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Old March 22nd, 2013, 06:37 AM   #1
desertpunk
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Mexico City - Zócalo

Mexico City - Zócalo

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- En el Zocalo by spartan_puma, on Flickr
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Old March 22nd, 2013, 07:27 AM   #2
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The Zócalo is the main plaza or square in the heart of the historic center of Mexico City. The plaza used to be known simply as the "Main Square" or "Arms Square," and today its formal name is Plaza de la Constitución. This name does not come from any of the Mexican constitutions that have governed the country but rather from the Cádiz Constitution which was signed in Spain in 1812. However, it is almost always called the Zócalo today. Plans were made to erect a column as a monument to Independence, but only the base, or zócalo, was ever built. The plinth was destroyed long ago but the name has lived on. Many other Mexican towns and cities, such as Oaxaca and Guadalajara, have adopted the word zócalo to refer to their main plazas, but not all.

It has been a gathering place for Mexicans since Aztec times, having been the site of Mexica ceremonies, the swearing in of viceroys, royal proclamations, military parades, Independence ceremonies and modern religious events such as the festivals of Holy Week and Corpus Christi. It has received foreign heads of state and is the main venue for both national celebration and national protest.

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Mexico City - Zocalo by cerdsp, on Flickr

The modern Zócalo in Mexico City is 57,600 metres², making it one of the largest city squares in the world. It is bordered by the Cathedral to the north, the National Palace to the east, the Federal District buildings to the south and the Old Portal de Mercaderes to the west, the Nacional Monte de Piedad building at the north-west corner, with the Templo Mayor site to the northeast, just outside of view. In the center is a flagpole with an enormous Mexican flag ceremoniously raised and lowered each day and carried into the National Palace. There is an entrance to the Metro station "Zócalo" located at the northeast corner of the square but no sign above ground indicates its presence.

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Mexico City, Mexico Zocalo by Peter Musolino, on Flickr

Prior to the conquest, the area that the Zócalo occupies was open space, in the center of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. It was bordered to the east by Moctezuma II's "New Houses" or Palace (which would become the National Palace) and to the west by the "Old Houses", the palace of Axayácatl (1469 - 1481) where the Emperor Ahuitzotl, Moctezuma's uncle and immediate predecessor also lived. A European-style plaza was not part of the conquered Aztec Tenochtitlan; the old city had a sacred precinct or "teocalli" which was the absolute center of the city (and the universe, according to Aztec belief), but it was located to the immediate north and northeast of the modern-day Zócalo.

The Plaza Mayor (Zócalo), 1793

http://www.mexicomaxico.org/Caballito/caballito.htm


The modern plaza of Mexico City was placed by Alonso Garcia Bravo shortly after the invasion when he laid out what is now the historic center. After the destruction of Tenochtitlan, Cortés had the city redesigned for symbolic purposes. He kept the four major neighborhoods or "capullis" but he had a church, now the Cathedral of Mexico City built at the place the four adjoined. He had the Templo Mayor razed to the ground, using the stones from it and other buildings of the teocalli to pave the new plaza. What was the old teocalli is now occupied by the Templo Mayor archeological site, the Cathedral and part of the National Palace. The new layout kept the north-south and west-east avenues and the open space but this space was cut in half by the building of the new Cathedral. The southern half was called the "Plaza Mayor" and the northern one was called the "Plaza Chica". Fairly early in the colonial period, the Plaza Chica would be swallowed up by the growing city.


The Cathedral, c.1890s
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Mexico City. Metropolitan Cathedral by Cornell University Library, on Flickr

After the Cathedral was constructed in the latter half of the 16th century, the layout of the Plaza changed. The old church faced east and not to the Plaza itself. The new Cathedral's three portals towered south over the Plaza and giving the area a north-south orientation, which exists to this day.

Over much of the 17th century, the Plaza became overrun with market stalls. After a mob burned the Viceregal Palace in the 1690s, the Plaza was completely cleared to make way for the "Parian", a set of shops set in the southwest corner of the Plaza used to warehouse and sell products brought by galleons from Europe and Asia. This was opened in 1703. But the Plaza filled with stalls and thei debris soon after. Again the Plaza was cleared (with exception of the Parian) by proclamation of Charles IV of Spain in December 1789. Then-viceroy Juan Vicente Güemes Pacheco had the Plaza repaved and the open gutters covered with stone blocks. He also had a fountain installed in each corner. During this work, the Aztec Calendar was unearthed, as well as a statue of the goddess Coatlicue. The Calendar was put on display on the west side of the Cathedral, where it remained until about 1890 when it was moved to the old "Centro Museum".


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The Aztec calendar by Drak_, on Flickr

This was the backdrop when Viceroy Felix Maria Calleja, other authorities and assembled people swore allegiance to the Constitution of Cadiz, and fealty to the Spanish Crown on 22 May 1813 as the Mexican War of Independence raged. This event also resulted in renaming the square as the "Plaza of the Constitution." The last changes to the Plaza before Independence were done by Manuel Tolsa placing the Cross of Mañozca at the southeast corner and placing another, similar cross to the northwest. Both of these were set on stone Neoclassical pedestals.


