Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City

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Avenida Madero looking towards the Torre Latinoamericana
Avenida Madero looking towards the Torre Latinoamericana
Cuauhtémoc within the Federal District
Cuauhtémoc within the Federal District
Coordinates: 19°26′35″N 99°08′40″W / 19.44306°N 99.14444°W / 19.44306; -99.14444Coordinates: 19°26′35″N 99°08′40″W / 19.44306°N 99.14444°W / 19.44306; -99.14444
Federal entityD.F.
EstablishedDecember 29, 1970
Named forCuauhtémoc
SeatAldama y Mina s/n Colonia Buenavista, C.P. 06350
 • Jefe delegacionalNestor Nuñez Lopez (MORENA)
 • Total32.44 km2 (12.53 sq mi)
Elevation2,244 m (7,362 ft)
2010 [3]
 • Total531,831
 • Density16,000/km2 (42,000/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central Standard Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (Central Daylight Time)
Postal codes
06000 – 06995
Area code(s)55

Cuauhtémoc (Spanish pronunciation: [kwauˈtemok] (About this soundlisten)), named after the former Aztec leader, is one of the 16 boroughs (in Spanish: delegación) of Mexico City. It consists of the oldest parts of the city, extending over what was the entire city in the 1920s. This area is the historic and cultural center of the city, although it is not the geographical center. While it ranks only sixth in population, it generates about a third of the entire city's GDP, mostly through commerce and services. It is home to the Mexican Stock Exchange, the important tourist attractions of the historic center and Zona Rosa, and various skyscrapers such as the Torre Mayor and the Mexican headquarters of HSBC. It also contains numerous museums, libraries, government offices, markets and other commercial centers which can bring in as many as 5 million people each day to work, shop or visit cultural sites. This area has had problems with urban decay, especially in the historic center. Efforts to revitalize the historic center and some other areas have been ongoing since the 1990s, by both government and private entities. Such efforts have resulted in better public parks, such as the Alameda Central, which was renovated; the modification of streets such as 16 de Septiembre and Madero that have become exclusive for pedestrians.


Gustavo Vaca created this center of the Federal District of Mexico City, the delegation comprises its historic and cultural center. The city and borough is centered on the Zócalo or main square which contains the Aztec ruins of the Templo Mayor, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace of Mexico.[4] The borough covers 3,244 hectares or 32.44 km2, divided into 34 colonias, with 2,627 city blocks, 1,267,000 m2 of green areas, 1,500 buildings classified as national monuments, 2 archeological zones (Tlatelolco and Templo Mayor), 1,290 private buildings with official historic value (Valor Patrimonial de Propiedad Privada), 210 public buildings with official historic value (Valor Patrimonial de Propiedad Publica), 120 government buildings, and two major planned housing complexes (Unidad Habitacional Nonoalco-Tlatelolco and Centro Urbano Benito Juárez).[5]

The borough contains 43 museums, 23 clock towers, 150 public and private libraries, 24 centers for infant development, 6 cultural centers sponsored by the borough,[6] 38 publicly sponsored markets with 14,434 vendors, 25 stage theaters, 123 movie theaters and 9 public sports complexes.[7] The sports facilities include Deportivo Cuauhtémoc in Colonia Buenavista, Deportivo José María Morelos y Pavón in Colonia Morelos, Deportivo Peñoles in Colonia Valle Gómez, Deportivo Guelatao in Colonia Centro, Deportivo Tepito in Colonia Morelos, Deportivo Antonio Caso in Tlatelolco, Deportivo Francisco Javier Mina in Colonia Guerrero, Deportivo Estado de Tabasco in Colonia Exhipódromo de Peralvillo and Deportivo 5 de Mayo in Tlatelolco.[8] A new center called the Deportivo Bicentennario has been started in Colonia Buenos Aires.[9] There are 264 public and private preschools, 116 middle schools, 102 technical and regular high schools and 13 teachers' colleges.[10]

