Background on Mexico City

A subject
near to my heart
today crossed Digg today – some excellent aerial
shots of Mexico City
taken by Oscar Ruiz, a helicopter pilot.

I decided to open this post to add a little bit of filler
information and links, as I noticed in the comments a lot of people
don’t know a lot about this city (or the country, for that matter).

By far the most common misconception of Mexico City is that of
arid and brown. Although that is true in the north, it is not true at
all where most of the population live, and it’s certainly not true of
the area in and around Mexico City. Because the country is laid out
vertically, the weather is arid on the sparsely populated north, but it
quickly becomes temperate and then jungle as you travel further south.

Tenochtitlan (the city that would become Mexico City) began
life around 1315, according to most Aztec
chronologies
. The whole city was built on top of a lake,
creating chinampas, which is an aztec word for a strip of landfill
obtained by lifting the dirt from the bottom of the lake or swamp.

Keeping this in mind, compare and contrast today’s
Zocalo
(from the aerial shots) with a reconstruction of the exact
same area
(around 1520).

As far as size, today Mexico city is the largest city in the world, and it is estimated that in 1521 it was second only to Beiging. The center square (Zocalo) is the second largest after the Red Square in Moscow.

Also for reference this is the Alonso
Map of Tenochtitlan
(the city that would become Mexico city).
This map was made during the first years of the colonial period, when
the city still had mostly the same boundaries as it did when
Tenochtitlan fell.

MexOnline has a history section worth checking out, which explains why Cinco de Mayo is not a big deal.

As I have time next week, I will update this further – I’m a history geek so there will be more. Just wanted to get this out there for now. 

In the meantime, if you just can’t wait, check out Mexico: Biography of Power and Conquest: Cortes, Montezuma, and the fall of old Mexico, which are two excellent, newly researched books on Mexican history.

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