Sunday, June 10, 2018

Welcome to Mexico City Ambles: Navigating the Blog

Welcome to Mexico City Ambles! Here we seek to present el imaginario, a vision of the city as embodied in its cityscape, architecture, monuments, public art and traditional neighborhood fiestas.

Organization of the Blog


Each post is listed in the blog chronologically by publication date. Scrolling down takes you to the most recently published post. Most posts, however, are related thematically or geographically. As a navigation aid, individual Pages (bar at top left) provide listings of posts grouped by theme or geography.

Setting the Stage | Six Introductory Pages:


The first four pages acquaint you with Mexico City's geography—its sixteen delegaciones (boroughs), its architectural complexity, how it grew from a small city on an island to its present size and the Metro, the "subway", which is the fastest and cheapest pathway (US30 cents) to get to places we explore. The last two Pages examine grandeza, grandeur, as a visual theme that appears again and again in our ambles and then Baroque religious architecture as a pirmary manifestation of that grandeza in the capitial of Nueva España and Mexico.
  • Mexico City's Sixteen DelegacionesMexico City is shaped rather like a lumpy pear: skinny at the top—it even has a "stem"—then rounds out to a very fat bottom. It is divided into sixteen delegaciones, or boroughs, of greatly varying sizes, shapes, population densities and histories. (On January 2016: el Distrito Federal, the Federal District, officially became Mexico City)
  • Making Sense of Mexico City: Architectural Hodge-podge or Vertical Archeological Site?Your first experience of Mexico City, especially as you walk through Centro, is of an architectural hodge-podge, an incoherent batiburrillo, a jumble of buildings from various eras. Structures from the colonial period, adapted to contemporary uses, are enmeshed with newer neighbors from the 19th and 20th centuries. So what to make of this hodgepodge of eras, these fragments of disconnected history, this batiburrillo
  • How Mexico City Grew From an Island to a MetropolisHow did Mexico City, which started on an island in Lake Texcoco— replacing the Azteca/Mexica city of Tenochtitlán—grow into the metropolis it is today, incorporating both ancient and new neighborhoods, side by side, all parts of the contemporary batiburrillo (hodgepodge)? Here is the story. 
  • Mexico City Metro: The Mexico City Metro (officially, the Collective Transportation System) is a network of subway and surface electric train lines enabling chilangos (city residents' name for themselves) and visitors to get around the city quickly, cheaply (US30 cents) and safely. The system has 12 lines, each distinguished by a color on its signage.
  • Grandeza Mexicana: Grandeur of Mexico CityWalking the streets of Mexico City, from its Centro Histórico to various of its colonias, neighborhoods, acquainting ourselves with their architecture and public art, we have noted the recurrence of what becomes a visual theme: an architectural grandness that relays a message of wealth and power. This city is, or has been, a seat of major political and economic power, expressed through physical grandeza, grandeur. Here we explore the particularly Mexican roots of this impulse to grandeur.
  • México Barroco | Baroque Art: Representing Divine Ecstasy, Evoking AweIn Mexico the art of the Baroque epoch (mid 17th to mid 18th centuries) is all around you. It is the art of the height of the Spanish Empire and its realization in Nueva España. A Wikipedia article on the Baroque helps us see its character as centered on grandeur, exhuberance or lavishness, and drama. We also come to realize the goal of its religious forms is to express holy ecstasy and evoke awe. With that perspective we explore the quintessential expression of Baroque religious architecture in Mexico City, the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Thematically or geographically related pages


These are organized in a rough chronology and present lists of related posts:
  • Mexico's History As Embodied In Mexico City: Lists all posts addressing the many stages in Mexico's history as they are manifested in the cityscape, from the Aztec through the Spanish colonial, and the 19th and 20th centuries. In chronological order, with brief summaries.
  • CentroEl Centro, the Center of Mexico City, actually consists of five colonias, or neighborhoods: Centro Histórico, and East, West, North and South Centro. Spanish colonial palaces and smaller residential and commercial buildings from that period are numerous, but mixed in among them are buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries. Within them, and flowing among them, in the streets is the everyday timeless activity of selling and buying.
  • Mexico City's Original Indigenous Villages and Their Spíritual ConquestContemporary Mexico City is an amalgam, not only of the Spanish Colonial Centro Historico and its expansion beginning in the late 19th and across the 20th century, but also of ancient indigenous pueblos, villages, that, beginning some two thousand years ago, were established on the shores and islands of the five lakes at the center of the Valley of Anahuac. So Cortés and the Spanish not only had to transform Tenochtitlan, they also had to transform a geographically extensive civilization and culture via the "evangelización de los indios," what has been called the Spiritual Conquest. This series of posts explores the landmarks, neighborhoods and fiestas that continue to embody this encounter and synthesis of two civilizations. (Our current work-in-progress)
  • Chapúltepec Woods and Paseo de la Reforma: Five kilometers, three miles, southwest of Centro, on what used to be the western shore of Lake Texcoco, sits the ancient, sacred site of Chapúltepec Woods. A royal retreat and source of fresh spring water for the Aztecs, the Spanish turned it into a park. Subsequently, a "castle", actually a palace, was built at the top of its landmark hill. It served as the Mexican Military Academy and, in 1847, was the scene of a major battle in the Mexican American War. In the 1860s, Emperor Maximilian decided to make it his palace. To connect it with the City Center, he had a boulevard built, which, after his overthrow, became Paseo de la Reforma.
  • Reign of Porfiro Díaz and Neighborhoods of the Early 20th Century: As the 19th century approached its end, Mexico City's well-to-do, who had increased in numbers under the economic policies of Porfirio Díaz, sought new residences outside the old Spanish Colonial Centro Histórico. They began to develop colonias, planned neighborhoods, to the west, along Paseo de la Reforma boulevard and to its north and south. Posts on six of these neighborhoods, with introductions, are listed.
  • Mexican Revolution: Overview of Its Actors and Chapters: The Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) was a watershed between traditional and modern Mexico. Actually a series of civil wars fought between a diverse cast of characters, with widely disparate histories and motivations, the war and its aftermath can be divided into five stages or chapters, each consisting of a number of critical episodes. This Page offers an overview and links to Pages with fuller accounts of the personalities and chapters of the war.
  • Mexican Muralists: A revolution in Mexican Art emerged during the Mexican Revolution. It unfolded in a group of buildings in Centro and expanded across the city throughout the 20th century. Page provides links to posts on the sites and their murals—works by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and their successors.

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