Sun. Apr 5th, 2020

Mexico City, from all water to asphalt only

Ciudad de México, de todo agua a sólo asfalto


Mexico City It is many things. Among other, a
megalopolis that sinks. Literally.

Populated by millions of people – Today exceeds 20 – the Mexican capital is admired by many as the place of creation of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, of the muralism that never ceases to surprise and a food that is passionate, of a revolution that marks the steps of the country and an immeasurable urbanism. Often, in negative.

The Popocatépetl volcano seen from the Mexican capital

The Popocatépetl volcano seen from the Mexican capital
(benedek / Getty)






Any aerial image makes it clear that the formerly known as DF (by Federal District, a term now disappeared) gathers thousands of houses, sometimes ordered one after the other, and sometimes in disorderly illegal settlements; on some occasion (more often than a priori may seem) among a green leafy. All of them decorated by mountains that give rise to the Mexico's valley and with the active Popocatépetl volcano as the main 'star' in the more than close horizon.

A megacity that sits largely on the old lake of Texcoco, epicenter of the disappeared Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán and natural wonder of which today there is hardly a memory, in the limits of the international airport.

The rest are houses, streets, squares, park and more houses.

The Great Tenochtitlan in 1519, by Luis Covarrubias (1964)

The Great Tenochtitlan in 1519, by Luis Covarrubias (1964)
(INAH-National Museum of Anthropology)

To think of the lakes of the Valley of Mexico is to return to the past of Spain. To the discovery of America. To the conquest of Mexico. To the reform of the capital of an old empire under the new guidelines, coming from beyond the Caribbean.





Where today is located the center of the capital, the Zócalo, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace and the vestiges of the Templo Mayor, yesterday there was barely a smoldering embers of earth and fresh water; walkways that linked the banks of the lake with the inhabited center; the image of a Tenochtitlan that observes the richness of living -for its security- as an island, close to sometimes sweet lagoons, but others of brackish water -and hence the salt industry of the past.

Overview of Mexico City from the Colonia Nápoles and the WTC

Overview of Mexico City from the Colonia Nápoles and the WTC
(ANDRES MALLEN / Getty)

In the prehispanic era artificial islands were expanded to expand crops. With the arrival of Hernán Cortés and New Spain, the drainage went further. The consequence: the extension of a rich and prosperous city on an unstable terrain. Today the buildings sink. The Metropolitan Cathedral leans when so many other buildings are hypersensitive to the very usual earthquakes. Hardly anything remains of the lagoon. The beautiful buildings of the Hispanic era stand out. Rectilinear. Colorful Heavy. And suffered.





General view of Mexico City in 1628, by Juan Gómez de Trasmonte

General view of Mexico City in 1628, by Juan Gómez de Trasmonte
(Museum of the City of Mexico)

According to the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico (Conacyt), the east area where the airfield is sinks between 20 and 24 centimeters per year, the historic center between 5 and 7 centimeters, the western zone of the Angel of Independence and Chapultepec about 2.5. And there is more. In specific areas it is spoken of up to 40 centimeters per year or 14 meters in the last 150 years. With consequences, often, unforeseen. For example, that the new buildings well settled on rocky piles will 'rise' with respect to those that surround them. Or that beautiful houses and mansions suffer from deformations.

From the Aztec islets (chinanpas) one went to a city settled on watery terrain. The continuous floods led to the desiccation of the lake. From there to a greater city, greater need for water and greater drainage. The vast and clayey terrain did and still does the rest.

The trajineras in the channels of Xochimilco, CDMX

The trajineras in the channels of Xochimilco, CDMX
(Orbon Alija / Getty)






Because just as there is no tourist in the city who does not try to enjoy a trajinera ride through the lake and the channels of Xochimilco, to the south of the city, there are few who, on the contrary, remember that the current green exception of Mexico City, full of color, nature and history, dedicated to leisure and which is reached after hours of travel from downtown in the modern metro and then tram or after kilometric jams by car, is just a sample of what is 500 years ago …

There have been attempts to correct the inevitable. It was proposed by Benito Juárez. It followed the Mexican Revolution at the beginning of the 20th century. Continue in the public debate today. They seek to strengthen the foundations. Take back some of the green and blue past the current asphalt. Although without apparent result. Still.

Coyoacán, Mexico City

Coyoacán, Mexico City
(Starcevic / Getty)








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