Plaza de las Tres Culturas

Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas S/N, Tlatelolco, Cuauhtémoc, 06900 Ciudad de México, CDMX

Just north of the historic center of Mexico City, there’s a place that blends the three separate identities of Mexico into one single plaza. At the Plaza de las Tres Culturas (“Plaza of the Three Cultures”) three eras come together: The indigenous pre-Columbine, the colonial, and the post-independence. Tlatelolco was a city founded 13 years after Tenochtitlán by the Mexicas, the people who populated the Valley of Mexico in the XIII century, the inhabitants of Tlatelolco were called Tlatelolcas and had a contentious relationship with the inhabitants of the Great Tenochtitlán. The city was eventually razed by the Spanish conquistadors. The site is now the Tlatelolco Archeological Site and includes the ruins of some of its temples, like the one dedicated to Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, the god of wind; as well as one dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and the sun. In 1473 Tlatelolco had a great war with neighboring Tenochtitlán and many victims were slain, a burial containing 50 of these victims was found, including a couple embracing themselves, he was 50 she was 35, these two embracing skeletons can also be seen at the site and are called the “Lovers of Tlatelolco”.

The Entry is free if you want to see the ruins, and there’s a small museum that tells their history which charges $20 pesos for entry.

On top of the demolished Mexica ruins is the church of Santiago Apóstol which was built in 1521, the Spanish conquistadors literally used the same stones of the destroyed Tlatelolco temples to build it. It was their intent to vanish any remnants of the fallen culture and replace it with their own beliefs. Between 1536 and 1566 it was the Colegio de la Santa Cruz, considered to be the oldest European school of higher learning in the Americas. On the southern edge of the square is the building that used to be the headquarters of the Mexican foreign ministry, which since has moved into a newer building in downtown Mexico City.

This square that holds such rich history also witnessed one of the saddest events in the city’s history, as it was the site where military forces released fire on hundreds of unarmed civil protestors, many of which were students, in 1968 leading up to the Mexico City Olympic Games. The Mexican government was adamant in repressing political and social opposition, especially with the upcoming Olympics about to go underway and they unleashed violent measures against dissidents. Today a memorial stele stands in the plaza, dedicated to the massacre victims of Tlatelolco.


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