Mexico City

Mexico City

Mexico City (in Spanish: Ciudad de México, México, D.F., México or simply Méjico) is the capital city of Mexico. It is the most important economic, industrial and cultural center in the country, and the most populous city with 8,836,045 inhabitants in 2008. Greater Mexico City (Zona Metropolitana del Valle de México) incorporates 59 adjacent municipalities of Mexico State and 1 municipality of the state of Hidalgo, according to the most recent definition agreed upon by the federal and state governments. In the last national census (2005) Greater Mexico City had a population of more than 20 million people, making it the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and the second largest in the world by population. The estimated population for the Metropolitan Area is 19,826,918 as of 2008. In 2005, it ranked the eighth in terms of GDP (PPP) among urban agglomerations in the world. Along with São Paulo it is the only Beta global city with 8 points in Latin America.

Mexico City is also the Federal District (Distrito Federal in Spanish, and hence the abbreviation D.F.). The Federal District is coextensive with Mexico City: both are governed by a single institution and are constitutionally considered to be the same entity. This has not always been the case. The Federal District, created in 1824, was integrated by several municipalities, one of which was the municipality of Mexico City. As the city began to grow, it engulfed all other municipalities into one large urban area. In 1928, all municipalities within the Federal District were abolished, an action that left a vacuum in the legal status of Mexico City vis-à-vis the Federal District, even though for most practical purposes they were traditionally considered to be the same entity. In 1993, to end the sterile discussions about whether one concept had engulfed the other, or if any of the two entities had any existence in lieu of the other, the 44th Article of the Constitution of Mexico was reformed to clearly state that Mexico City is the Federal District, seat of the Powers of the Union and capital of the United Mexican States.

According to a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Greater Mexico City (with a population of 19.2 million) had a GDP of $315 billion in 2005 (at purchasing power parity), ranking as the eighth-richest urban agglomeration in the world after the greater areas of Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, London and Osaka/Kobe, and the richest in Latin America; in 2020 it is expected to rank seventh with a $608 billion GDP, displacing Osaka/Kobe.

Mexico City is located in the Valley of Mexico, also called the Valley of Anáhuac, a large valley in the high plateaus at the center of Mexico, at an altitude of 2,240 meters (7,349 ft). It was originally built by the Aztecs in 1325 on an island of Lake Texcoco. The city was almost completely destroyed in the siege of 1521, and was redesigned and rebuilt in the following years following the Spanish urban standards. In 1524 the municipality of Mexico City was established, known as México Tenustitlán, and as of 1585 it is officially known as ciudad de México.


For the Pre-Columbian detailed history of the city, see: Tenochtitlán and Tlatelolco.

Prehispanic era and Spanish colonial period

Mexico (in Spanish pronounced "Me-hee-co") City was founded as Mexico-Tenochtitlan on March 18, 1325 by the Nahua Aztec or Mexican tribe, which rapidly became the capital of a sophisticated growing empire.[8] Located on a small island on the middle of Lake Texcoco, the layout of the city forced the Aztecs to build an artificial island with a series of canals to allow the growth of the metropolis.[9][10] A number of causeways were also constructed from the shoreline to the central island.These causeways are the foundation of the various calzadas which are today principal avenues in Mexico City. In fact, although the lake was salty, dams built by the Aztecs kept the city surrounded by clear water from the rivers that fed the lake. Two double aqueducts provided the city with fresh water; this was intended mainly for cleaning and washing.[11]

After centuries of pre-Columbian civilization, the Spanish conquistador (conqueror) Hernán Cortés first arrived in the area in 1519.[12] He did not succeed in conquering the city until August 13, 1521, after a 79-day siege that destroyed most of the old Aztec city.[13]

In 1524 the rebuilt city served as the capital of the viceroyalty of New Spain and the political and cultural center of Mexico.[14] The importance of the city was such that the Captaincy General of Guatemala, Yucatán, Cuba, Florida, and the Philippines were administered from it. This colonial period culminated with the construction of the baroque Metropolitan Cathedral and the Basilica of Guadalupe.[15]


The outbreak of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810, and the eventual independence of the country in 1821 were unable to hamper the influence of the city even though it shook internal politics. The capital became host of the first ruler of the Mexican Empire, Agustin de Iturbide, who abdicated a year later in 1823. The nation became a federal republic in October 1824.

In 1824, the Mexican Federal District was established by the new government and by the signing of their new constitution, where the concept of a federal district was adapted from the American constitution. Before this designation, Mexico City had served as the seat of government for both the State of Mexico and the nation as a whole. Texcoco and then Toluca became the capital of the state of Mexico.

The war with the United States led to an invasion into Mexico City by U.S. General Winfield Scott on September 14, 1847, and obligated Mexico to cede the provinces of Santa Fe de Nuevo México and Alta California, what are today the States of California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and parts of Utah and Wyoming to the U.S. and recognize Texas as independent. This was formally recognized in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which was signed in what is now the suburb of the city of the same name. The invasion culminated at Chapultepec Castle, the military center of the country where, according to the legend, 13 young Mexican cadets (see Niños Héroes) fought helpless and outnumbered to keep the Americans from taking the symbolic castle. This event is remembered by a series of monolithic columns that bear their names at the base of the Castle. A short-lived monarchy in 1864-1867, under Emperor Maximilian I, left its mark on the reconstruction of Chapultepec Castle and other urban planning that was said to have been modeled after the Champs-Élysées to help his consort Empress Carlota adjust to the city.

