Mexico, a city and the capital of the republic and of the federal district (area, 85 sq. m.) of Mexico, situated in the centre of the valley of Mexico, and in the great central table land of the country, at an elevation of 7,469 ft. above the sea, according to Humboldt, or 7,602 ft. by Talcott's measurement; lat. 19° 26'N., Ion. 99° 7' W.; pop. according to an official return in 1869, 200,000; according to later authorities, about 250,000. Of the natives, the whites are the least numerous element, the mestizos and pure-blooded Indians forming by far the largest proportion; and there are besides many Germans, trench, Italians, Spaniards, and other Europeans, with some Americans. The Germans are either manufacturers or brewers or are engaged in the higher branches of commerce; the French and Spaniards are mostly retailers, the former dealing in articles of fancy and luxury; the English are for the most part bankers, or, like the Americans, are connected with mechanical and engineering enterprises. The various public vendors, muleteers, water carriers, domestics, etc, are commonly Indians or mestizos. Beggars are extremely numerous, and the ragged vagrants are called Uperos or lepers.
Mexico ranks among the largest cities in the western hemisphere, and, with its steeples, towers, and domes, presents, from whatever direction approached, an aspect of grandeur and magnificence unsurpassed by any in the world. It is divided into 8 cuarteles may ores or large wards and 32 smaller, comprising 245 blocks or squares of houses, 330 streets, and 130 callejones or lanes. The streets are wide and straight, crossing each other at right angles, well paved, lighted with gas, and furnished with spacious sidewalks, a feature rarely met with in Spanish-American towns. The houses, especially in the central and W. portions, are mostly of three stories, strongly built of stone, often painted in brilliant colors, and having a balcony before every window. Mexico is lavishly supplied with public squares, the finest of which is the plaza de Armas, in the middle of the town; the centre is laid out in a garden with flower beds, shady trees, and benches, and a band is in attendance almost every evening. The plaza is 810 ft. long by 600 ft. wide. On the N. side, occupying the site of the ancient Aztec pyramid and teocalli, stands the cathedral, a majestic edifice, though the architecture is an irregular mixture of the Gothic and Italian styles.
The front is decorated with carving, and there are two lofty towers ornamented with statues. The interior is rich and gorgeous, and the numerous crucifixes, candlesticks, reliquaries, etc, of gold and silver adorned with jewels, are said to be of immense value. In the vaulted roofing is a much admired painting by Juneiro. The cathedral is 500 ft. long by 420 broad. It was founded in 1573 under the auspices of Charles V. and Pope Clement VII., and completed in 1667. The E. side of the plaza is occupied by the government house, containing the president's apartments, the various government offices, the chamber of representatives, and the ambassadors' hall with full-length portraits of several Mexican patriots, headed by a magnificent one of Washington. To the government house are attached several courtyards and a botanic garden; this edifice, erected in 1693, stands upon the spot occupied by the palace originally constructed by Cortes for himself, and which, until its destruction by fire at the hands of the populace in 1692, had successively served as the residence of 30 viceroys.
Facing the cathedral is the cabildo or city hall, in which is contained the merchants' exchange; and on the same side is the portal de losflores, an extensive arcade, similar to the portal de mercadores, which flanks the W. side of the plaza, and before the numerous and showy shops in which are spread to view on stalls endless varieties of filigree work in gold and silver, and other ornamental articles. On the plaza de Santo Domingo are three noteworthy edifices: the convent of the same name, remarkable for its handsome chapel, the old inquisition building, now the school of medicine, and the custom house. Other celebrated churches of Mexico are those of San Fernando, Loreto, Encarnacion, Jesus Maria, the chapel of Santa Teresa with a superb cypress in marble, and that of the Concepcion, all celebrated for the beauty of their architecture or their gorgeous and costly decorations. Mexico includes 14 parishes. Eight convents and 21 nunneries which were suppressed by President Juarez's reform law of July 12, 1859, have since been converted into school houses.
