Once called Tenochtitlan, Mexico City was founded in 1325 A.D. by the Aztecs. Represented by the Coat of Arms of Mexico, the symbol represents a Mexican Golden Eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus with a snake clutched in its talons and beak. While the symbolism is widely debated on what its meaning entails, some say the snake represents the enemies of Mexico, and the Eagle represents the Mexican people ready to take on any challenger who would hope to hurt their homeland. Whatever the exact meaning may be, the symbol is born in the founding of Tenochtitlan.
And much as the origin of the Coat of Arms is up for debate, so too is the story behind the founding of Tenochtitlan. The version commonly accepted comes from archaeological and historical records; however there exists a mythic version told through the generations that starts with a city on the lake called Aztlan, and involves a trek of many miles through commandments given by the god, Huitzilopochtli. The journey took many centuries with many stops in places that were believed to be “the promised land,” but it wasn’t until the people found what is now known as modern day Mexico City, that they were able to plant their roots.
Today, Mexico City is home to nearly 9 million inhabitants, and the country is one of the most frequently visited in the world. Among the most sought-after tourist attractions are the Mesa-America ruins, mostly found in the central and southern portions of the nation. These ruins are the former home to civilizations such as the Mayans, Aztecs and Olmecs, and are hotbeds of cultural history for tourists and archaeologists alike. Teotihuacan is the closest to Mexico City, a pre-Colombian Mesoamerican city located in the Basin of Mexico, about 30 miles from its capital. The name roughly translates to “birthplace of the gods,” so perhaps it is fitting that Huitzilopochtli would direct his followers to Tenochtitlan start their new civilization.
And while the ruins are some of the most captive reasons to visit any Latin-American country, Mexico also boasts beautiful, more modern architecture. The Chapultepec Castle sits upon a hill that was sacred for Aztecs and its uses were varied over the centuries. One of only two royal castles in the Americas used to house sovereigns, it was built during the Colonial period in the late 18th Century. The castle was abandoned during the Mexican War of Independence for over 20 years beginning in 1810, and it was lost again to the infidels during the Mexican-American war in 1847. The castle held great sway over the Americans though, and its reverence is forever preserved in the “Marine’s Hymn.”
And of course, there is even more modern architecture than that in Mexico City, just in case history doesn’t strike your fancy. Mexico City is home to Estadio Azteca, the fifth largest stadium in the world, home of the national team and club soccer team called Club America. Built in the 1960’s in anticipation of hosting the 1968 Olympics, it was also home-base for the 1986 World Cup. Soccer, or football, is the sport of preference south of our border, and they have great pride over their squad. Although they had a trying qualification period, the nation has high hopes for El Tri in 2014.