A three decade long dictatorship under Porfirio Díaz left a French influence upon Mexico City. The stunning, bronze Angel of Independence was built under his administration to celebrate the first centenary of the beginning of the War of Independence. Other urban highlights built at the time were the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the expansion of Paseo de la Reforma à la Champs-Élysées. Following the initial phase of the Mexican Revolution, whereby president Díaz was forced to resign and a new president was elected, Mexico City suffered from what has been called La decena trágica ("The Tragic Ten Days") in February 1913. La decena trágica was a coup d'état orchestrated by Victoriano Huerta in complicity with the United States Ambassador to Mexico Henry Lane Wilson.

The post-revolutionary government of Mexico following the Mexican Revolution of 1910 reinforced the importance of the city which saw an important influx of immigrants during the rest of the 20th century. Most of the growth of Mexico City in population occurred in the late 20th century. In 1950, the city had about 3 million inhabitants. By 2000, the estimated population for the metropolitan area was around 18 million.

Recent history

The city hosted the 1968 Summer Olympic Games, an event marred by the massacre of hundreds of students in what came to be known as the Tlatelolco Massacre, which occurred only a couple of weeks before the inauguration ceremony. Two other sporting events hosted by the city were the 1970 FIFA World Cup and the 1986 FIFA World Cup, the final matches of which took place in the Estadio Azteca.

At 07:19 on September 19, 1985, the city was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 8.1 on the Richter scale which resulted in the deaths of between 5,000 (government estimate) and 20,000 people and rendered 50,000-90,000 people homeless. One hundred thousand housing units were destroyed, together with many government buildings. Up to USD $4 billion of damage was caused in three minutes. There was an additional magnitude 7.5 aftershock 36 hours later. When Mexico City hosted the FIFA World Cup again in 1986, the event was seen as an evidence of its rapid recovery.

During the 1990s, Mexico City continued to grow as an economic and cultural center of international importance, which has spurred the construction of new skyscrapers such as Latin America's tallest building, the Torre Mayor (a literal translation of which is Greater Tower) and a remodelled World Trade Center México, previously the Hotel de México originally built during the 1960s.

Mexico City is ranked 8th among North America’s Top Ten Major Cities of the Future 2007-2008. It is ranked 4th in Economic Potential and 4th as Most Cost Effective. Mexico City was the one of the two Mexican cities that made the top ten, along with Guadalajara, which ranked 5th place.

Mexico City is, as well, one of the fastest growing cities in the world.


The Federal District is located in central-South Mexico. It is bounded by the state of Mexico on the west, north and east, and by the state of Morelos on the south. Mexico City and its metropolitan area, which extends over the state of Mexico, are located in the Valley of Mexico or Anáhuac, a valley that lies at an average of above sea level. This valley is a basin surrounded by mountains on all four sides, with only one small opening at the north. At the southern part of the basin, the mountain range reaches an altitude of above sea level; and to the east the volcanoes reach an altitude of more than . Three of Mexico's tallest peaks are located within 100 miles of the city, those being Popocatépetl at , Iztaccíhuatl at , and Nevado de Toluca at , respectively.


The region of the Valley of Mexico receives anti-cyclonic systems, whose weak winds do not allow for the dispersion, outside the basin, of the air pollutants which are produced by the 50,000 industries and 4 million vehicles operating in or around the metropolitan area.

Mexico City has a temperate highland climate (Koppen Cwb), due to its tropical location and high elevation. The lower region of the valley receives less rainfall than the upper regions of the south; the lower boroughs of Iztapalapa, Iztacalco, Venustiano Carranza and the west portion of Gustavo A. Madero are usually drier and warmer than the upper southern boroughs of Tlalpan and Milpa Alta, a mountainous region of pine and oak trees known as the range of Ajusco.

The average annual temperature varies from 12 to 16°C (53 to 60°F), depending on the altitude of the borough. Lowest temperatures, usually registered during January and February, may reach -2 to -5°C (28 to 23°F), usually accompanied by snow showers on the southern regions of Ajusco, and the maximum temperatures of late spring and summer may reach up to 32°C (90°F). Overall precipitation is heavily concentrated in the summer months, including dense hail. The central valley of Mexico rarely gets precipitation in the form of snow during winter; the two last recorded instances of such an event were on March 5, 1940 and January 12, 1967.

Geophysical maps of the Federal District
Topography Hydrology Climate patterns


Originally much of the valley lay beneath the waters of Lake of Texcoco, a system of interconnected saline and freshwater lakes. The Aztecs built dikes to separate the fresh water used to raise crops in chinampas and to prevent recurrent floods. These dikes were destroyed during the siege of Tenochtitlan, and during colonial times the Spanish regularly drained the lake to prevent floods. Only a small section of the original lake remains, located outside the Federal District, in the municipality of Atenco, State of Mexico. In recent years, architects Teodoro González de León and Alberto Kalach, along with a group of Mexican urbanists, engineers and biologists, have developed the project plan for Recovering the City of Lakes. The project, if approved by the government, will contribute to the supply of water from natural sources to the Valley of Mexico, the creation of new natural spaces, a great improvement in air quality, and greater population establishment planning.

The federal and local governments have implemented numerous plans to alleviate the problem of air pollution, including the constant monitoring and reporting of environmental conditions, such as ozone and nitrogen oxides. If the levels of these two pollutants reach critical levels, contingency actions are implemented which may include closing factories, changing school hours, and extending the A day without a car program to two days of the week. To control air pollution, the government has instituted industrial technology improvements, a strict biannual vehicle emission inspection and the reformulation of gasoline and diesel fuels).

In 1986, the non-urban forest areas of the southern boroughs were declared National Ecological Reserves by president de la Madrid. Other areas of the Federal District became protected in the following years.


