Colonias of the Porfiriato: Neighborhoods of the Early 20th Century

As the 19th century approached its end, the well-to-do of Mexico City, who had increased in numbers under the economic policies of Porfirio Díaz, sought new residences to express and enjoy their wealth with modern comforts. They desired to leave behind the old Spanish Colonial buildings of the Centro Histórico, with all their limitations. So, with the encouragement of the government, they began to develop colonias, planned neighborhoods to the west, along Paseo de la Reforma and to its north and south. Here is an introduction to each of those neighborhoods. The links lead to illustrated posts on each one.

Colonia Santa María la Ribera: Early Twentieth Century Century Popurrí
Colonia Santa María la Ribera (St. Mary of the Shore) is a neighborhood located in the Cuauhtémoc delegación or borough of Mexico City, west of the Centro Histórico. It lies north of the main avenue Ribera San Cosme, which follows the path of the Aztec causeway that connected Tenochtitlán with the western shore of Lake Texcoco. It sits on the former lake bed; hence the name, Ribera.
Colonia San Rafael: Decay, Renewal and Restoration
San Rafael, immediately south of Santa María la Ribera, perhaps best portrays the cycles of growth, decay and rebirth that have characterized Mexico City through the 20th century into the 21st. Its roots lie in Aztec and Spanish colonial times. Part of the area was a small island of fishermen, across which the Aztecs built a causeway from Tenochtitlán to Lake Texcoco's western shore and the city-states of Tlalcopan (now Tacuba) and Azcapotzalco.
Colonia Cuauhtémoc: Where Start of 20th Century Marries Start of 21st
Colonia Cuauhtémoc, like its sister colonias designed toward the end of the Porfiriato period, embodies a set of contrasts between turn-of-the-19th to 20th century esthetics and values, and later 20th century culture and contemporary manifestations of 21st century, global postmodern life. These contrasts are, pehaps, even greater in Cuauhtémoc because its face to the city and the world is that Mexico City's grand avenue, Paseo de la Reforma, studded with monumental statues, and now, the rascacielos, skyscrapers of globalized Mexico.
Colonia Benito Juárez: Where History Lives in the Shadows
The historic character of Colonia Benito Juárez is overshadowed by the physical and social energy of two attention-grabbing, more recent developments. Along its northern boundary, the post-modern, glass-faced skyscrapers of Paseo de la Reforma loom over the mostly two-story buildings of its core. And taking over its mid-section is the popular "Zona Rosa", the "Pink Zone". But if you walk the streets to the east and west and look past the distractions of commercial uses, you will discover another early 20th century, European-style neighborhood.
Colonia Roma Norte Part I: Houses—and a Culture—That Survived a Revolution
In Roma Norte we encounter grand Neoclassic houses that are very clear examples of the conservative European aesthetics of the Porfiriato. Their histories, literally written in stone, attest that the Revolution did not mean the overthrow of the wealthy or, at least, those based in Mexico City.
Colonia Roma Norte - Part II: Dreams in Stone and Glass...and Paint
In the first part of our amble through Colonia Roma Norte, in the Casa del Libro and Casa Lamm, and other houses on and near Calle Orizaba, we encountered other examples of the Porfiriato and its post-Revolutionary dream of recreating a neoclassic European city, or, at least, its wealthy neighborhoods. Leaving Casa Lamm, walking along Avenida Álvaro Obregón and down Orizaba as it continues south, we encounter additional embodiments of this nostalgic wish.
Colonia Condesa and Its Sisters — From Past to Present, Part I — Transition to the 1920's
"Condesa" is actually comprised of four colonias, or parts thereof: Condesa, Condesa Hipódromo (Condesa Racetrack), Hipódromo and the part of Roma Norte west of Insurgentes Avenue. In 1902, the owners of what was a hacienda, a large rural estate, decided to subdivide it into residential properties. The northern section was developed first as part of Roma. To the south, the Mexican Jockey Club opened a racetrack in 1910. In the 1920's, after the Revolution, it was closed and the land divided into residential lots. The shape of the track, however, was retained, which accounts not only for the oval shape of Parque México and Amsterdam Avenue, which circles it, but for that colonia's name, Hipódromo. 
Colonia Condesa and Its Sisters  From Past to Present, Part II: 20th Century Kaleidoscope
The physical and social heart of Condesa is Parque México, its oval shape reflecting the race track that was first there. Its egg shape creates the unique feeling of an embracing, inward-focused space set apart from the surrounding city's bullicio, hubbub. Within this space, chilangos, Mexico City residents, come to relax and play. Walking one short block outward from the Parque to Avenida Amsterdam brings us to residences that embody the cultural transformations of the entire 20th century.
Seeking to Restore Vitality: Colonias of the Porfiriato Have Varying Success
In our walks through the Porfirian neighborhoods, we have seen that each has a significant number of late 19th and early 20th century buildings in distinctive Euopean styles that convey the sense of being in some Continental city. Their varying physical states reflect the passage of a century of time. Each has the potential for, and manifests efforts to be restored into a vital, architecturally rich, contemporary neighborhood. However, they evidence different degrees of success in this process of rebirth and integration. We reflect on what factors make the difference.

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