de las Tres Culturas
On the road to the Basilica de la Guadalupe, you
could stop at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas (between avenue
Flores Magon and Manuel Gonzales). It is both an old and new place.
The plaza has been laid out in the seventies as part of the general
plan of urban renovation. But the site, from an historic point of
view, is one of the most venerable of the city. At the time of the
Aztecs, it was the center of Tlatelolco, where lived, at the origin,
a community different from the one of Tenochtitlán (Aztec
name of Mexico City).
This riparian city, an isolated small state, was
annexed by Axayacatl, father of Moctezuma II, in 1473 and when the
Spaniards arrived it was a trade center. You could see, nowadays,
the vestiges of a pyramid. It is there where the Aztecs were defeated
for the last time. And it where was achieved in 1609 the Church
of Santiago Tlatelolco, one of the first Christian sanctuary of
New Spain. They used stones from the demolished Aztec constructions.
The Aztec and colonial cultures are mixed on this place. At the
right of the church, the old Franciscan monastery was the first
college for young noble Indians where they were taught history,
philosophy and Latin.
In brief, this place embodies 3 important stages of Mexican History
: The pre-Hispanic,
colonial and contemporary periods with, side by side, the Aztec
pyramids of Tlatelolco, the convent and church of Santiago from
the seventeenth century and the modern building of the Foreign Ministry.
The visit of the archaeological zone is free (open daily 8AM-6PM).
Everyone remembers the troubles on the Plaza of the three cultures
in 1968, on the eve of the Olympic Games. The students of Mexico
City were protesting and the troops were by the side to maintain
order when gun shots blew up. The officer in charge of the operations
felt first. During the following hours, there were dozens of injured
and killed. Mexicans would like to forget such an incident.
To go there, take the metro until the station
"Tlatelolco", exit on the place with the same name, cross
a playground and follow the "Portico Rodrigo Caso" to
walk under the avenue Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas.
For more information, log on to the site : www.conaculta.gob.mx
October 12 : Dia de la Raza ; this day commemorates the
discovery of America by Christopher Columbus from the Mexican point
of view. This annual holiday shows the obsession of the Mexicans
for their double origin, Indian and European. There is a very big
celebration on this place.
Basilica de Guadalupe
The first chock for the new comer is the ardor of the pilgrims of
the Basilica de Guadalupe (open daily 7AM-9PM). Chapel of Tepeyac,
colonial basilica, contemporary basilica : the site of the Guadalupe
is a pilling up of religious monuments combining the actual gigantism
of cultural art with the most delicious edifice of Hispano-Mexicana
The Basilica Guadalupe is, without doubt, the most important sanctuary
in contemporary Mexico. It is the
second most visited basilica after the Vatican.
The devotion to the « black virgin of Guadalupe
» is so big that Mexicans themselves say they are «
Guadalupanos » before being catholic. This devotion
shows with the long walks on knees to the entrance of the basilica
praying or reading the bible. It could take 2 hours. The atmosphere
is unique, full of ardor and prayers. Once inside the cathedral,
people are in line to kneel in front of the picture of the virgin
The legend says that, in 1531, an Indian, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin,
saw the Virgin at the top of the hill. To convince the skeptical
bishop, the Virgin came back and printed her image on Juan’s
cloak. The cloak is now piously kept in a sanctuary. Reproductions
with her effigy are omnipresent in homes, stores, offices, autobus,
trucks, taxis and peseros (minibuses). Our lady of Guadalupe
is venerated not only like the Virgin but also like the good angel
of Mexicans and Indians.
During his fifth visit to Mexico, in July 2002,
Pope John Paul the second canonized Juan Diego, which became the
first Indian Saint in the Christian calendar. On December 12, anniversary
of the day of the second apparition of the Virgin, thousands of
pilgrims met at the basilica in an atmosphere of feast. On the square
of the church, diverse fraternal societies perform dances, among
them the famous dance of the Concheros.
the Guadalupe, on Sunday morning, it is also for the stranger, a
big emotion : From everywhere in the country, in the continent,
all the social classes rush on the moving walkway that passes in
front of the Patron Saint of Indian America, Christianized because
of her appearance to the most humble farmer. You could meet men
and women from the other part of the country, crossing the vast
place on their knees to the basilica. You could see corteges of
people carrying on their shoulders stacks of flowers and fruits
set in triumphal arches. With the banners, songs and hymns, the
devotion for Guadalupe has an air of permanent crusade where are
mixed the primitive Indian cults and a Christianity from the nineteenth
It is on behalf of the Guadalupe that the guerillas of the "Division
del Norte" of Pancho
Villa assaulted the troops of the oligarchy of Porfirio
during the revolution of 1910 : the silhouette of the Virgin was
on the armored wagons of the revolution; It is shouting the name
of Guadalupe that the revolutionary peons of Zapata
died while demanding the land reform. The cult of the Guadalupe
is still very active in Central America. Even in the smallest village,
candles and light bulbs are glowing on every altar celebrating the
mother of every Mexican. It is strange in this lay country which
proclaims the separation of Church and State (metro: Basilica).
The Museo de la Basilica de Guadalupe (open 10AM-5:30PM Tue-Sun,
$3) is located in an annex of the old basilica. You can admire religious
paintings and offerings and ex-voto religion left by the believers
over the centuries.
Close by the basilica, is the baroque chapel of
the Pocito (chapel of the little well) built in the eighteenth century
(open 6AM-8PM) at the exact place where a miraculous source appeared.
(It is dry right now). The water of this source was supposed having
miraculous powers. The chapel has a dome covered with blue and white
tiles (azulejos). The walls are in cut stones, volcanic
rocks. Inside, there are little scenes with angels in pastel colors.
At the top of the Tepeyac Hill, the chapel of the
Roses is built where Juan Diego had his first vision.
You have a panoramic view of the city from the Capilla del Cerrito
(Hill Chapel). The Tepeyac gardens are very pleasant and offer a
nice general view. There are bronze Indians bringing gifts to the
Virgin and San Diego. Many Mexicans enjoy this garden.
Log on to the site : www.virgendeguadalupe.org.mx
Take the metro to the station "La Villa". From here, you’ll
see the basilica and will reach it crossing a market with religious
objects set on both sides of the street.
The Avenida Insurgentes (29 km), even less refined than the Paseo
de la Reforma, is a magnificent arterial street that crosses
the city from north to south. It is the second arterial street that
goes through the heart of the city. Towards north, the avenue leads
to the basilica of Guadalupe and, towards south, it leads to the
arenas, the Plaza Mexico (the biggest bullring), the colonial villages
San Angel and Coyoacán,
the University City and the Olympic stadium.
When its name becomes Avenida Insurgentes Sur, it crosses
the most pleasant part if the city. It is lined by tall buildings,
among them the huge hotel of Mexico (World Trade
Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros
The Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros is a kind of
temple of arts, which Siqueiros adorned with audacity on every wall
and ceiling. The fresco, « the March of Humanity »,
is a combined sculpture and painting of 2500 m2 in three dimensions,
made of metal and acrylic over asbestos cement. It is called polyforum
because it surrounds a theater, an art gallery and an exhibit of
popular art. It opened in 1971. It is officially a cultural center
but it appears like the personal museum of the the artist. There
is a sound and light show on weekends.
de los Insurgentes
Going south, you discover the Teatro de los
Insurgentes, with a big mosaic due to Diego Rivera, telling
the history of Mexico through the portraits of
his great men. You can especially admire the character of Cantinflas,
national hero of the popular comedy. Rivera drew him as the Christ
in the center of the mural, giving the wealth of the rich to the
City map :
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