Square of the Three Cultures, Mexico City Plaza de las Tres Culturas
The central feature and principal sight of this quarter is the Square of the Three Cultures (Plaza de las Tres Culturas or Plaza Santiago de Tlatelolco).The Plaza occupies roughly the same site as the main square of the pre-Columbian town of Tlatelolco, Tenochtitlán's great rival until 1473, when the Aztecs captured the town and killed its ruler by hurling him from the principal pyramid. However, Tlatelolco still remained the most important trading town in the region with a market which, according to the accounts of the conquistadors, was visited by 60,000 people every day. During the siege of Tenochtitlán by the Spaniards in 1521 Tlatelolco was the scene of the last desperate stand by the Aztecs. This event is remembered by means of a memorial tablet bearing the words "On 13 August 1521 Tlatelolco, so heroically defended by Cuauhtémoc, finally fell into the hands of Hernán Cortés. It was neither a triumph nor a defeat; it was the painful moment of birth of the Mexico of today, of a race of mestizos".The square was designed by Mario Pani and completed in 1964. It takes its name from the fascinating juxtaposition of buildings from three different periods - Aztec pyramids and temples, a Spanish conventual church and modern tower blocks. In 1968 the police fired on a crowd which was demonstrating in the square and, according to unofficial estimates, killed some 250 people. In 1985 and 1986 it was covered with tents to provide shelter for the many who had been rendered homeless by the earthquake.In addition to the principal pyramid which shows fourteen superimposed structures, the Aztec remains include other pyramids, platforms, staircases, walls and altars and a "tzompantli" ("wall of skulls"). On one of the subsidiary pyramids can be seen some fine reliefs of Aztec calendar signs.
Santiago de Tlatelolco
In the centre of the park-like Square of the Three Cultures stands the church of Santiago de Tlatelolco, in unadorned Baroque style. The present church (rather unhappily restored) was built at the beginning of the 17th c. on the site of a small chapel of 1535 belonging to the Franciscan convent of Santiago. Adjoining the church is one of the old conventual buildings, formerly the Colegio Imperial de Santa Cruz, in which the Franciscans taught the gifted sons of the Aztec nobility. One of the most notable teachers was Bernardino de Sahagún, the great chronicler of the history of New Spain.
The south-west side of the Square of the Three Cultures is taken up by the modern office block of the Foreign Ministry (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores). The construction of this and of the street entailed the destruction of the pryramid of Quetzalcóatl and of part of another cult building.
Square of the Three Cultures Pictures
Map of Mexico City Attractions