Federal District

The Acta Constitutiva de la Federación of 31 January 1824 and the Federal Constitution of 4 October 1824 fixed the political and administrative organization of the United States of Mexico after the Mexican War of Independence. In addition, Section XXVIII of Article 50 gave the new Congress the right to choose where the federal government would be located. This location would then be appropriated as federal land, with the federal government acting as the local authority. The two main candidates to become the capital were Mexico City and Querétaro. However, due much to the persuasion of representative Servando Teresa de Mier, Mexico City was chosen because it was the center of the country’s population and history, even though Querétaro was closer to the center geographically. The choice was official on 18 November 1824, and Congress delineated a surface area with a radius of two leagues (8,800 km) from the Zocalo. This circular area was then separated from the State of Mexico, forcing that state’s government to move from the Palace of the Inquisition (now Museum of Mexican Medicine) in the city to Texcoco. This radius did not include the population centers of the towns of Coyoacan, Xochimilco, Mexicaltzingo and Tlalpan, all of which remained as part of the State of Mexico.

The district was incorporated into the federal government as the Department of Mexico officially on 29 November 1836. The District was redefined by President Santa Anna shortly after the Mexican American War, outward to areas bordering Ecatepec, Tlalnepantla and other hilly areas to make the District more defensible. He also divided the District into eight prefectures. In 1898, some other, minor modifications were made to its borders with the State of Mexico and the State of Morelos, bringing them to the current borders. In 1899, the District was divided into the municipality of Mexico and six prefectures. In 1903, this was changed thirteen municipalities. In 1916, then head of the District, Venustiano Carranza tried to annex a number of the communities in what is now the eastern “arm” of the state of Mexico, but did not succeed. In 1941, the organization changed to the City of Mexia and twelve boroughs. In 1978, the 1898 borders were reaffirmed and the current system of sixteen boroughs was instituted.

The government of the District is housed in two buildings on the south side of the Zocalo. One has served as the seat of government for the city almost since the arrival of Hernan Cortes. The other was constructed in the 1940’s for the expanding government, and created to fit in with the architecture of the area.

Political structure

Mexico City, being the seat of the powers of the Union, did not belong to any particular state but to all. Therefore, it was the president, representing the federation, who used to designate the head of government of the Federal District, a position which is sometimes presented outside Mexico as the "Mayor" of Mexico City. In the 1980s, given the dramatic increase in population of the previous decades, the inherent political inconsistencies of the system—like in 1988, when the opposition candidate had received the majority of votes in the Federal District, but the president, however designated a governor form the party in power at the federal level—as well as the dissatisfaction with the inadequate response of the federal government to assist the city after the 1985 earthquake, the residents began to request political and administrative autonomy in order to manage their own local affairs. Some political groups even proposed that the Federal District be converted into the 32nd state of the federation.

In response to the demands, in 1987 the Federal District received a greater degree of autonomy, with the elaboration the first Statute of Government (Estatuto de Gobierno), and the creation of an Assembly of Representatives. In the 1990s this autonomy was further expanded and, starting from 1997, residents can directly elect the head of government of the Federal District and the representatives of a unicameral Legislative Assembly (which succeeded the previous Assembly) by popular vote. The first elected head of government was Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. Cárdenas resigned in 1999 in order to run in the 2000 presidential elections and designated Rosario Robles to succeed him, who became the first woman (elected or otherwise) to govern Mexico City. In 2000 Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected, and resigned in 2005 to run in the 2006 presidential elections, Alejandro Encinas Rodríguez being designated by the Legislative Assembly to finish the term. In 2006, Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon was elected for the 2006–2012 period.

The Federal District does not have a constitution, like the states of the Union, but rather a Statute of Government, and as part of its recent changes in autonomy, the budget is administered locally: it is proposed by the head of government and approved by the Legislative Assembly. Nonetheless, it is the Congress of the Union that sets the ceiling to internal and external public debt issued by the Federal District.

According to the 44th article of the Mexican Constitution, in case the powers of the Union move to another city, the Federal District will be transformed into a new state, which will be called "State of the Valley of Mexico", with the new limits set by the Congress of the Union.

Elections and government

In 2006, elections were held for the post of head of government and the representatives of the Legislative Assembly. The elected and incumbent head of government is now Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Heads of government are elected for a 6-year period without the possibility of reelection. Traditionally, this position has been considered as the second most important executive office in the country.

The Legislative Assembly of the Federal District is formed, as it is the case in all legislatures in Mexico, by both single-seat and proportional seats, making it a system of parallel voting. The Federal District is divided into 40 electoral constituencies of similar population which elect one representative by first-past-the-post plurality (FPP), locally called "uninominal deputies". The Federal District as a whole constitutes a single constituency for the parallel election of 26 representatives by proportionality (PR) with open-party lists, locally called "plurinominal deputies." Even though proportionality is only confined to the proportional seats, to prevent a part from being overrepresented, several restrictions apply in the assignation of the seats; namely, that no party can have more than 63% of all seats, both uninominal and plurinominal. In the 2006 elections leftist PRD got the absolute majority in the direct uninominal elections, securing 34 of the 40 FPP seats. As such, PRD was not assigned any plurinominal seat to comply with the law that prevents overrepresentation. The overall composition of the Legislative Assembly is:

  • (far left): 34 FPP representatives
  • (right): 17 representatives (4 FFP, 13 PR)
  • (center-left): 4 PR representatives
  • : 4 PR representatives
  • (right): 3 PR representatives
  • (left): 2 PR representatives
  • (left): 1 FFP representative
  • (left): 1 FFP representative

The politics pursued by the administrations of heads of government in Mexico City since the second half of the 20th century have usually been more liberal than those of the rest of the country, whether with the support of the federal government —as was the case with the approval of several comprehensive environmental laws in the 1980s— or through laws recently approved by the Legislative Assembly. In 2007, the Federal District became the second federal entity in the country, after the state of Coahuila, to approve same-sex unions, and the first to allow conjugal visits for homosexual prisoners In April of the same year, the Legislative Assembly expanded provisions on abortions, becoming the first federal entity to expand abortion in Mexico beyond cases of rape and economic reasons, to permit it regardless of the reason should the mother request it before the twelfth week of pregnancy.


