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Tlatelolco Pre-Columbian City

The Plaza de las Tres Culturas (The Three Culture Plaza) is one of the most emblematic plazas in Mexico. It lies in the heart of Tlatelolco, a pre-Columbian settlement a few miles north from Tenochtitlan, where the Zócalo plaza (the symbolic heart of Mexico City) can be found. The architectural space combines three different historical moments of the city: the pre-Columbian period, the Colonial Regime under the empire of the Spanish Crown and the Modern City project, when the plaza was witness to the Tlatelolco Massacre, one of the most sanguinary political episodes of the 20th Century. Founded in 1337, the city of Tlatelolco was considered one of the most important commercial centres in the region. The market operated as an enclave for commerce and connected different cities such as Tenochtitlán, Texcoco and Tlacopan, all of which form part of modern day Mexico City. Despite its enormous power, Tlatelolco does not have traceable origins, it is disputed whether the city appeared simultaneously or after Tenochtitlán.

The Codex Ramírez states that a group of Tenochca elders—rulers of the people that became the future founders of Tenochtitlan—left the city because of a disagreement and moved across the lake with their families, settling at a terrace referred to as Tlatelli and subsequently giving the name to Tlatelolco (Barlow, 1986: 60). Another version of this event is traced to the myth that sustains that the pilgrimage from Aztlan in search for the omen to call for the foundation of Tenochtitlán ultimately divided into two groups and two different settlements. It was in 1473 that city inhabitants became servants to the Tenochcas and began paying tributes that would last for the next fifty years, until the destruction of Tlatelolco by the Spanish conquerors. Despite Aztec domain over it, Tlatelolco remained a commercial center with great power and allied itself with Tenochtitlán during the Spanish conquest.

Given the fact that Tenochtitlán was almost destroyed during the spanish military siege, Hernán Cortés and his generals made attempts to negotiate the surrender of Tlatelolco in the hopes of trying to preserve the city’s value. Eventually, both cities surrendered on the same day and survivors of the battle were banished. The Spanish victory brought about end of the Aztec civilization initiating the historical period of the New Spain. This clash gave birth to the complex identity of the city which can be seen in current days in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, or Three Cultures Plaza, where one can witness the display of Aztec, colonial and modernist architecture, all of them part of the Mexican identity.

En 1473 los habitantes de la ciudad se volvieron siervos de los tenochcas y empezaron a pagar tributos que iban a durar los siguientes cincuenta años, hasta la destrucción de Tlatelolco por los conquistadores españoles. A pesar de que los aztecas lo dominaban, Tlatelolco siguió siendo un centro comercial con gran poder y se alió con Tenochtitlan durante la conquista española.

Dado que Tenochtitlan fue casi destruida por los españoles durante el sitio militar, Hernán Cortés y sus generales intentaron negociar la rendición de Tlatelolco y trataron de preservar la valiosa ciudad. Al final, ambas ciudades se rindieron el mismo día y los sobrevivientes de la batalla fueron desterrados.

La victoria española dio lugar al fin de la civilización azteca, con lo que inició el periodo histórico de la Nueva España. Este choque engendró la identidad compleja de la ciudad que puede verse estos días en la Plaza de las Tres Culturas, donde se puede presenciar el despliegue de arquitectura azteca, colonial y modernista, todas ellas parte de la identidad mexicana.

Project name Tlatelolco Pre-Columbian City
Period Late Post-Classic Stage
Contributor LabCDMX
Location Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas esq. Flores Magón, Nonoalco, Tlatelolco, Cuauhtémoc, CDMX