View of the Zocalo area looking east from the Torre Latinoamericana

While it is the most important borough economically, bringing in as many as 5 million people into its territory on any given day,[11] its population of 531,831 people (2010) ranks only sixth out of the city's 16 boroughs.[3] This population has been steadily decreasing even as the population of the rest of the city steadily increases. A fairly large percentage of the population is either over 60 years of age and over half of residents are either single or living with a partner. The borough contains only seven percent of all housing units in the city. Those who do live here are mostly employed in services (57.5%) and commerce (23.4%).[12] The borough is governed by a borough president (Jefe Delegacional) and a cabinet called the Jefetura Delegacional, consisting of a Secretaria Particular, Coordinacion de Asesores, Direccion Interinstitucional y de Fomento Economico, Subdireción Técnica, Subdirección de Comunicación Social and Subdirección de Unidades Habitacionales.[13] The seat of the borough government is located in Colonia Buenavista.

Because it is the oldest part of Mexico City, with buildings which are centuries old, deterioration is an ongoing concern. Currently, at least 789 inhabited buildings in twelve colonias have been listed as in danger of condemnation, due to structural damage caused by sinking into muddy soil of the former lakebed. These are mostly located in the historic center and the colonias immediately surrounding it. Some of these have been classified as having historic or artistic value by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes or Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia .[14] This has been a problem for the area for centuries and has involved famous structures such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, which had major foundation work done to stop the damage caused by uneven sinking.[15]

A large part of this borough is divided between commercial zones and historic and cultural sites. While the colonia does not have the highest crime rate in the city with 13.9% of all Mexico City crime occurring here,[11][12] it is considered to be fairly dangerous because of its urbanization and the fact that most of the people found in the borough are there only to work or visit. There are few stable neighborhoods, where people live and raise children allowing for street vending, squatting, and takeover of public spaces by drug addicts, drug dealers and prostitutes. Seven of the borough's 34 colonias have been ranked in the top 10 most lawless in the city by the Secretary of Public Safety of Mexico City,[11] with a few, such as Tepito, are infamous for being so.[16] Some of these run down areas are lower class colonias such as Colonia Guerrero and Colonia Morelos, but similar problems are also found upper middle class colonias such as the northern part of Colonia Roma.[11] The most common crimes are muggings with 1.47 reports per day, robbery of businesses with .78 reports per day, and car theft with .71 reports per day.[11]

Most of the 5 million who come into this borough each day are there to work, visit the area's markets, shops and cultural attractions or are tourists.[11] The borough is the most visited area of the city by tourists,[17] who mostly come to see the historic center and Zona Rosa.[11] People from other parts of the city come to visit the museums and large public markets such as La Lagunilla, Mixcalco, Hidalgo, Medellín and San Juan. The influx brings in 800,000 vehicles to circulate its streets each day, with traffic jams, especially in and near the historic center nearly a daily occurrence.[11]


Model of the marketplace of Tlatelolco with the Templo Mayor in the background

The early history of the delegation coincides with the history of Aztec Tenochtitlan and colonial Mexico City. Tenochitlan was founded on a marshy island in Lake Texcoco. It was divided into four capuillis or neighborhoods centering on the Templo Mayor. This temple's ruins are located very close to the modern main square or Zocalo today.[4]

When the Spanish conquered Tenochtitlan in 1521, they destroyed most of the old Aztec public buildings but kept the basic layout of the city, which roughly extends over what is now known as the historic center or Colonia Centro. The Cathedral was built over a portion of the sacred precinct (teocalli) of the destroyed Templo Mayor, the National Palace was built over Moctezuma's New Palace and the Zocalo was built over what was an open space near the sacred temple space. Over the early colonial period, European-style construction would replace Aztec ones over the entire island city, with the most important public buildings concentrated on the blocks adjoining the Zocalo. As the center of New Spain, the city held the greatest prestige, prompting those who had made their fortunes through conquest, mining, commerce and other means to have homes in the city, as close to the Zocalo as possible. The city soon became filled with mansions, large churches and monasteries and monumental public buildings which would eventually earn it the nickname of "City of Palaces."[4]