See also: Boroughs of the Mexican Federal District and Colonias of Mexico City

For administrative purposes, the Federal District is divided into 16 "delegaciones" or boroughs. While not fully equivalent to a municipality, the 16 boroughs have gained significant autonomy, and since 2000 their heads of government are elected directly by plurality (they were previously appointed by the head of government of the Federal District). Given that Mexico City is organized entirely as a Federal District, most of the city services are provided or organized by the Government of the Federal District and not by the boroughs themselves, while in the constituent states these services would be provided by the municipalities. The 16 boroughs of the Federal District are:

1. Álvaro Obregón
2. Azcapotzalco
3. Benito Juárez
4. Coyoacán
5. Cuajimalpa
6. Cuauhtémoc
7. Gustavo A. Madero
8. Iztacalco
9. Iztapalapa
10. Magdalena Contreras
11. Miguel Hidalgo
12. Milpa Alta
13. Tláhuac
14. Tlalpan
15. Venustiano Carranza
16. Xochimilco

The boroughs are composed by hundreds of colonias or neighborhoods, which have no jurisdictional autonomy or representation. It is plausible that the name, which literally means colony, arose in the late 19th, early 20th centuries, when one of the first urban developments outside the city's core was inhabited by a French colony in the city. Some colonias have identifiable attributes: Historic Center is the oldest quarter in the city, some of the buildings dating back to the 16th century; la Condesa is known for its Art Deco architecture, and for being the newest artistic center of the city; Santa Fe is a growing business and financial district (built over old landfills); Roma is a beaux arts neighborhood and probably one of the oldest in the city; Polanco is an important commercial and economic center known for its large Jewish community, and Tepito and La Lagunilla are known for its impressively large flea market.


Mexico City is one of the most important economic hubs of Latin America. The city proper (Federal District) produces 21.8% of the country's Gross domestic product. According to a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Greater Mexico City (with a population of 18.3 million) had a GDP of $315 billion in 2005 (at purchasing power parity), ranking as the eighth-richest urban agglomeration in the world after the greater areas of Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, London and Osaka/Kobe, and the richest in Latin America; in 2020 it is expected to rank seventh with a $608 billion GDP, displacing Osaka/Kobe. Mexico City alone would be the 30th largest economy in the world with a higher GDP than countries like Sweden or Switzerland. Mexico City is also one of the largest financial and commercial hubs in Latin America (it should be remembered that Carlos Slim, who has been ranked, in the last few months, as either the richest or the second richest person in the world, was born and has always lived in Mexico City). The Mexican stock exchange (Bolsa Mexicana de Valores) and the country's largest banks and insurers, as well as many international financial services conglomerates for Latin America, are headquartered in the city.

In terms of GDP per sector, the Federal District is the greatest contributor to the country's industrial GDP (15.8%) and also the greatest contributor to the country's GDP in the service sector (25.3%). Due to the limited non-urbanized space at the south—most of which is protected through environmental laws—the contribution of the Federal District in agriculture is the smallest of all federal entities in the country. The city proper's nominal GDP per capita is $22,696, the highest of any city in Latin America. Mexico City's Human Development Index (HDI) is the highest in the country at 0.8830, higher than the national average. Amongst other welfare indicators, 50% of the habitants of Mexico City have access to the Internet, 58% own a cell phone, with virtually each household having a phone line. While 36% of Mexicans nationwide live in poverty, about 15% of the residents of Mexico City live in poverty.

Over the last two decades the economic base has shifted strongly, as the manufacturing activities move to the state of Mexico (Mexico city suburbs) and even to other states, partly due to an environmental program of tax incentives offered by the government to manufacturers: existing companies could be eligible to tax-certificates if they installed pollution control equipment. New plants, on the other hand, were only eligible to the same benefits if they were to be located outside Mexico City.


Historically, and since pre-Hispanic times, the valley of Anáhuac has been one of the most densely populated areas in Mexico. When the Federal District was created in 1824, the urban area of Mexico City extended approximately to the area of today's Cuauhtémoc borough. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the elites began migrating to the south and west and soon the small towns of Mixcoac and San Ángel were incorporated by the growing conurbation. Today the city could be clearly divided into a middle and high-class area (south and west, including Polanco, Chapultepec and Santa Fe), and a lower class area to the east (Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, Pantitlán, Chalco and Moctezuma).

Up to the 1980s, the Federal District was the most populated federal entity in Mexico, but since then its population has remained stable at around 8.7 million. The growth of the city has extended beyond the limits of the Federal District to 58 municipalities of the state of Mexico and to the state of Hidalgo and, with a population of approx. 28.5 million inhabitants, it is one of the most populated conurbations in the world. Nonetheless, the annual rate of growth of the Metropolitan Area of Mexico City is much lower than that of other large urban agglomerations in Mexico, a phenomenon most likely attributable to the environmental policy of decentralization. The net migration rate of the Federal District from 1995 to 2000 was negative.

While they represent around 1.3% of the city's population, indigenous peoples from different regions of Mexico have immigrated to the capital in search of better economic opportunities. Náhuatl, Otomí, Mixteco, Zapoteco, and Mazahua are the indigenous languages with the greatest number of speakers in Mexico City.

On the other hand, Mexico City is home to large communities of expatriates, most notably from South America (mainly from Argentina, but also from Chile, Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela), from Europe (mainly from Spain and Germany, but also from France, Italy and Poland), the Middle East (mainly from Lebanon, Turkey, and Syria), and recently from Asia (mainly from China and South Korea). While no official figures have been reported, population estimates of each of these communities are quite significant. Mexico City is home to the largest population of U.S. Americans living outside the United States. Some estimates are as high as 600,000 U.S. Americans living in Mexico City, while in 1999 the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs estimates over 440,000 Americans lived in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area.

