Mexico City

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Ciudad de México
Latitude 19° 24′-19° 03′ N
Longitude 98° 57′-99° 22′ W
Head of Government
(of the D.F.)
Alejandro Encinas
Surface (km²) 1,547 km² (D.F.)
4,986 km² (Greater Mexico City)
(2000 census)
8,605,239 (D.F.)
17,809,471 (Greater Mexico City)
Density (hab/km²) 5,563 km² (D.F.)
Time zone (UTC) -6 UTC CST
Postal code DF
ISO 3166-2 code MX-DIF
Calling codes Country +52 / Area 55

Mexico City (Spanish: Ciudad de México) is the name of a megacity located in the Valley of Mexico (Valle de México), a large valley in the high plateaus (altiplano) at the center of Mexico, about 2,240 metres (7,349 feet) above sea-level, surrounded on most sides by volcanoes towering at 4,000 to 5,500 metres (13,000 to 18,000 feet) above sea-level.

Mexico City was originally built in 1521 by Cortés on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, in the middle of the now drained Lake Texcoco. The municipality was abolished in 1928, so boundaries of the city were free to grow.

Mexico City is located in the Mexican Federal District ("Distrito Federal", or D.F.).

"Mexico City" refers to the whole metropolitan area of Greater Mexico City. The metropolitan area extends beyond the limits of the D.F. and encompasses tens of independent municipalities located in the State of México (Estado de México), to the north, east, and west of the D.F., extending as far north as the State of Hidalgo. The population of the entire metropolitan area in 2005 is estimated between 18 and 22 million inhabitants (depending where the limits of the metropolitan area are set). This means Mexico City is the second most populated metropolitan area in the world, (behind Tokyo) but its population doubles every 30 years.

Mexico City, with its distinct mestizo culture, blending native Indian (Nahuatl) and Spanish heritages, is the largest metropolitan area in Latin America, and the second-largest in the Americas behind New York City. By the end of the 20th century it became one of the largest financial, economic, educational, cultural, and tourist centers of the world.



For the Pre-Columbian detailed history of the city, see: Tenochtitlan.

After centuries of pre-Columbian civilization, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés first arrived in the area, then the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, in 1519. 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.

The city served as the capital of the viceroyalty of New Spain from ca. 1525 to the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1810, and of the various Mexican states afterwards.

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 city proper was around 18 million.

At 07:17 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) to 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. USGS Earthquake Report

Modern Mexico City


View along Paseo de la Reforma from Chapultepec Castle
View along Paseo de la Reforma from Chapultepec Castle

Famous landmarks in Mexico City include the Zócalo, the main central square with its time clashing Spanish-era Cathedral, modern-times Palacio Nacional, and ancient Aztec temple ruins. (The Templo Mayor was found in the early 1900s while digging to place underground electric cables.) The trademark golden Angel of Independence found on the wide, elegant avenue Paseo de la Reforma, modeled by the order of president Porfirio Díaz after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The Avenida de los Insurgentes, locally said to be the longest street in the world, goes 28.8 km (18 miles) from end to end of the city.

The Chapultepec park houses the Chapultepec Palace museum on a hill that overlooks the park and its numerous museums, monuments and the national zoo; the National Museum of Anthropology, the Bellas Artes Fine Arts Palace which is a stunning white marble theater/museum whose weight is such that it has gradually been sinking into the soft ground below, the Plaza of the Three Cultures in the Tlatelolco neighborhood, and the shrine and Basilicas of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In addition, the city has around 160 museums, over 100 art galleries, and some 30 concert halls. In many locales (The Palacio Nacional and the Instituto Nacional de Cardiología to name a few), there are murals by Diego Rivera. He and his wife Frida Kahlo lived in the southern suburb of Coyoacán, where various of their homes, studios, and collections are open to the public. Nearby is the house of Leon Trotsky, where he was murdered in 1940.


"Fútbol" (soccer) is Mexico's most popular sport and has wide following in Mexico City. Two very well known teams, Club America and Cruz Azul, are based in Mexico City. The Aztec Stadium, home of Club America is one of the world's largest stadiums with capacity to seat approximately 110,000 fans.

Mexico hosted the Soccer World Cup in 1970 and 1986. The Estadio Azteca was witness to spectacular games colored with full-capacity attendance and excitement of Mexican fans.

Mexico City hosted the 1968 Olympic Games, winning the bids against Buenos Aires, Lyon and Detroit.

NASCAR plans to hold annual Busch Series races at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez starting with the 2005 event held there.


Taxis in Mexico City
Taxis in Mexico City
See also articles in the category Transportation in Mexico City

Mexico City is served by the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo Metro, an extensive metro system (207 km), the largest in Latin America, the first portions of which were opened in 1969. One of the busiest in the world, the metro transports more than 4 million people every day, surpassed only by Moscow's (7.5 million), Tokyo's (5.9 million) and Seoul's (4.4 million). It is heavily subsidized, and it is one of the cheapest in the world, each trip currently costing MXN $2 (around EUR 0.13 or USD 0.19). A number of stations display Pre-Columbian artifacts and architecture that was discovered during the metro's construction. However, the Metro reaches only a fraction of the total inhabited area of the city, 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. A new project has been constructed to create the city's first bus rapid transit line, the Metrobús, on Avenida Insurgentes, in order to reduce pollution and decrease transit time for passengers.

"Pesero" or "Microbús"
"Pesero" or "Microbús"

There are plenty of lime-green colored taxi cabs, which, while occasionally unsafe if taken randomly from the street instead of designated locales, are undeniably economical. The freeway system is so dense that there is an ongoing project to make a second level to the main ringroad that is to this day already partially operational.