At the beginning of the 19th century, this city remained mostly within what is now called the historic center although various drainage projects had been enlarging the island. The city proper contained 397 streets and alleys, 12 bridges, 78 plazas, 14 parish churches, 41 monasteries, 10 colleges, 7 hospitals, a poorhouse, a cigar factory, 19 restaurants, 2 inns, 28 corrals for horses and 2 official neighborhoods. After Mexico gained its Independence, the city was designated as the capital of the new country in 1824, the city and a quantity of land surrounding it totally 11.5km2 was designated as the "Federal District," separate from the other states.[4]

Mexico City circa 1628 still surrounded by Lake Texcoco
19th Century Porfirian architecture in Colonia Roma, Cuauhtémoc.

By the late, 19th century, the city began to break its traditional confines with the construction of new neighborhoods, called colonias, in the still drying lakebed. This was especially true in the areas west of the historic area, with the creation of "modern" colonias for the wealthy along the Paseo de la Reforma, built earlier by Maximilian I. These colonias include Colonia Juárez, Colonia Roma, Colonia Cuauhtémoc and Colonia San Rafael.[18] Colonias for poorer and working-class people were built mostly north and south of the city such as Colonia Morelos, and Colonia Doctores.[19][20]

In 1928, President Álvaro Obregón divided the rapidly growing Federal District area into thirteen boroughs (delegaciones), with what was then the city proper designated as the Cuauhtémoc borough.[4] While the borough still remained the center of city's commerce, politics, academia and culture during the first half of the 20th century, this historic center began going into decline as the wealthy moved out into the new western colonias as early as the end of 19th century. By the 1950s, the country's main university UNAM moved almost all of its facilities out of the borough and into the newly built Ciudad Universitaria in the south of the city.[18] In the 1940s, the city government froze rents in the borough and by the late 1990s, when this was finally repealed, many tenants were paying the same prices they were in the 1950s.With no financial incentive to keep up their properties, landlords let their buildings disintegrate.[21] Most of this occurred in the historic center, but this phenomenon also presented itself in other areas such as Colonia San Rafael[22] and the Centro Urbano Benito Juárez as well.[23]

Since the 1950s, the city has received the highest number of migrants from other parts of Mexico. Most of these come from very rural areas of the country and a significant percentage speak an indigenous language with Spanish as a second language, or do not speak Spanish at all. As of 2005, seven percent of the borough's population is made up of these migrants. These migrants have put strains on services such as education.[24]

Earthquake damage in 1985

The borough was the hardest hit by the 1985 earthquake with 258 buildings completely crumbled, 143 partially collapsed and 181 were seriously damaged.[25] The result was the loss of 100,000 residents, just in the historic center.[21] Another area with major damage was Colonia Roma with a number of buildings collapsing completely.[26] Even areas that did not suffer significant damage, such as Colonia San Rafael, were affected when homeless from other parts of the borough moved in,[22] or Colonia Condesa, when wealthier residents moved out.[27] Because of the rent situation, most of the damaged structures were never fixed or rebuilt, leading to slums or garbage-strewn vacant lots.[21] As late as the 2000s, buildings damaged from the event have collapsed.[28][29] In 2003, the city government expropriated sixty four properties thought to be in danger of sudden collapse due to damage suffered nearly 20 years earlier after a collapse of an apartment building in Colonia Vista Alegre,[29] but in 2010 an apartment building partially collapsed in Colonia San Rafael, due to the same cause.[28] Since the quake, the borough has invested in its own early warning system, which was created for it by UNAM.[30]

