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MEXICO: Culture

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Besides all the water sports and sunbathing one can handle, Mexico offers a variety of activities...

The Palacio Nacional (National Palace), which is the present seat of the Mexican government, is located on the Zocalo Plaza's eastern side. Spanish colonial authorities began building the palace in the late 17th century to replace the residence of the Spanish viceroy and conqueror Hernán Cortés.

The Metropolitan Cathedral whose vestry represents a synthesis of art forms in New Spain is located on the northern side of the Zocalo . Penetrating its imposing baroque and neoclassical facade, the visitor enters the ethereal half-light of this hallowed shrine, with its five separate naves, its side chapels and sacred religious icons.

The City's soft clay subsoil, subject to continuous movement over the years, has propitiated the gradual sinking of many buildings such as the Cathedral, and sophisticated restoration works, partially visible, have prevented its collapse.

Slightly to the west of the Zócalo in the heart of the city's commercial and shopping district is the Alameda, a park of tree-lined walks laid out in 1592. The park is bordered on the east by the imposing 19th-century Palace of Fine Arts with its theater and murals.

Farther to the west is the Paseo de la Reforma, an elegant, tree-lined boulevard marked by monuments honoring Mexico's past.  These monuments include landmarks such as the "Angel of the Independence," a symbol of Mexico's national identity, Cuauhtemoc Memorial, dedicated to the last Aztec Emperor, and the statue of  Diana Cazadora (Diane The Hunter).

The National Auditorium is situated on Reforma Avenue in the artistic and cultural section of Chapultepec Park, which is also home for other theaters including the El Granero, Orientacion and El Bosque.

The tree-filled Chapultepec Park features extensive recreational facilities including a lake, fountains, museums, a zoo and the Chapultepec Castle.

The construction of the Chapultepec Castle began in 1783. Positioned on the park's highest elevation, the castle functioned as a fortress during colonial times. It once served as the presidential residence, was the site of an important battle during the American invasion in 1847 and now houses the National Museum of History, which includes murals by 20th-century Mexican painter Juan O'Gorman. Down at the entrance of the castle limits arises the Memorial to Infant Heroes, a memorial for those who fought in the battle of 1947.

Los Pinos, the official residence and working offices of the President, is also on the grounds but is not open to the general public.

Chapultepec Park contains several museums; the most important is the National Museum of Anthropology. Other museums include Mexico's Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Natural History, Snail Museum, Technology Museum, Papalote , which is a children's interactive museum, and the Mexico City Zoo. Use your Mexico cell phone rentals to locate a museum near you.

Mexico City's major north-south artery is the Avenida Insurgentes, which stretches 30 km (21 miles). Avenida Insurgentes crosses the Paseo de la Reforma just north of the tourist area known as the Zona Rosa ("Pink Zone"). Within this neighborhood, there are many of the principal hotels, restaurants and fashion stores and boutiques which cater to the tourist trade.

Mexico's leading religious shrine, the Basilica de Guadalupe, is located north of the city. This area marks the site of the appearance of the Virgin Mary to an indigenous peasant in 1531. The Virgin of Guadalupe, as the apparition came to be called, is the patron saint of Mexico and revered by millions.

Various stages of the city's growth can be seen southward along Avenida Insurgentes.  In Colonia Juárez, just south of the Paseo de la Reforma, elegant 19th-century mansions from the era of Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz can be seen.

At the southern edge of the city, the National Autonomous University of Mexico straddles the Avenida Insurgentes. On the western part of the campus is the 60,000-seat Mexico 68 Olympic Stadium, which was the site of the 1968 Olympic Games. East of Avenida Insurgentes is the university's main library. The building and its famous tile mosaic exterior were designed by Juan O'Gorman.  Three-dimensional murals by Diego Rivera adorn the rectory on the main campus slightly farther to the east.

There are a number of on-campus museums including the Universum and the Science and Arts Museum. In addition, the University's Cultural Center harbors a number of theaters, film halls and concert halls.

A visit to Xochimilco and its chinampas floating gardens is like taking a ride to the past to visit a pre-Hispanic city. In Nahuatl language, Xochimilco means Flower land. While in Xochimilco , be sure to visit Santa Cruz Acalpixca , where you will have an opportunity to see one of the Mexica bas relief, an archaeological find discovered during the excavations of Xochimilco .

Also in Xochimilco is the Dolores Olmedo Museum which is housed in a 16th Century estate surrounded by expansive gardens. On exhibit are Mexican handicrafts as well as the best works of one of Mexico's famous artists Diego Rivera.

Coyoacan is a district of deep-rooted traditions whose cultural and historic value cannot be overstated. The district has virtually everything to offer it's visitors including museums, churches, buildings, shops, entertainment halls, squares, gardens and streets of all types of pavement.

Among the main attractions of Coyoacan are the Leon Trotsky House and Museum, the Coyoacan Nurseries, the Frida Kahlo Museum, the Centenary Garden, the Jesus Reyes Heroles Cultural House, the San Juan Bautista Parish and former convent as well as the Conchita Square.

A tour of San Angel is a gratifying experience where picturesque streets lined with colonial houses and churches can be visited. San Angel is filled with a variety of restaurants and bars which will surely please you.

Cuicuilco , probably one of the earliest ceremonial centers established in the Valley of Mexico, is believed to have influenced peoples throughout the valley. Atop the base, there once stood a temple. After the eruption of the Xitle Volcano, which covered the whole of the architectural complex with lava, the site was abandoned.


One and a half hours away located in the state of Mexico is the antique religious city of Teotihuacán , which was the capital of an ancient pre-Aztec civilization. Two pyramids face each other on a north-south axis and are known as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. Massive in size and height, they provide an extraordinary view of the surrounding region.


Another important city located just two hours away from Mexico, is Taxco, which is known worldwide for its famous silver crafts and beautiful colonial architecture. The singular outline of its cobble-stoned narrow streets invites visitors to take a walk around the city with the feeling of going back to the past while enjoying the comforts of modern services. In Taxco, you will enjoy shopping for a variety of Mexican handicrafts and silver articles.
   Taxco, which is rich in silver mines, was founded as a mining town. A European named Jose de la Borda gained an impressive fortune with which he constructed the famous Parish of Santa Prisca, an architectonic jewel of churrigueresco style and symbol of the city. 

Other wonderful colonial buildings which shouldn't be missed include the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena, which was founded in 1592, and La Casa Borda, which was constructed in 1759 and which lodges the "Taxco Cultural Center" and the Museum of Virroyal Art, an example of the baroque architecture of century XVIII.


All of these attractions will familiarize you with the deeper aspects of the City's history which include a variety of historic and cultural epochs as well as the City's importance of having been the pre-Hispanic and modern religious center of the country for you to gain a better understanding of why Mexico City is today a space for diverse artistic and cultural expressions which includes the Annual Opera Season, which takes place in "Bellas Artes" Palace.

In San Angel and Coyoacan, two of the most traditional barrios in the city, churches, museums, shops, entertaining spaces make both places an interesting option. The "living" streets, allies and plazas are part of the history and legends of many famous writers and thinkers who have spent countless hours inspired by its beauty. 

Today, with an abundance of museums, Mexico City is considered to be the world's most important museum destination. Some of the most important historical, architectural, social and cultural museums include the Anthropology Museum, which is the largest in America, the Cathedral Museum, which shows one of the most important religious art exhibits in the world, and the Franz Meyer Museum.

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