Mexico City (Spanish: Ciudad de México) is the federal capital of, and largest city in, Mexico. It geographically spans the north portion of the Distrito Federal ("D.F."), although the metropolitan area extends to the state of México to the north of the Federal District, and to the state of Hidalgo. According to government statistics Mexico City is the largest most populous conurbation in North America, and third in the world, after Tokyo, and Sao Paulo, with approximately 22.1 million people. Though its urban area is the third most populous in the world, what is officially known as Mexico City (under the limits of the Federal District) is the most populous city in the world; that is, the greatest number of people governed by one mayor.
Mexico City is centered at geographic coordinates in south central Mexico. Greater Mexico City forms a rough ellipse 40 km (24.9 mi.) east to west and 60 km (37.3 mi.) north to south and has a total area of approximately 5,000 km² (1,391 mi.²), making the urban area one of the largest in the world.
The city's average elevation is 2,240 metres (7,349 feet) above sea level.
View of the Cathedral on the Zócalo, c. 1900
For the Pre-Columbian history of the city, see: Tenochtitlan.
Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés first arrived in the area, then the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, in 1519, but did not succeed in conquering the city until August 13, 1521, after long fierce fighting that destroyed most of the old Aztec city.
The city served as the capital of the viceroyalty of New Spain from c. 1525 to the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1810, and of the various Mexican states afterwards.
Most of Mexico City's growth 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.
The city hosted the 1968 Summer Olympics.
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
A view along Paseo de la Reforma, a 12-km-long avenue in Mexico City showing the Torre Mayor
, the tallest skyscraper in Latin America at 225m
Famous in Mexico City include the Zócalo, the main central square with its Spanish Cathedral and Aztec ruins; the wide elegant avenues of Paseo de la Reforma and Insurgentes ; Chapultepec, a hill with a palace museum on top surrounded by a park with many attractions; the National Museum of Anthropology , the Bellas Artes Fine Arts Palace, 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, there are murals by Diego Rivera. He and his wife Frida Kahlo lived in the southern suburb of Coyoacán. Nearby was the house of Leon Trotsky, where he was murdered.
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 the 1960s. 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) and Tokyo's (5.9 million). It is heavily subsidized, and it is one of the cheapest in the world, each trip costing around USD 0.20. 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. This are mostly managed by private companies which are allowed to operate buses as long as they adhere to certain low service quality standards. The city government also operates a network of large buses, in contrast with the privately operated microbuses, with fares equal to that of the Metro and superior service. Electric transport other than the metro also exists, in the form of trolleybuses and the Xochimilco Light Rail line. A new project is under construction to create the first dedicated lane bus, on Avenida Insurgentes, in order to reduce pollution and decrease transit time for passangers. There are plenty of lime-green colored taxi cabs, which, while occasionally unsafe, are undeniably economical.
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).
Mexico City 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.
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. The mountains 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 15 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. It is well known that one should not attract attention to oneself while strolling through “Zocalo” streets as people are targeted (particularly tourists) by the many pickpocketers, robbers and kidnappers that roam the area.
This problem is especially evident with the public transportation system. In taxis a particular problem has arisen; individuals are sometimes kidnapped by unauthorized taxi drivers, in order to empty their bank accounts through ATM machines. 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.
The astonishing kidnapping figures are mostly accounted for by cases of middle class individuals who, driving around in new cars or wearing expensive outfits, give the impression of possessing important sums of money, and are abducted (some times for several days) in order to empty their bank acounts.
However, the information concerning the crime rates of Mexico City is widely accepted to be exaggerated, mostly for political reasons. While still a very insecure place, one can live a perfectly normal life without being ever victim of crime.
It is a generalized theory among Mexican political analysts, that insecurity, not only in Mexico City, is rooted in great class-diferences that continue to grow. While some middle class individuals eventually rise to a wealthy situation, most people's income is continually decreasing, giving the average mexican the feeling that money is taken away from them so that a few individuals can buy expensive automobiles. This, based partially on reality, is a problem not only deriving from the economic system, but also from the social values which encourage wealthy individuals to display their status through posessions, rathen than invest their money in job-creating buisness.
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 it is very well known that all of the police organizations in Mexico City are corrupt one way or another. This issue reached a climax in November, 2004, when an angry crowd in Mexico City burned two undercover police officers alive  and seriously injured another after mistaking them for child kidnappers.
Due to its special situation as the home of the federal government of Mexico, the local government of Mexico City has gone through several incarnations. Since Mexico's independence, the city has sometimes had an independent local government and other times (the greater part of the 20th century) has been 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 Regente ("Regent" in English).
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 mayor (jefe de gobierno or "Head of Government") 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 City is that the current (2000-06) chief of government in the Federal District is Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD, which has a 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.
López Obrador was taken out of his duty as Chief of Government in the Federal District on April 7, 2005. With 360 votes (489 total) from the legislative assembly, he was removed because he didn't follow a judge's order to stop a road from being built. This issue has created a lot of problems in Mexico City since he is a populist leader and wants to run as a presidential candidate.
Mexico City was traditionally known as la Ciudad de los Palacios ("the City of Palaces"). Since first winning power in 1994, 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.
Mexico City is also widely known as Chilangolandia ("Chilangoland"), a vulgar name that is used by most of their inhabitants, since a person from this city is often called "Chilango"
Mexico City is divided into 16 boroughs called delegaciones, which are further divided into colonias or neighborhoods. The delegaciones are:
See also: Boroughs of the Mexican Federal District
Last updated: 10-19-2005 17:33:28