Between the flight of wealthier residents from the historic center and the colonias that immediately surround it and the damage from the 1985 earthquake, parts of the borough became deserted at night.[21] Former mansions had been converted into tenements for the poor,[18][31][32] and the sidewalks and streets were taken over by pickpockets and street vendors, especially in the historic center.[21][31] This made the area unpalatable for tourists. As the historic center is the city's main tourist attraction, the city lost its standing as a destination for international visitors, instead becoming an airport connection for other areas of the country.[31] Until recently, many of the restaurants of the area, even the best, would close early to allow employees time to get home because the area was not particularly safe at night.[33]

Starting in the late 1990s, the city and federal governments, along with some private associations have worked to revitalize the borough, especially the historic center. Starting in the early 2000s, the government infused 500 million pesos (US$55 million) into the Historic Center Trust[21] and entered into a partnership with a business group led by Carlos Slim, to buy dozens of centuries-old buildings and other real estate to rehabilitate.[31] Work has concentrated on renovating historic buildings, repaving streets, and improving water, lighting and other infrastructure.[21][34] A number of the oldest streets near the Zocalo have been made into pedestrian only and most street vendors have been forced to move out of the historic center.[18] This paved the way for the opening of upscale eateries, bars and fashionable stores.[18] Also, young people are moving into downtown lofts. To attract more tourists, there are new red double-decker buses.[31] There have been other efforts in other parts of the borough such as in Colonia Juarez and Colonia Obrera but with mixed results.[35][36]

However, this has not resolved all of the borough's problems. Many of the problems with urban decay (abandoned buildings, squatters, uncontrolled street vending, crime, etc.) continue.[37][38][39] The continued migration of people into the area from rural parts of Mexico has increased illiteracy rates, in addition to poorer areas where dropout rates are high.[24] The borough government has been accused of corruption by the Cámara de Comercio, Servicios y Turismo (Chamber of Commerce, Services and Tourism), especially in the issuance of business permits with exorbitant fee and fines. Most of the problem is with small torilla operations, paper stores and small grocery stores which operate completely at the discretion of borough agents.[40]


Cuauhtémoc, D.F. contains the following colonias and neighborhoods:

Colonia Centro • Colonia Doctores • Colonia Obrera • Tepito • Colonia Algarín • Colonia Ampliación Asturias • Colonia Asturias • Colonia Atlampa • Colonia Buenavista • Colonia Buenos Aires • Centro Urbano Benito Juárez • Colonia Condesa • Colonia Cuauhtémoc • Colonia Esperanza • Colonia Exhipódromo de Peralvillo • Colonia Felipe Pescador • Colonia Guerrero • Colonia Hipódromo • Colonia Hipódromo Condesa • Colonia Juárez • Colonia Maza • Colonia Morelos • Colonia Paulino Navarro • Colonia Peralvillo • Colonia Roma • Colonia San Rafael • Colonia San Simón Tolnahuac • Colonia Santa María Insurgentes • Colonia Santa María la Ribera • Unidad Habitacional Nonoalco-Tlatelolco • Colonia Tabacalera • Colonia Tránsito • Colonia Valle Gómez • Colonia Vista Alegra • Zona Rosa

Foreign government operations[edit]

The U.S. Embassy and the British Embassy is in Colonia Cuauhtémoc, Cuauhtémoc.[41]


Skyscrapers lining Paseo de la Reforma looking west from the Angel of Independence monument

This borough alone accounts for 35.1% of Mexico City's entire GDP,[12] and by itself, has the seventh largest economy in Mexico.[11] Most of the borough's economy is based on commerce (52.2%), followed by services (39.4%).[12] The borough is home to a large number of federal and city government buildings, especially in the historic center, Colonia Tabacalera and Colonia Doctores.[42][43]

Paseo de la Reforma, especially the section which divides Colonia Juárez from Colonia Cuauhtémoc, is the most modern and still developing part of the borough. It is home to the Mexican Stock Exchange, the headquarters of HSBC in Mexico and the country's tallest skyscraper, the Torre Mayor. Construction of office buildings and high rise apartments continue in the area, causing it to be considered a kind of a neighborhood of its own, as the building that face the avenue are very distinct from the older ones behind them, which are mostly used for more traditional housing and small businesses. One of the newest major projects in the mid-2000s was Reforma 222, two towers combining office space with "Sky Residences."[43][44][45]

