Av. Hidalgo s/n, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06010 Ciudad de México, CDMX
Right next to the imposing Bellas Artes building is a park that merits its own special visit, it’s the oldest public park in the American continent as a matter of fact, with 400 years of history under its belt it used to be the recreational site for the colonial aristocracy and remains to this day one of Mexico City’s most beautiful public parks and a true shelter from the noisy surrounding streets in the heart of downtown. The Alameda’s location is so centric, that any of its surrounding streets has also something interesting to see, on its northern border is Hidalgo street where you can find the Franz Meyer Museum, dedicated to the decorative arts from the 1500s to the 1800s; to the east is, of course, Bellas Artes; to the south is Juárez st. and the entrance to the Memory and Tolerance Museum; and finally on its western border, Calle Dr. Mora, there is the Mural Museum Diego Rivera, just one block away from Dr. Mora.
The Alameda is symmetrically crisscrossed by pathways, each one culminating in ornate French-style fountains. The pathways are surrounded by ash, chestnut, and willow trees; originally they were álamos (poplar trees) and that’s where the place took its name from. The Alameda Central as a thriving green space within a large city was an inspiration for William Cullen Bryant, editor of the New York Evening Post, who was instrumental in the creation of Manhattan’s Central Park in the 1840s and was inspired after a trip to Mexico City and the Alameda.
Sculptures and fountains adorn the park, but none is probably more significant than the Hemiciclo a Juárez, a hemicycle dedicated to former president Benito Juárez and his reforms in 1857 to the constitution that would permanently define Mexico as a federal republic. The hemicycle is designed in a neo-classical style and features marble Doric columns, the whole thing is made of Carrara marble as a matter of fact. Right behind president Juárez are two women representing: country and law. Marble is a predominant material throughout the Alameda as a matter of fact, in 2012 the pathways of the park were refurbished in white and gray Santo Tomás marble, which gives it a special feeling when you’re strolling along, your leisurely walk feels a tad more classy in a way. This new floor looks great on a cool cloudy day, it should be noted.
The restoration cost $20 million dollars and it feels like it, also vendors were removed from the place and relocated to another part of the city. The park is now what it originally was, a place to relax and walk around (even though, ironically for the vendors, the Aztecs used it originally as a large market). Any which way the Alameda Central retains that same vibe from the past captured perfectly in Diego Rivera’s mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central” (you can see the mural yourself at the Mural Museum Diego Rivera), where the history of Mexico passes from left to right inside the mural, and a young Diego is in the center holding hands with a Catrina (his wife Frida Kahlo stands behind me) they all stand at the Alameda Central.