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History of Mexico within Reach of Passersby on Madero Street

By: Paula Escalada Medrano

MEXICO CITY (EFE).- The location of large colonial palaces and the site of public disturbances and demonstrations during the War for Independence and the Mexican Revolution, Francisco I. Madero Street, located in this capital's downtown, will be transformed into a pedestrian walkway so that the public can enjoy the drama of the country's rich history.

"On that street, in just four blocks, is the entire history of the country," historian Ilan Semo told Efe.

In the 17th century, Mexico City ended at the end of Madero Street, which opens onto the great plaza known as the Zocalo.

Although its current configuration is somewhat different than in earlier epochs, in the 16th century Franciscan monks built the first building in the area near the Templo Mayor plaza, the ritual center of the Aztec civilization of Tenochtitlan.

The capital's first Franciscan convent served as a point of reference for what would become Calle Plateros (Plateros Street), the original name of the avenue.

During the golden age of Spanish colonialism beautiful residences and emblematic buildings were constructed along the avenue, many of which had a number of uses during the course of history and which are preserved today.

The palace of Iturbide, which received its name from military man Agustin de Iturbide, was built in the 18th-century by a noble of the epoch.

Inside it is now a museum, the Banamex Culture Palace, which is charged with spreading Mexican popular art and, in particular, the collection of the National Bank of Mexico.

Another building of the colonial era, built in the 17th and 18th-centuries, is the Templo de la Profesa, a baroque style structure belonging to the order of San Felipe Neri and inside which the first yearnings for breaking free of Spain began to take concrete form.

But, without a doubt, one of the most emblematic buildings on the street known nowadays as Madero Street is the Palacio de los Azulejos (Palace of the Ceramic Tiles), a building that, although it was built in the 16th-century, did not attain its greatest splendor until the 1700s.

It belonged to the Valle de Orizaba counts, said Semo, but the family did not live there until the first half of the 18th-century, when the count died and his widow occupied the residence and ordered the deteriorating building restored.

It was then that its facade was covered in popular ceramic tile brought from Puebla.

The building was used in many ways and went through many hands, even becoming the headquarters of the Jockey Club, the gathering center for the Mexican elite at the end of the 19th-century.

In the 20th-century, it passed into the hands of California brothers Walter and Frank Sanborn, who converted it into a restaurant and business with all its durable charm.

The name of Francisco I. Madero comes from the epoch of the Mexican Revolution, with the political revolutionary - who was supported by Pancho Villa and was president of Mexico from 1911 to 1913 - ultimately being assassinated in 1920.

It was Villa who wanted to honor Madero by attaching his name to the street so full of Mexican political memories.

In the 20th-century, the avenue was transformed completely and modern buildings were erected there including the Guardiola and the Torre Latinoamericana (Latin American Tower), long the tallest building in Latin America.

From the tower's 183-meter (595-foot) height, one can view the full expanse of Mexico city and Madero Street with its stores and narrow sidestreets through which no traffic circulates because the remodeling work to make it into a pedestrian walkway has begun.

Alejandra Moreno, the coordinator of the Historical Center Authority, said that the decision is part of the comprehensive policy of the capital's government to make the city center accessible for the greater enjoyment of the public.

Although traffic has been complicated by the removal of the street from use, as Moreno acknowledged, construction has begun on large public parking garages and the implementation of a public transport system that will make it easy to get around without relying on automobiles. EFE

Mexico City | Ilan Semo | Zocalo | Alejandra Moreno |

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