The majority (90.5%) of the residents in Mexico City are Roman Catholic, higher than the national percentage, even though it has been decreasing over the last decades. However, many other religions and philosophies are also practiced in the city: many different types of Protestant groups, different types of Jewish communities, Buddhist and other philosophical groups, as well as atheism.


The Historic Centre (Centro Histórico) and the "floating gardens" of Xochimilco in the southern borough have been declared World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. Famous landmarks in the Historic Center include the Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo), the main central square with its time clashing Spanish-era Metropolitan Cathedral and National Palace, and ancient Aztec temple ruins Templo Mayor ("Major Temple") are all within a few steps of one another. (The Templo Mayor was discovered in 1978 while workers were digging to place underground electric cables.)

The most recognizable icon of Mexico City is the golden Angel of Independence, found on the wide, elegant avenue Paseo de la Reforma, modeled by the order of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. This avenue was designed over Americas' oldest passage in the XIX Century to connect the National Palace (seat of government) with the Castle of Chapultepec, the imperial residence. Today, this avenue is an important financial district in which the Mexican Stock Exchange as several corporate headquarters are located. Another important avenue is the Avenida de los Insurgentes, which extends 28.8 km (18 miles) and is one of the longest single avenues in the world.

The Chapultepec park houses the Castle of Chapultepec, now a museum on a hill that overlooks the park and its numerous museums, monuments and the national zoo and the National Museum of Anthropology (which houses the Aztec Calendar Stone). Another magnificent piece of architecture is the Fine Arts Palace, a stunning white marble theatre/museum whose weight is such that it has gradually been sinking into the soft ground below. Its construction began during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz and ended, after being interrupted by the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s. The Plaza of the Three Cultures in the Tlatelolco neighbourhood, and the shrine and Basilicas of Our Lady of Guadalupe are also important sites. There is a double decker bus, known as the "Turibus", that circles most of these sites, and has timed audio describing the sites in multiple languages as they are passed.

In addition, the city has around 160 museums, over 100 art galleries, and some 30 concert halls, all of which maintain a constant cultural activity during the whole year. It has the fourth highest number of theatres in the world after New York, London and Toronto, and it is the city with the highest number of museums in the world. In many locales (Palacio Nacional and the Instituto Nacional de Cardiología, to name a few), there are murals painted by Diego Rivera. He and his wife Frida Kahlo lived in the southern suburb of Coyoacán, where several of their homes, studios, and art collections are open to the public. The house where Leon Trotsky was initially granted asylum and finally murdered in 1940 is also in Coyoacán.

In addition, there are several restored haciendas that are now restaurants, such as the San Ángel Inn, the Hacienda de Tlalpan and the Hacienda de los Morales, all of which are stunning remnants of Mexican history and house some of the best food in the world.


Mexico City is served by the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo Metro, an extensive metro system (207 km), which is the largest in Latin America. The first portions were opened in 1969 and now the system has 11 lines with 175 stations. In 2008 it was announced that a twelfth line will be constructed along with a suburban rail system similar to the French RER system. The metro is one of the busiest in the world transporting approximately 4.5 million people every day, surpassed only by Moscow's (7.5 million), Tokyo's (5.9 million), and New York City's (5.1 million). It is heavily subsidized, and has the lowest fares in the world, each trip costing Mex$ 2 (around 0.13 or US$ 0.19) and taking each passenger to almost any place in this enormous city from 05:00 am to 00:00 h.). Several stations display Pre-Columbian artifacts and architecture that were discovered during the metro's construction. However, the Metro does not extend outside the limits of the Federal District and, therefore, an extensive network of bus routes has been implemented. These are mostly managed by private companies which are allowed to operate buses as long as they adhere to certain minimal service quality standards.

The city government also operates a network of large buses, in contrast with the privately operated microbuses, with fares barely exceeding that of the metro. Electric transport other than the metro also exists, in the form of trolleybuses and the Xochimilco Light Rail line. The city's first bus rapid transit line, the Metrobús, began operations on June 2005 in Avenida Insurgentes (a second line is under construction on Eje 4 Sur). As the microbuses were removed from its route, it was hoped that the Metrobús could reduce pollution and decrease transit time for passengers. Also, since late 2002, the white and green taxis have been joined by red and white ones as part of a program to replace older vehicles with new ones.

Mexico City is served by Mexico City International Airport (IATA Airport Code: MEX). This airport is Latin America's busiest and largest in traffic, transporting nearly 26 million passengers per year. This traffic exceeds the current capacity of the airport, which has historically centralized the majority of air traffic in the country. The government engaged in an extensive restructuring program that includes the new second adjacent terminal, which began operations in 2007, and the enlargement of four other airports (at the nearby cities of Toluca, Querétaro, Puebla and Cuernavaca) that, along with Mexico City's airport, comprise the Grupo Aeroportuario del Valle de México, distributing traffic to different regions in Mexico. The city of Pachuca, will also provide additional expansion to central Mexico's airport network. Mexico City's airport is the main hub for 11 of the 21 national airline companies.

The city has four major bus stations (North, South, Observatorio, TAPO), which comprise one of the world's largest transportation agglomerations, with bus service to many cities across the country and international connections. The city has one train station, used for commercial and industrial purposes (interstate passenger trains are now virtually non-existent in Mexico). A suburban rail system, the Tren Suburbano serves the metropolitan area, beyond the city limits of the metro, to municipalities such as Tlalnepantla and Cuautitlán Izcalli, with future extensions to Chalco and La Paz.

There are also several toll expressways which directly connect Mexico City with several other major cities throughout the country.

