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Chapultepec, Bosque de

Chapultepec, Bosque de

Bosque de Chapultepec, a centrally located park in Mexico City and the oldest recreational space in the Americas. The park takes its name from the hill called Chapulín on which Chapultepec Castle was constructed in the 1780s. In the park are found the presidential residence (Los Pinos), the National Museum of Anthropology, the Tamayo Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Auditorium, a renovated zoo, athletic fields, recreational areas, and several lakes. It was once a forest of giant cypress (ahuehuete), but these have almost disappeared due to the loss of lands that surrounded their marshy habitat.

In about 1250 a roving tribe of Aztecs settled in Chapultepec. Upon gaining power in the Valley of Mexico and consolidating Tenochtitlán as the capital of their confederacy with Texcoco and Tlacopán, they made it a sacred place and alternative residence of their emperors. Nezahualcóyotl, king of Texcoco, designed it as a park in about 1450 and constructed an aqueduct that supplied drinking water first to Tenochtitlán and later to the colonial city. It is believed that the hill was the burying place of the Aztec emperors, some of whose effigies are preserved as rock carvings.

During the siege of 1521, Chapultepec was heroically defended by the Aztecs. Hernán Cortés added it to his possessions. Carlos V took it from Cortés's estate and gave it back to Mexico City. The viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez began construction of the castle as a summer residence in 1786 and had finished a great part of it the following year when he died. It was finished in 1842, when the Military Academy occupied it. During the battle for the capital in 1847, 200 cadets defended it to the death against the forces of Winfield Scott. Maximilian and Carlota made the castle their imperial palace from 1864–1867. Porfirio Díaz divided it for use as the presidential residence, often called El Alcázar, and the Military Academy. Almost every postrevolutionary president resided in it until Lázaro Cárdenas moved to Los Pinos in 1936. In 1944 the castle was opened as the National Museum of History.

Between 1898 and 1910 the ancient forest was converted to a French park in the style of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. From that time until the completion of the subway in 1969 it was the preferred promenade of the middle class. Today it is overwhelmed by the public for recreation. Visits are free, and each week more than 1.5 million people pass through it. The construction of freeways and public buildings around its perimeter has caused the park to suffer devastating consequences. Lying in the middle of a city of 20 million inhabitants, with an excessive number of factories and automobiles, it shows evidence of damage from pollution. As an attempt to alleviate this problem, the central part has been closed to vehicular traffic. The zoo is one of the only one in the world where pandas and sea lions have reproduced in captivity.

See alsoMexico City .


Most books about Mexico City discuss Chapultepec as well. See, for example, Jonathan Kandell, La Capital (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Aguilar, Miguel Angel, Amparo Sevilla, and Abilio Vergara Figueroa, eds. La ciudad desde sus lugares: Trece ventanas etnográficas para una metropolis. México: Miguel Angel Porrua: CONACULTA, Culturas Populares e Indígenas: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Iztapalapa, 2001.

Cueva, Hermilo de la. Chapultepec, biografía de un bosque. México, D.F.: Libro Mex, 1957.

Fernández, Miguel Angel. Documentos para la historia de Chapultepec. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2001.

Novo, Salvador. Los paseos de la Ciudad de México. México: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1974.

                                      J. E. Pacheco

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