As you drive along Paseo de la Reforma, you’ll slowly begin to realize that the street is lined with monuments. Some insurgents, some Indian, some Spaniard – the street pays homage to those who came before with beautifully detailed statues, culminating in the Monumento de la Indepenance in front of the Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel & Towers.
Though I only spent a few days in Mexico City (I was there on an all-expenses paid press trip with the Mexico City board of tourism), it quickly became clear to me that the city was full of art and beauty; the beautiful monuments I glimpsed on Paseo de la Reforma weren’t the only ones.
They were just the beginning!
Monumento De Cuauhtemoc
The Monument de Cuauhtémoc was created to honor the last of the Mexica emperors. Spearheaded by architect Francis H. Jimenez, construction of the monument began on May 5, 1878 and was completed some nine years later in 1887.
The monument is topped by a sculpture of Emperor Cuauhtémoc created by prominent Mexican sculptor Miguel Noren, who also created other sculptural elements that make up the monument highlighting especially the 8 bronze leopard headdresses and tombstones commemorating important events the life of the monarch.
Location: Paseo de la Reforma corner with Insurgentes
Monumento de la Indepenence
Inspired by a project to pay tribute to the heroes of the independence, the building of the Monumento de la Independence was managed by the architect Antonio Rivas Mercado, with the first stone laid on January 2, 1902 by Porfirio Diaz.
Inside this base are the physical remains of some of the most prominent leaders of Mexican independence, such as Miguel Hidalgo, Vicente Guerrero and Ignacio Allende. There are also sculptures of these insurgents, and a sculpture of a lion led by a child, which represents the domain of truth and intelligence over strength. The Corinthian column is carved out of the Chiluca quarry and is crowned by the famous winged victory, which was a symbol of triumph among the ancient Greeks.
Location: Paseo de la Reforma Avenue corner Florence
Zocalo – Plaza de la Constitución
The Zócalo, or Plaza de la Constitución is the main plaza in the middle of the centre historico, or the historic center, of Mexico City, derived from the Cádiz Constitution which was signed in Spain in 1812.
Zocalo has been a gathering place since Aztec times, when it was the center of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. Today is where the church, presidential palace and government offices are located. Zocalo is also where people come to protest, being that it is the true city center, and the government is right there as well!
It is one of the largest city squares in the world, and not only can you find the oldest church in Mexico, the Cathedral, the presidential palace, and the federal district buildings there, but an enormous outdoor market on weekends. Oh…and El Templo Mayor!
El Templo Mayor
You can’t go to Mexico City and not visit Templo Mayor. You just can’t. Even if your children aren’t interested in history, seeing the remnants on a pyramid built in the 1300s will surely have an impact on them, even if it serves no other purpose than to spark an interest in native Indian cultures. You can take a tour and visit the Templo Mayor museum as well. This is on my must-do list for my return trip to Mexico City!
Construction of Templo Mayor began sometime in the early 1300s, and archaeologists have found that there were additions built around it approximately six times after that. The temple was destroyed by the Spaniards in 1521, with the stones taken from the pyramid used in the building of the Cathedral and nearby buildings.
Location: Corner of Seminario and Justo Sierra streets
The Benito Juarez Monument
The first full blooded native Indian (he was a Zapotec Indian) to become president of Mexico, Benito Juarez served five terms as president, from 1858 to 1872.
Benito Juarez was famous for fighting for the equal rights of the indigenous people of Mexico, as well as reforming the educational system and pushing to transform Mexico into more of a democracy with less political influence from the church.
Location: Palacio de Bellas Artes
These five monuments are just the beginning. As you make your way through Mexico City, especially centre historico, you’ll quickly realize that Mexico City is a place that not only embraces their past, they celebrate it!