Center, even though the Rockefeller family admired Rivera's work. The creation and destruction of the fresco are dramatized in the films Cradle Will Rock (1999) and Frida (2002). The reactions to the fresco's controversy have been dramatized in Archibald MacLeish's 1933 collection Frescoes for Mr. Rockefeller's City and in E. B. White's 1933 poem "I paint what I See: A Ballad of artistic integrity".

Just opposite of Palacio de Bellas Artes stands another impressive building, the Postal Palace (Palacio de Correos de México). The building is considred an architectural treat, but I prefer more distinctive architectural lines. In mixed Art Nouveau, Spanish Renaissance Revival, Plateresque, Spanish Rococo style, Elizabethan Gothic, Elizabethan Plateresque, and Venetian Gothic Revival there’s a lot to look at. Noteworthy elements are also Moorish, Neoclassical, Baroque, and Art Deco.

Palacio de Correos de México (on the right of the picture) is located opossite the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Palacio de Correos de México.

Built by the Italian, Adamo Boari and Mexican, Gonzalo Garita in 1902, the building opened in 1907 in the waning years of thePorfirato. It was intended, then as now, as a main city post office. To be fair, upon its introduction, the notion of a national postal system was considered extravagant, too.

The Postal Palace is stock full of gargoyles, marble ornaments, and elaborate plaster work. Staircases are made of Mexican marbles and the bronzes were cast in the Fonderia Pignone in Florence, Italy. The clock in the main building was imported from Germany by the Dienner Brothers and La Perla jewelers. This needed to be re-assembled in Mexico, with rope mechanisms, electrical devices, and hydraulic transmissions for pulleys, counterweights, and cables. And of course, there’s a six-bell chime.

The impresive stairway to the second floor of the Palacio de Correos de México.

The ground floor of Palacio de Correos de México, still operates as a postoffice. 

Inside, marble floors and shelves are combined with bronze and iron window frames. These, too came from Florence. The stairways cross on the second floor landing, after which they move off in their own directions. Meeting rooms contains frescos by Bartolomé Gallotti painted over a base of 24 carat gold. Themes relate to the history of written communication and the sending of messages.

The building continues to serve the postal service. It also contains a museum with displays of tools of the trade and historical documents. The second floor is devoted to the permanent exhibition on Postal Culture. There’s an interactive room, and an introduction to Philately. The library contains 8,500 volumes and 240 historical documents dating from 1580 to 1900.

Inside the Palacio de Correos de México.

El Torre Latinoamericana (the Latin American Tower) is located at the corner of Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas 2 & Av Francisco I. Madero). It was completed at the beginning of 1956, being officially inaugurated on April 30 of the same year. At its completion, the Latin American Tower was the tallest building in Latin America. Its public viewpoint, located on the 44th floor, provides people the best view of the city (Mirador Torre Latino). You may take an elevator to the "Mirador", which costs 90MXN. There is a small café two floors below the top with nice views. I did not go up the tower during my stay in Mexico City. Instead, I admired the view from "Finca Don Porfirio" restaurant, at the top of the SEARS department store just opposite the Palacio Bellas Artes. 

Just opposite Torre Latino stands the Casa de los Azulejos ("House of Tiles") or Palacio de los Condes del Valle de Orizaba (Palace of the Counts of Valley of Orizaba) is an 18th-century Baroque palace in Mexico City, built by the Count of the Valle de Orizaba family. The building is distinguished by its facade, covered on three sides by blue and white colonial Talavera tiles from Puebla state. The palace remained private until the end of the 19th century. It changed hands several times before being bought by the Sanborns brothers, who expanded their soda fountain/drugstore business into one of the best-recognized restaurant chains in Mexico. The house today serves as their flagship restaurant.

The Counts of the Valle de Orizaba began the construction of the palace in the 16th century. Descendants of this House of Orizaba covered the palace's exterior in 1737 with the beautiful azulejos seen today.

Detail from the Casa de los Azulejos.

José Clemente Orozco's, "Omniscience" in the Casa de los Azulejos.

A doll collection at the Casa de los Azulejos.

The food at the restaurant is nothing special, but the huge courtyard where food is served is impressive. At the staircase leading to the toilets (sic), there is one of the earliest works by José Clemente Orozco, titled "Omniscience", done in 1925. The three symbolic figures in it represent masculine values, with their feminine counterparts and Grace presiding over them both. According to chronicler and poetSalvador Novo, the torso in the center was later copied by Orozco in a work called Prometheus atPomona College.

Just next to the Torre Latinoamericana, at the western end of Madero Street and just opposite the Casa de los Azulejos is located all that remains of the church and monastery complex "Convent of San Francisco" (historically known in Spanish as the 'Convento Grande de San Francisco'). This complex was the headquarters of the first twelve Franciscan friars headed by Martín de Valencia, who came to Mexico after receiving the first authorization from the Pope to evangelize in New Spain. In the early colonial period, this was one of the largest and most influential monasteries in Mexico City. It was built on where Moctezuma II's zoo once was. At its peak, the church and monastery covered the blocks now bordered by Bolivar, Madero, Eje Central, and Venustiano Carranza Streets (an area of 4 city blocks today).
In the patio of the first cloister, there was a cross that was reputedly taller than the highest tower in the city and made from a cypress tree from the "Chapultepec Forest", meaning the forested area to the west of the Zocalo, where San Francisco was built.

The courtyard-restaurant of the Casa de los Azulejos.

The entrance of what is left of the Convent of San Francisco in Madero Street.

A painting in the main church of San Francisco.

The church and monastery saw several historic events in its time. A funeral mass for Hernán Cortés was here when it was thought he died in Central America. The end of the Mexican War of Independence was celebrated with a Te Deum at the monastery as the Trigarante Army of 16,000 troops marched past Madero Street headed by Agustín de Iturbide. After the Reform War, the monastery of San Francisco, like many others, was disbanded, and the government seized most of the property. Much of the old monastery was demolished for the construction of new roads. All that is still left in the church's hands is the church itself.

The church standing today is the third to be built on the site. The first two sunk into the soft soil underneath Mexico City and had to be torn down. This church was built between 1710 and 1716. Although the entire building is known as the San Francisco Church, the entrance on Madero Street is actually the entrance to the Balvanera Chapel. In front of this is an atrium with several stairs leading down to the church building because it is sinking. The church's main facade, dating from 1710, is walled in and cannot be seen. Entrance is now through the side door into the Balvanera Chapel, then into the main church. The chapel's facade was constructed in 1766, and it is not sure who created it, but most think it was the work of Lorenzo Rodríguez, best known for his work on the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The chapel's statues were removed when it was in the hands of an Evangelical sect, but it kept other decorative elements such as volutes, sculpted leaves and flowers, and the estipite (inverted truncated pyramid) columns with medallions. Inside is an 18th-century altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe and the entrance to what was once the Chapel of the Second Station of the Stations of the Cross.

In the main church of San Francisco, there is a large gilded main altar, which is one that replaced the original Baroque one. This original one has been reconstructed because Neoclassic artist Jerónimo Antonio Gil left a drawing of it.

around Zócalo

around Biblioteca de México "Jose Vasconcelos"

Roma and la Condesa


Bosque de Chapultepec

Zona Arqueológica Tlatelolco