Photo: Tom Buckley, Policia Charra
Publisher’s note – This feature was last updated in the early 2008. Major update soon.
Visitors are frequently surprised by the greenery in Alameda Park, one of the finest and most storied city parks in the world.
Cottonwood trees (alamos) were planted in the late 1500s and these trees (long gone) give park its name.
Geometric pathways are bordered by short metal fences which do a poor job of keeping people off the grass. There is great variety of trees here, and despite the smog, mornings are a good time to see some of Mexico’s bird life. The most spectacular of the trees are the jacarandas which bloom with lavender flowers in February and March.
A recent addition are the Charros, police who patrol the park on horseback.
A brief history
Mexico City’s first city park was built on the grounds of an Aztec market. Viceroy Luis de Velasco created the park in 1592, just in front of the square of the Inquisition. Initially square, the park was enlarged into a rectangular shape between 1766 and 1771.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, sculptures were installed as centerpieces to the park’s eight fountains. The most famous monument is the Hemiciclo (half-circle) which honors President Benito Juárez and is located on the park’s southern side, facing Avenida Juárez. The monument was designed by Guillermo Heredia and depicts an angel placing a laurel crown on his head. Juárez holds the Constitution of 1857 in his hands.
In the 1860s Empress Carlotta took interest in the park and in the late 1800s the park was spruced up with European statues and fountains and in 1892 the park even had electric lights. During this time the park was reserved for the aristocracy. Access was prohibited for the ‘barefoot peasants.’
The park has been so popular in Mexican folklore that many city parks take the name ‘Alameda’ in homage. Besides being a pleasant place to visit, the park features a number of monuments and museums.
On the eastern side of the park is the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), Mexico’s premier opera house. Murals and paintings by Mexicans masters are on permanent display. The center regularly showcases orchestral performances, folkloric dance and other events.
The building was designed by the Italian architect Adamo Boari in 1901 but construction was not completed until after the revolution in 1934. Bellas Artes boasts spectacular art deco interiors and an art nouveau exterior. The weight of the building is so great that it has been sinking a few centimeters yearly since the completion of its construction.
Latin America Tower
A block east of the park at the intersection of the Eje Central and Avenida Madero is the Torre Latinoamericana, open daily from 9am-10pm. Great views of the entire city are available from the observation deck on the 42nd floor. The skyscraper was built between 1948 and 1956.
Dream of a Sunday Afternoon
On the western side, a museum has been especially constructed to house the Diego Rivera mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda, which depicts key figures from Mexican history. Programs alternate between English and Spanish.
On the north side of the park is the Franz Mayer Museum located in a eighteenth-century building facing onto the Plaza de la Santa Veracruz. The museum showcases the collection of Franz Mayer, a German who adopted the Mexican nationality. The museum includes a library with a wide selection of antique and rare books, as well as eight hundred different editions of Don Quijote de la Mancha.
The Alameda Park is located in the heart of Mexico City.