In the mint were coined, from 1690 to 1853, $1,702,650,087; and the gold and silver coinage in 1867 amounted to $4,304,-313 95. The national museum, on the N. side of the government palace, contains one of the finest and most extensive collections of paintings in America; and in the school of fine arts are preserved rare specimens of sculpture, painting, engraving, and design. In the courtyard of the national museum are exposed a circular monolith calendar attesting the high degree of civilization attained by the Toltecs, whose year almost exactly coincided with the Julian year; a ponderous statue of Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of Avar, bearing no semblance of human form or feature, but being a fantastic and heterogeneous grouping of death's heads, hands interlaced, snakes, feathers, etc.; a sacrificial stone; and a number of idols and other minor relics from various parts of the country. Two other handsome piles arc the post office and the hotel Itur-bide. the latter having been for a short sea-sou the residence of Agustin I. The principal promenade is the Alameda, shaded with stately beeches, embellished with nine fountains and eleven glorietas or summer houses, and tastefully laid out in spacious walks.
This is a favorite resort on Sunday mornings, when a regimental band plays for two hours. Other pas, ns are those of the Viga, extending along the canal of that name, on which has been erected a colossal bust of Guatemozin, the last emperor of the Aztecs; and the paseo de Bucareli, with a superb bronze equestrian statue of Charles IV., modelled by Manuel Tolsa. - In 1874 Mexico had 218 public schools, 77 of which were for females and 48 for both sexes; the average attendance was 10,915. These schools include the escuela preparatories, formerly the college of San Ildefonso (under the rectorship of Seilor Lerdo de Tejada till 1872), the schools of jurisprudence, medicine, agriculture, engineering, fine arts, commerce, arts and trades, deaf and dumb, and those sustained by the municipal government and the Lancasterian company, one or two by private individuals, and a number by benevolent societies. The school of engineering has a fine collection of specimens in natural history, and a cabinet of mineralogy. The philharmonic society, with a subsidy from the government, supports a musical conservatory for both sexes. There are also a seminary for the education of priests, a school for the blind, and a night school for adults.
The public has access to two libraries: the gran bihlioteca national, with upward of 100,000 volumes, and the bibli-otica popular del cinco de Mayo. There exist in Mexico 21 societies, scientific, artistic, or commercial, including the geographical and statistical society, and the Humboldt society of natural history. The theatres are much more numerous than beautiful or commodious, and with a circus are the only public places of amusement in Mexico, the bull ring having been demolished in 1874. The city supports five hospitals, an insane asylum for males and one for females, and a house of correction. Two institutions of comparatively recent foundation take can- of young children during the day, in order to leave their mothers at liberty to work. The principal cemeteries hitherto in use are now dosed, being within the municipal hunts; their place has been supplied by the general cemeteries of La Piedad and Campo Honda, the trench, and the Protestant cemeteries. There are four very good markets, constants storked with an abundance of the productions of all the zones. All the fruits and vegetables generally regarded elsewhere as deli-cacies here conic to market every day in the year and the supply of tropical fruits is inexhaustible.
Most of the vegetables and fruits are grown upon the chinampas or so-called floating islands on Lake Tezcuco, and brought to market in boats by the canal de la Viga; and prodigious quantities of flowers of most brilliant colors and most fragrant odors are daily brought to the city in the same way. A new abattoir was erected in 1874, at a cost of $500,000. The water supply reaches the town by two aqueducts of monumental proportions, one bringing acjua gorda (thick water) from Chapultepec, and the other agua delgada (light water) from the southwest. - The climate is mild, equable, and very salubrious; the mean annual temperature is 70°. The more common diseases are pneumonia, dysentery, and diarrhoea, and the average mortality is about 3 per cent, of the population. - The chief occupations of the inhabitants are agriculture, the manufacture of paper, earthenware, cotton, woollen, and silk fabrics, the preparation of tobacco, and the importation of the various products of the adjoining states and of manufactured goods, wines, etc, from Europe, the United States, and the West Indies, especially the island of Cuba. The chief financial institutions are the bank of London, Mexico, and South America, and numerous private banking houses; a government pawn office, with branches in several parts of the city; and 18 lotteries, with an aggregate risk capital of nearly $2,-500,000, and paying a mean annual license of $150,000 to the central government.
