Mexican author Ángeles González Gamio lectured on the history of Mexico City at the Instituto Cervantes in London
Mexico City, the country’s economic, industrial and cultural centre, represents the second largest metropolitan area in the world with a population of more than19 million people. Ángeles González Gamio, who has written several books on the history of the capital, made the perfect fit for this passionate introduction, taking the audience on a historical tour of the city in her lecture last Thursday.
With Mexico City’s buildings breathing history, there was a lot to say about its architecture. According to Ángeles, the building structure reflects the mentality of the city which has seen many different rulers and cultures in the course of its history. Interestingly, the huge metropolis used to be a small settlement in a valley surrounded by several lakes. It was originally called Teotihuacán and stood between the lakes. Later, the Aztecs would install their empire on the lake’s shores. They managed to create an effective system of dams and canals. When the Spaniards arrived (mistaken for the god Quetzalcóatl and his people, therefore warmly welcomed by the Aztecs), they were amazed by the beauty of the city’s fertile gardens, canals and temples. History shows that they took it over brutally and began to build a Spanish city they called Mexico. The colonial rulers brought wealth to the capital and started building an impressive city. Its architecture became renowned by the eighteenth century. It was in no way inferior to what the best of Europe had to offer.
When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, the cut with the Spanish mentality was also mirrored in its buildings. The Mexicans started looking towards France and imitating their architecture. The 19th century was generally chaotic, with the Mexican rulers trying to curb the power of the Catholic Church and by the twentieth century Mexico City had become a modern city.
In 1910 the social movement changed Mexico’s way of thinking. The result was a new nationalist feeling with the aim of recovering the indigenous heritage. As a consequence, art became accessible to everybody, Mexican music emerged and a Neo-colonial and Art Deco style started to appear in the city.
Ángeles completed her historical tour by showing pictures of her favourite spots managing to transmit her passion for Mexico City to the audience, making it a very insightful evening. Later, the lecture was nicely brought to an end with original Mexican beer, courtesy of the Mexican embassy.
By Julia Sahm