In the late 70's many arterial roads were redesigned as ejes viales; high-volume one-way roads that cross, in theory, Mexico City proper from side to side. The eje vial network is based on a quasi-Cartesian grid, with the ejes themselves being called Eje 1 Poniente, Eje Central, and Eje 1 Oriente, for example, for the north-south roads, and Eje 2 Sur and Eje 3 Norte, for example, for east-west roads. Two freeway ring-roads serve to connect points within the city and the metropolitan area: Circuito Interior (the inner ring) and Periférico, which connect to one straight freeway: the Viaducto (Viaduct) (connecting west with east, from Observatorio to the Airport). Traffic in this system is so dense that an elevated highway that runs on top and parallel to a part of the Periférico, had to be constructed and finished in 2007. This elevated highway is colloquially called segundo piso ("second level") of the Periférico.

There is an environmental program, called Hoy No Circula ("Not To Run Today," or "One Day without a Car"), whereby only vehicles with certain ending numbers on their license plates are allowed to circulate on certain days, in an attempt to cut down on pollution and traffic congestion. The program groups vehicles by their ending license plate digits, and every weekday vehicles having any of the day's two "Hoy No Circula" digits are banned from circulating. For instance, on Fridays, vehicles with plates ending in 9 or 0 may not drive. This program is controversial, since it has resulted in many better-off households buying extra cars, reducing the program's benefits; also, newer vehicles are exempt from complying with the program, a move said to have been pushed by automakers to boost sales of new vehicles.


Football, is Mexico's most popular and most televised sport. There are several important stadiums to host this sport known here as Futból. Among them are the Aztec Stadium, home to the América, has a capacity to seat 105,000 fans, the Olympic Stadium in Ciudad Universitaria, home to the U.N.A.M., with a seating capacity of over 63,000, and a few blocks from the WTC the Estadio Azul, located in the Colonia (Mexico) Nochebuena, home to the C.D.S.C. Cruz Azul, which seats 35,000 fans. The three teams are based in Mexico City and play in the Primera Division (First Division) and are part of the "Big Four" of Mexico. The fourth, and most popular, being Guadlajara.

The country hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1970 and 1986 and the Aztec Stadium is the only stadium in World Cup history to host the final match twice. Mexico City also hosted the Summer Olympics in 1968, winning bids against Buenos Aires, Lyon and Detroit, and remains the only Latin American city to host such an event. Mexico City hosted the 1955 Pan American Games and then the 1975 Pan American Games after Santiago and São Paulo withdrew.

Baseball is also another popular sport with a growing fan base. Mexico City is home to the México Red Devils of the MBL, with the team playing their home games at the Foro Sol Park. Also in Mexico City are located around 10 little leagues for young baseball players.

Adjacent to Foro Sol is Mexico City's Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. From 1962 to 1970 and again from 1986 to 1992, the track hosted the Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix. From 1980-1981 and again from 2002 to 2007, it hosted the Champ Car World Series Gran Premio de México. Since 2005, the NASCAR Nationwide Series has run the Telcel-Motorola México 200. 2005 also marked the first running of the Mexico City 250 by the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.

In 2005, Mexico City became the first city to host a NFL regular season game outside of the United States, at its Aztec Stadium, holding the largest attendance for a regular season game in NFL history: 103,467 fans. The city has also hosted several NBA pre-season exhibition games along with exhibition matches among MLB teams at the Foro Sol. The FIBA Americas Championship has also been hosted here.

Other sports facilities in Mexico City are the Palacio de los Deportes indoor arena, Francisco Márquez Olympic Swimming Pool, the Hipódromo de Las Américas, and venues for horse racing, Ice Hockey, Rugby, American football, Baseball, and Basketball for which what is widely regarded as the best International Basketball Tournament has been held in the city.

Bullfighting takes place every Sunday during bullfighting season at the 50,000-seat Plaza de Toros, the largest bullring in the world.

Mexico City's golf courses have held both the Women's LPGA tour, as well as two Men's Golf World Cups. These, and other golf courses throughout the city are available as private, as well as public venues.



The second oldest university in the Americas, established in 1551, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), is located in Mexico City. It is the largest university on the continent, with 269,000 students from all backgrounds enrolled. Three Nobel laureates, several Mexican entrepreneurs and most of Mexico's modern-day presidents are among its former students. UNAM conducts 50% of Mexico's scientific research and has presence all across the country with satellite campuses, observatories and research centers. The National Autonomous University of Mexico ranks 74th in the Top 200 World University Ranking published by The Times Higher Education Supplement in 2006, making it the highest ranked Spanish-speaking university in the world. The sprawling main campus of the university, known as Ciudad Universitaria, was named a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2007, during the period of Juan Ramón de la Fuente as the President of UNAM.

The second largest higher-education institution is the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) (which includes, among many other relevant centers, the Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados (Cinvestav), where high-level research is performed about very different scientific and technological disciplines such as physics, mathematics, neurosciences, and many others). Other major higher-education institutions in the city include the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM), the ITAM, the ITESM (3 campuses), the Universidad Panamericana (UP), the Universidad La Salle, the Universidad del Valle de Mexico (UVM), the Universidad Anáhuac, the Alliant International University, the Universidad Iberoamericana, El Colegio de México (Colmex), and the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económica, (CIDE). The most prestigious private universities in the country including Universidad Anáhuac, Universidad Iberoamericana, Universidad Panamericana and Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México have their flagship campus located in Mexico City.

Contrary to what occurs in the constituent states of the Mexican federation, the curriculum of Mexico City's public schools is managed by the federal level Secretary of Public Education. The whole funding is allocated by the government of Mexico City (in some specific cases, such as El Colegio de México, funding comes from both the city's government and other public and private national and international entities).