Mexico City is served by Benito Juárez International Airport (IATA Airport Code: MEX). It has four major bus stations (North, South, Observatorio, TAPO), with bus service to cities across the country, and one train station, used for commercial purposes (intercity passenger trains are now virtually non-existent in Mexico). Though recently, the Tren Suburbano (suburban rail) will be built to serve metropolitan area. There is also has several toll expressways which connect it with several other major cities. Unfortunately, the city does not have an expressway network that connects points within the city; all cross-city trips must be done on arterial roads. This is one reason why the city's streets are so congested.

Urban Problems

As one of the largest urban areas in the world, Mexico City suffers from no shortage of the problems common of many large cities, including traffic, poverty, and pollution. This is perhaps exacerbated by Mexico's developing country status. This city has a high number of street children; some estimate as many as 50,000. The mountains and volcanoes surrounding the city trap polluted air in the city and contribute to the city's serious problem with poor air quality, although major strides have been made to improve the pollution situation in the past 20 years or so.

Violent crime is also a major concern; in 2003 Mexico had the second-highest number of kidnappings in the world, with some 3,000 reported cases. In taxis, a particular problem has arisen; individuals are sometimes kidnapped by unauthorized taxi drivers, in order to empty their bank accounts at ATMs. Victims are sometimes kept overnight in order to bypass daily withdrawal limits. Inside other transportation, mostly microbuses, pickpocketing is still a common activity, and Mexico City inhabitants take various levels of precaution to avoid being victims of this.

Police reform has also been a focus of the government for the past decade; there is a general sense of distrust against the authorities, as conventional wisdom holds that all Mexico's police forces are corrupt one way or another. This issue came to a head in November 2004, when an angry crowd in Tláhuac allowed themselves to be whipped up into a frenzy by the local criminal elements and burned two undercover police officers alive [1] and seriously injured another, on rumors that they were child kidnappers.


See also Universities in Mexico City

The largest (and considered the best) university of Latin America, the UNAM, is located In Mexico City. Other local institutions of prestige are the ITAM, the Escuela Libre de Derecho and ITESM's Mexico City, Santa Fe and Mexico State campuses.


The Angel of Independence monument in the heart of Mexico City at night
The Angel of Independence monument in the heart of Mexico City at night

Due to its special situation as the home of the federal government, the local government of Mexico City has gone through several incarnations. Since independence, the city sometimes had an independent local government and other times (the greater part of the 20th century) was administered directly by the President of the Republic, who delegated his authority to a "Head of the Federal District Department", known more tersely as the regent.

This kind of political organization caused much resentment among the inhabitants of the city because for many years they were deprived of a government that properly represented them. The most serious situation arose in 1988 when people from Mexico City clearly voted for opposition candidates, despite which they were ruled for six years by the party that won the federal presidency.

Under these circumstances, political reform became inevitable. First a local legislative assembly was established, and people were able to elect their Head of Government (jefe de gobierno) for the first time (both institutions still had limited powers dependent on the federal congress and president).

The first elected head of government was Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, a former presidential candidate (who was, according to many, cheated out of victory in the closely fought 1988 presidential election). Cárdenas resigned later to compete in the 2000 presidential campaign and left in his place Rosario Robles, who became the first woman to govern Mexico City.

A measure of the democratic development in Mexico is that the current (2000-06) chief of government in the Federal District is Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD, which has an left-leaning ideology (and even has some former members of the Communist Party among its numbers), while at the same time, the federal government has a conservative president, Vicente Fox Quesada.

López Obrador was deprived of his constitutional immunity as Head of Government in the Federal District on April 7, 2005. With 360 votes (489 total) from the Chamber of Deputies, he was impeached because he failed to obey a judge's order to stop a road from being built. This event is populary called the "desafuero". This issue created a political crisis, which was resolved by the judiciary's ultimate decision to refrain from prosecuting López Obrador.

On July 29, 2005 López Obrador resigned and left office to be able to run for the Presidency in 2006. Alejandro Encinas was appointed Obrador´s substitute as Head of Government


Mexico City was traditionally known as la Ciudad de los Palacios ("the City of Palaces"). Since 2000, however, the democratically elected local administrations of the PRD have introduced a new nickname: la Ciudad de la Esperanza, or "The City of Hope". Acceptance or rejection of this new sobriquet is largely determined by one's political preferences.

The city is coloquially known by outsiders (provincianos) as Chilangolandia after their locals nickname (the chilangos).


The Distrito Federal is divided into 16 boroughs called delegaciones, which are further divided into colonias (neighborhoods).

The municipio of Mexico City, abolished in 1928, was limited to the current delegaciones of Cuauhtémoc, Miguel Hidalgo, Venustiano Carranza, and Benito Juárez. However, these four delegaciones combined are in reality slightly larger that the old municipality of Mexico City because they also include the former municipalities of Tacuba, Tacubaya, Mixcoac, and General Anaya.

Boroughs of Mexico City
Álvaro Obregón | Azcapotzalco | Benito Juárez | Coyoacán | Cuajimalpa | Cuauhtémoc | Gustavo A. Madero | Iztacalco | Iztapalapa | Magdalena Contreras | Miguel Hidalgo | Milpa Alta | Tláhuac | Tlalpan | Venustiano Carranza | Xochimilco


See also Neighborhoods in Mexico City

Because of the city’s fragmentation each of the colonias has a very distinct character, some of the neighborhoods are former small towns close to the city, like San Ángel and Coyoacán, while other were specifically designed as urban development, for example Condesa and Polanco.

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