Historic Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco
Political and cultural
Location and site
Mexico City and Xochimilco are in the heart of the Anahuac Valley (Valley of Mexico). Situated at 2,250 m. above sea level, they are surrounded by high volcanic summits. The World Heritage Site includes the historic and archaeological areas of the Templo Mayor and Xochimilco.
The Zocalo, a quadrangular esplanade in the historic centre of Mexico City, adjacent to Templo Mayor, was superimposed on the earlier urban square of Tenochtitlan, and the gardens of Xochimilco testify to the lacustrine works of the Aztecs. The heart of Mexico City was conceived according to a rectilinear plan, the arteries of which were traced on the earlier dikes. The new Spanish city possessed no ramparts as the waters surrounding it provided its defense. The colonial architecture of the centre of Mexico City presents a coherent ensemble which is enhanced by the use of “”tézontle,”” a vocanic material. The facades of the buildings that border the Zocalo Esplanade vary in style from Baroque (and Churrigueresque) to Neoclassical. The nearby ruins of the Templo Mayor testify to the different stages of the expansion of Tenochtitlan, as well as to its Aztec past.
Between the 14th and 19th centuries, Tenochtitlan and Mexico City exerted a decisive influence on the development of architecture and the monumental arts and the organisation of space. (II) The Templo Mayor presents an exceptional testimony to the traditions of a lost civilisation. (III) The capital of New Mexico – with its rectilinear plan, the regularity of its squares and streets, the splendour of its civic and religious architecture – is an eminent example of the Spanish foundations of the New World. (IV). The lacustrine landscape of Xochimilco constitutes the only remaining testimony to the Pre-Hispanic occupation. (V)
- In 1325 the Aztecs, who settled in the Valley of Mexico in the 14th century, erected their capital, known as Tenochtitlan (later Mexico City), in the midst of the islands and swamps of the lagoon of Lake Texcoco. A holy city surrounded by ramparts was then integrated into the ensemble and a network of canals and floating gardens was laid out.
- The heyday of this Aztec tribe, known as the Mexica, occurred in the 15th century, when the Empire, which had reached its maximum size, controlled trade routes extending as far as the Gulf of Mexico. This was also a time of religious reform, when human sacrifice was advocated.
- In 1519 Cortés and his troops crossed the pass leading to the valley in search of gold. At that time, the city of Moctezuma II was the most prestigious centre in the New World. In collaboration with tribes who were hostile to the Aztecs following their religious reform, Cortés subdued and sacked Tenochtitlan in 1521.
- The construction of the new capital, Mexico City, was undertaken following the Spanish victory on the site of the Tenochtitlan and its adjoining holy city. The drainage of the lagoon was not undertaken until the 18th century.
Sr. José Carlos Acosta Ruiz
Jefe Delegacional en Xochimilco
Guadalupe I. Ramírez No. 4, Barrio El Rosario, Delegación