A very special case is that of El Colegio Nacional, created during the governmental period of Miguel Alemán Valdés to have, in Mexico, an institution very similar to the College of France. The very selected and privileged group of Mexican scientists and artists belonging to this institution (the membership is lifelong; some of the current members are Mario Lavista, Ruy Pérez Tamayo, José Emilio Pacheco, Marcos Moshinsky, Guillermo Soberón Acevedo, and many others) have the obligation of disclosing their works among the general population, through conferences and public events such as concerts and recitals.

Amongst its many public and private schools (K-13), the city offers multi-cultural, multi-lingual and international schools which are attended by students of foreign, Mexican or mixed origin. Best known are the Colegio Alemán (German school with 3 main campuses), the Liceo Mexicano Japonés (Japanese), the Escuela Coreana (Korean), the Lycée Français de Mexique (French), the American School, and the Greengates School (British).


Mexico City is the country's most important center for the television, advertising, music, newspaper and book publishing industries. Two national newspapers are published here, El Universal and Excélsior, as well as important regional newspapers such as Reforma and La Jornada. Other major papers include Milenio, Crónica, El Economista and El Financiero.

The two largest media companies in the Spanish-speaking world, Televisa and TV Azteca, are headquartered in Mexico City. Other local television networks include Canal 11, Canal 22, Cadena Tres, Teveunam and 11 free-access channels.

There are 60 radio stations operating in the city and a huge number of local community radio stations.


Mexico City is one of the most important cultural centers in the world boasting more museums than any other city. It is also the fourth city in number of theaters after New York City, London and Toronto.

Having been capital of a vast pre-Hispanic empire, the richest viceroyalty within the Spanish Empire, and capital of the Mexican federation, Mexico City has a rich history of artistic expressions. Since the Mesoamerican pre-Classical period the inhabitants of the settlements around Lake Texcoco produced many works of arts, some of which are today displayed at the world-renown National Museum of Anthropology and the Templo Mayor Museum. While many pieces of pottery and stone-engraving have survived, the great majority of the Amerindian iconography was destroyed during the Conquest of Mexico.

During colonial times the first art produced was that of the codices generated to preserve or recuperate Amerindian iconography and history. From then, artistic expressions in Mexico were mostly religious in theme. The Metropolitan Cathedral still displays works by Juan de Rojas, Juan Correa and an oil painting whose authorship has been attributed to Murillo. Secular works of art of this period include the equestrian sculpture of Charles IV of Spain, locally known as El Caballito ("The little horse"). This piece, in bronze, was the work of Manuel Tolsá and it has been placed at the Plaza Tolsá, in front of the Palacio de Minería (Mining Palace). Directly in front of this building is the beautiful Museo Nacional de Arte (Munal) (the National Museum of Art).

During the 19th century, an important producer of art was the Academia de San Carlos (San Carlos Art Academy), founded during colonial times, and which later became the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas (the National School of Visual Arts), which is currently one of the art schools of UNAM. Many of the works produced by the students and faculty of that time are now displayed in the Museo Nacional de San Carlos (National Museum of San Carlos). One of the students, José María Velasco, is considered one of the greatest Mexican landscape painters of the 19th century. It was during Porfirio Diaz's regime that the government sponsored arts, especially those that followed the French school. In spite of that, popular arts in the form of cartoons and illustrations flourished like those of José Guadalupe Posada and Manuel Manilla. The permanent collection of the San Carlos Museum also includes paintings by European masters such as Rembrandt, Velázquez, Murillo, and Rubens.

After the Mexican Revolution, an avant-garde artistic movement originated in Mexico City: muralism. Many of the works of muralists José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera are displayed in numerous buildings in the city, most notably at the National Palace and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Frida Kahlo, wife of Rivera, with a strong nationalist expression, was also one of the most renowned of Mexican painters. Her house has become a museum that displays many of her works.

The former home of Rivera muse Dolores Olmedo house the namesake museum. The facility lies in the Xochimilco precinct in the southern part of the city and includes several buildings surrounded by sprawling manicured lawns. It houses a large collection of Rivera and Kahlo paintings and drawings, as well as living Xoloizcuintles (Mexican Hairless Dog). It also regularly hosts small but important temporary exhibits of classical and modern art (e.g. Venetian Masters and Contemporary New York artists).

During the 20th century, many artists immigrated to Mexico City from different regions of Mexico, like Leopoldo Méndez, an engraver from Veracruz, who supported the creation of the socialist Taller de la Gráfica Popular (Popular Graphics Workshop), designed to help blue-collar workers find a venue to express their art. Other painters came from abroad, like Catalan painter Remedios Varo and other Spanish and Jewish exiles. It was in the second half of the 20th century that the artistic movement began to drift apart from the Revolutionary theme. José Luis Cuevas opted for a modernist style in contrast to the muralist movement associated with social politics.

Mexico City has numerous museums dedicated to modern and contemporary art. The Museo Tamayo was opened in the mid-1980s to house the collection of international contemporary art donated by famed Mexican (born in the state of Oaxaca) painter Rufino Tamayo. The Museo de Arte Moderno (Museum of Modern Art) is a repository of Mexican artists from the 20th century, and also regularly hosts temporary exhibits of international modern art. In southern Mexico City, the Museo Carrillo Gil (Carrillo Gil Museum) showcases avant-garde artists. The Museo Soumaya (Soumaya Museum), named after the wife of Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, has the largest private collection of original Rodin sculptures outside Paris. La Colección Jumex (The Jumex Collection) is a museum housed on the grounds of the Jumex juice company in the northern industrial suburb of Ecatepec (within the State of Mexico). It shows pieces from its permanent collection and hosts traveling exhibits by leading contemporary artists.

Jack Kerouac, the noted American author, spent extended periods of time in the city, and wrote his masterpiece volume of poetry Mexico City Blues here.