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Mexico City. Statue of King Carlos IV of Spain ("El Caballito" ) by Cornell University Library, on Flickr

Upon Independence, the monument to Charles IV was disassembled and taken away from Plaza. The equestrian statue itself can still be seen in front of the National Art Museum where its current, and much smaller, base states that it is preserved solely for its artistic value. The statue's former oval base was moved to what was then the University building and the balustrade was moved to the Alameda Central. This left the Plaza bare except for the Parian.

The Zócalo c.1865
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Mexico City, Zócalo Square. The Arcades by Cornell University Library, on Flickr

The national Palace c.1860
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National Palace, Mexico City by Cornell University Library, on Flickr

On the 4th and 5th December 1826, Lorenzo de Zavala and General Jose Maria Lobato led a mob of soldiers, artisans, and hooligans attacking the Parian. They robbed and burned it shouting "Death to the Spaniards!" "Long live Lobato and those with fury!" A number of merchants died and most were ruined. President Santa Anna finally had the Parian demolished in 1843. This left the Plaza bare again, except for some ash trees and flower gardens that were planted and protected by stone borders. Santa Anna wanted to build a monument to Mexican Independence in the center of the Plaza but his project got only as far as the base (zócalo), which stayed there for decades and gave the Plaza its current popular name. It stayed this way until 1866 when the Paseo del Zócalo was created in response to the numbers of people who were using the plaza to take walks. A garden with footpaths was created; fountains were placed at each corner; 72 iron benches were installed and the area was lighted by hydrogen gas lamps. Santa Anna's base, however, was not removed.

The Zócalo c.1870

http://www.formerdays.com/2012/02/old-mexico.html


In 1878, Antonio Escandon donated a kiosk to the city which was set over and on top of Santa Anna's base. It was lit with four large iron candelabras and designed to be similar to one in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Soon afterward, the company Ferrocarriles del Distrito Federal converted part of the Zócalo into a streetcar station with ticket kiosk and stand. The streetcars and lighting were converted to electric power in 1894, and the Zócalo's paths were paved with asphalt in 1891.

From the latter half of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth, the Zócalo again filled with market stalls, including the "Centro Mercantil" which sold fabric, clothing, and Art Nouveau stonework. The other stalls concentrated on more mundane merchandise. This caused pedestrians to take their walks on Alameda Central or on San Francisco and Madero streets, to the west of the Zócalo.


The Zócalo 1930


During the Decena Trágica, the National Palace was bombarded from the nearby military fort, incidentally damaging the Zócalo. In 1914, the ash trees planted in the previous century were taken out; new footpaths, grassy areas, and garden space were created; and palm trees were planted in each corner of the plaza.

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ejercitoenelezocalo-1968 by rockinmotion, on Flickr

The Zócalo was a meeting place for protests for May 1st. In 1968, students protested against the authoritarian measures taken by then-president Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. It was also the starting point of the marathon run in the 1968 Summer Olympics. But the plaza deteriorated until, by the 1970s, all that was left were light poles and a large flagpole in the middle. Then the ground was leveled again, the train tracks taken out, and the whole plaza cemented over. However, automobile parking was prohibited and the plaza's shape was squared to 200 meters on each side. Later in the 1970s, the Zócalo was repaved with pink cobblestones; small trees protected by metal grates were planted, and small areas of grass were seeded around the flagpole.

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Zocalo by Rory Finneren, on Flickr

As the end of the twentieth century neared, the Zócalo, along with most of the city center (called the Colonia Centro) was in massive disrepair. This caused The Economist to remark that the Zócalo and the area surrounding it ". . . should be one of the most compelling architectural destinations in the Americas. Instead, much of it is a slum of gutted buildings, dark and dirty streets blocked by milling vendors, and garbage-strewn vacant lots."

In the late 1990s, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, then mayor of Mexico City, and Dr. Rene Coulomb, director general of the Historic Center Trust, launched a $300,000,000 renovation of the Zócalo and the surrounding city center, with the aim of attracting businesses and residents back to the area -Wikipedia


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Mexico 2012 by carinzee, on Flickr

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Mexico 2012 by carinzee, on Flickr

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Mexico 2012 by carinzee, on Flickr
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Last edited by desertpunk; March 22nd, 2013 at 07:45 AM.
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Old March 22nd, 2013, 07:37 AM   #3
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Zócalo by jhoolko, on Flickr

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Mexico Politics by multimediaimpre, on Flickr

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Templo Mayor 3 by Tree&Stone, on Flickr

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Catedral Metropolitana by Tree&Stone, on Flickr

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Zócalo by jhoolko, on Flickr

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Mexico City, Zocalo at night 3 by rjsnyc2, on Flickr

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Plaza de la Constitucion by _bshep, on Flickr
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