The chief places of interest in the vicinity are Guadalupe Hidalgo, Tlalpan, San Angel, Mixcoac, Coyoa-can, Atzcapozalco, Churubusco, Tacuba, Taeu-baya, noted for its handsome private houses, and Papotla and Chapultepec. Almost all these places are reached by railway (with steam or horse power) or omnibus from Mexico, which is likewise connected by railway with Puebla, Orizaba, Cordova, and Vera Cruz; and a line is in process of construction to Toluca. - Mexico owes its chief historical interest to its situation upon the site of the ancient city, the capital of the Montezumas. The Aztecs or ancient Mexicans, after their migration from the north, wandered for a long time in the Mexican valley, till in 1325 they halted on the S. W. borders of the lake of Tezcuco, and there beheld an eagle perched on the stem of a nopal, and devouring a serpent. An oracle having announced the omen as auspicious, and as indicating the site of their future metropolis, they founded it upon the islets of Lake Tezcuco, calling the place Tenochtitlan, "nopal on a stone," in allusion to the omen.
Its name of Mexico was subsequently derived from that of their god Mexitli. By the middle of the 15th century the city had become large and prosperous, and in place of reeds and rushes were substituted stone and lime; and when on the evening of Nov. 7, 151!), its long lines of glittering edifices first met the eyes of Cortes and his followers, it looked, says Prescott, like a thing of fairy creation rather than the work of mortal hands. On their entry into Mexico next day the Spaniards found fresh cause for admiration in the grandeur of the city and the superior style of its architecture. The city was 9 m. in circumference, and the number of its houses was about 60,000, and of inhabitants probably 500,000. Though a few of the streets were wide and of great length, most of them were narrow and lined with mean houses. The large streets were intersected by numerous canals crossed by bridges. The palace of Montezuma, near the centre of the city, was a pile of low irregular stone buildings of vast extent. Another palace, assigned to Cortes on his entrance into the city, was so large as to accommodate his whole army.
But the most remarkable edifice of the city was the great teocalli or temple, completed in 1486. It was encompassed by a stone wall about 8 ft. high, ornamented on the outer side by figures of serpents in basso-rilievo, and pierced on its four sides by gateways opening on the four principal streets. Over each gate was an arsenal, and barracks near the temple were garrisoned by 10,000 soldiers. The temple itself was a solid pyramidal structure of earth and pebbles, coated externally with hewn stones. It was square, its sides facing the cardinal points, and was divided into live stories, each of which receded so as to be smaller than that below it. The ascent was by a flight of 114 steps on the outside, so contrived that to reach the top it was necessary to pass four times round the whole edifice; and the base of the temple is supposed to have been 300 ft. square. The summit was a large area paved with broad flat stones. On it were two towers or sanctuaries, and before each was an altar on which a fire was kept continually burning. The top of this remarkable structure commanded a superb view of the city, lake, valley, and surrounding mountains. The police of the city was efficient and vigilant; and 1,000 men were daily employed in watering and sweeping the streets.
As the lake that surrounded the city was extremely brackish, pure water for the supply of the people was brought by an aqueduct from the neighboring hill of Chapultepec, where Montezuma had a summer palace surrounded by vast and magnificent gardens. In the final siege by the Spaniards, Cortes, despairing of otherwise subduing a place where every house was a fortress and every street was cut up by canals, reluctantly determined to destroy the city, which he calls "the most beautiful thing in the world." With the aid of his multitudinous Indian allies, whose hatred of the Aztecs led them to work with zeal, in a few weeks seven eighths of the city was levelled to the ground, and the canals filled with the rubbish. Soon after the termination of the siege Cortes began to rebuild the city on its present plan, assembling for the work a host of Indians, estimated by a Mexican writer at 400,000. During its occupation by the Spaniards, from 1521 to 1821, the most remarkable events in the local history of Mexico were five great inundations in 1553, 1580, 1604, 1607, and 1629, caused by the overflowing of the neighboring lakes.
To prevent the recurrence of these inundations a great drain was dug through the hill of Nochistango, by which the waters of the river Cuautitlan were led out of the valley instead of falling into the lake of Tezcuco. This work, which was completed in 1789, after more than 100 years of labor, is about 12 m. long, from 100 to 130 ft. deep, and between 200 and 300 ft. wide. Since the establishment of Mexican independence, the city has been the scene of several revolutions and insurrections, and a number of important battles have been fought in the vicinity, the most noted being those of Contreras and Churubusco, Aug. 20, 1847, and of Chapultepec, Sept. 13, fought between the American army under Gen. Scott, and the Mexican army under Gen. Santa Anna. After this battle the Americans occupied the city, and held it until the ratification of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in May, 1848.
Plaza do Annas, Mexico.