Music, movies and entertainment

Mexico City is a mecca of classical music, with a number of orchestras offering season programs. These include the Mexico City Philharmonic, which performs at the Sala Ollin Yoliztli; the National Symphony Orchestra, whose home base is the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of the Fine Arts) , a masterpiece of art nouveau and art decó styles; the Philharmonic Orchestra of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (OFUNAM), and the Minería Symphony Orchestra, both of which perform at the acoustically renown Sala Nezahualcóyotl, which was the first wrap-around concert hall in the Western Hemisphere when inaugurated in 1976. There are also many smaller ensembles that enrich the city's musical scene, including the Carlos Chávez Youth Symphony, the New World Orchestra (Orquesta del Nuevo Mundo), the National Polytechnical Symphony and the Bellas Artes Chamber Orchestra (Orquesta de Cámara de Bellas Artes).

The city is also a leading center of popular culture and music. There are a multitude of venues hosting the top Spanish and English-language performers. These include the 10,000-seat National Auditorium that regularly schedules the top Spanish and English-language pop and rock artists, as well as many of the world's leading performing arts ensembles. Other popular sites for pop-artist performances include the Teatro Metropolitan, the 15,000-seat Palacio de los Deportes, and the larger Foro Sol Stadium, where top-name international artists perform on a regular basis. The Cirque du Soleil has held several seasons at the Carpa Santa Fe, in the Santa Fe district in the western part of the city.

It is said that Mexico City has more theaters than any other city in the Spanish-speaking world. At any given time, plays being staged run the gamut from Spanish versions of Broadway shows, such as Beauty and the Beast, Fiddler on the Roof and Chicago to mainstream Spanish-language originals. Alternative theatre is very popular, non-language shows that have been staged include Stomp and Australia's Tap Dogs.

The Centro Nacional de las Artes (National Center for the Arts), in southern Mexico City, has several venues for music, theatre, dance. UNAM's main campus, also in the southern part of the city, is home to the Centro Cultural Universitario (the University Culture Center) (CCU), which includes the Sala Nezahualcóyotl (Nezahualcóyotl Concert Hall) (music), the Sala Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (theatre), Sala Miguel Covarrubias (dance), Sala Carlos Chávez (chamber music), as well as the Salas Julio Bracho and José Revueltas, that regularly show a very interesting mix of non-commercial films from all over the world. The CCU also houses the National Library, the interactive Universum, Museo de las Ciencias and slated to open in 2008, the new University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC). A branch of the National University's CCU cultural center was inaugurated in 2007 in the facilities of the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known as Tlatelolco, in north-central Mexico City.

The (José Vasconcelos Library), a national library, is located on the grounds of the former Buenavista railroad station in the northern part of the city.

The Papalote children's museum, which houses the world's largest dome screen, is located in the wooded park of Chapultepec, near the Museo Tecnológico, and La Feria amusement park. The theme park Six Flags México (the largest amusement park in Latin America) is located in the Ajusco borough, in southern Mexico City. During the winter, the main square of the Zócalo is transformed into a gigantic ice skating rink, which is said to be the largest in the world behind that of Moscow's Red Square.

The Cineteca Nacional (the Mexican Film Library), near the Coyoacán suburb, shows a wide variety of films, and stages many film festivals, including the annual International Showcase, and many smaller ones ranging from Scandinavian and Uruguayan cinema, to Jewish and GLBT-themed films. Cinépolis and Cinemex, the two biggest film business chains, also have several film festivals throughout the year, with both national and international movies. No other city in the world has the amount of IMAX theaters as are in Mexico City, this gives access to cinematographic documentaries as well as blockbusters on the world's largest screens.


Mexico City offers a huge array of culinary experiences. Restaurants specializing in the regional cuisines of Mexico's 31 states are available in the city. Also available are restaurants representing a very broad spectrum of international cuisines, including French, Italian, Croatian, German, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish (including Spanish regional variations such as Castilian, Asturian, Galician, and Basque), Turkish, Chinese (including regional variations such as Cantonese, Hunan, and Sichuan), Indian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Thai, Tibetan, Vietnamese, Egyptian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Saudi Arabian, South African, as well as Argentine, Brazilian, Cuban, Peruvian, and Uruguayan. Haute, Fusion, and Vegan cuisines are also commonly available.

Mexico's award winning wines are offered at many restaurants. And the city offers unique experiences for tasting the regional spirits, with wealthy selections of Tequila, and Mezcal, as well as Pulque bars known as pulquerías.

Other names

Mexico City was traditionally known as La Ciudad de los Palacios ("the City of Palaces"), a nickname attributed to Baron Alexander von Humboldt when visiting the city in the 19th century.

During López Obrador's administration a new nickname was introduced: la Ciudad de la Esperanza ("The City of Hope"). It has been replaced by Capital en Movimiento ("Capital in Movement") by the recently elected administration headed by Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon.

The city is colloquially known as Chilangolandia after the locals' nickname chilangos, which is used either as a pejorative term by people living outside Mexico City or as a proud adjective by Mexico City's dwellers.

Residents of Mexico City are more formally called capitalinos (in reference to the city being the capital of the country) or, more recently defeños (a word which derives from the postal abbreviation of the Federal District in Spanish: D.F., which is read "De-Efe").

Sister cities

Mexico City has 18 sister cities

Arequipa, Peru
Beijing, China
Beirut, Lebanon
Bogotá, Colombia
Chicago, United States
Cusco, Peru
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Kaliningrad, Russia
Lima, Peru
Los Angeles, United States
Madrid, Spain
Panama City, Panama
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
San Salvador, El Salvador
Santiago, Chile
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Toronto, Canada
Tokyo, Japan

See also


External links

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