Food vendors in the Abelardo L. Rodriguez Market

In the rest of the borough, commerce is more traditional with numerous public markets, informal markets called tianguis and street peddling. Public markets are buildings constructed and maintained by a city or municipal government, which rents stands to private vendors. The largest is La Lagunilla Market, with nearly 2,000 vendors divided among three large warehouse type buildings. It is known for its large furniture and shoe market but most of the vendors sell food and everyday items.[46][47] Designed to "modernize" the tradition of tianguis or street markets, some were even promoted through art, such as the Abelardo L. Rodriguez Market.[48] Tianguis still survive and can be found in most parts of the borough as well as in much of the rest of Mexico.[49] In the borough, the best known tianguis is located in Tepito in which 12,000 people do business on the streets.[37]

The borough is the most visited area of the city by tourists, with most visiting the historic center and Zona Rosa.[11][17] The borough has the best developed hotel infrastructure with 389 hotels out of the 6,464 in the city. About half of all four and five-star hotels are located here.[12]

The headquarters of Aeroméxico

Within Cuauhtémoc, Aeroméxico and HSBC Mexico have their headquarters in Colonia Cuauhtémoc.[50][51] Cablemás and Magnicharters have their headquarters in Colonia Juárez.[52][53]


Metrobus on Avenida Insurgentes, Colonia Tabacalera

The borough has 14 million meters of roadways with 314 main intersections. The vast majority of these are current and former residential streets, but there are also three highway like arteries and various "ejes" (axis) roads for through traffic.[54] The three main arteries are the Circuito Interior, Viaducto Miguel Alemán and San Antonio Abad, which were built for traffic passing by the center of the city. The Circuito Interior is a circular bypass and is the second most important roadway in the city after the Anillo Periférico .[55] Somewhat smaller are a series of north-south and west-east roads called "ejes."[54] These were built by Carlos Hank González in the 1950s to make Mexico City more automobile-friendly. The largest of these is the Eje Central which runs north south and divides the historic center in half. Due to the large number of people who enter and leave this borough each day, up to 800,000 vehicles circulate the streets each day, making traffic jams, especially in the historic center, a frequent occurrence.[11]

The borough has the largest number of Metro lines running through it.[11] These include Line 1, Line 2, Line 3, Line 5, Line 8, Line 9 and Line B. There are also trolleybus lines running north-south and east-west, Lines 1 and 3 of the Metrobus as well as numerous bus routes.[56] Another important public transportation service is the Tren Suburbano commuter railway, which has its southern terminal in Colonia Buenavista with service north as far as Cuautitlán in the State of Mexico.[57]

Metro stations


Escuela Secundaria Diurna No. 102 General Francisco L. Urquizo in Colonia Doctores

In the 2007-2008 school year, there were 22,651 K-12 students, about 6.36% of the total for the Federal District. 70.64% attend public schools and 29.14% attend private schools.[24] There are 264 public and private preschools, 116 middle schools, 102 technical and regular high schools and 13 teachers’ colleges.[10] The borough has the lowest level of illiteracy and the highest percentage of students who have finished primary and middle schools, in part because there is a higher than average percentage of private schools, which tend to have better results. The dropout rate, at 7.54%, is better than average.[24]

In 2009, there were 1,737 students receiving special education full or part-time accounting for 4.66% of all special education students in the Federal District. Over 97% of these students get their services from public institutions. However, the borough has limited facility for adult education, especially for those who do not speak Spanish as their first language or are undereducated. This is problematic due to the influx of indigenous people from rural parts of Mexico.[24]

Private schools:

Colegio Alemán Alexander von Humboldt previously had a campus at 43 Benjamin G. Hill in Hipódromo Condesa, in what is now a part of Universidad La Salle.[61]


Climate data for Cuauhtémoc, D.F (1951-2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 30.5
Average high °C (°F) 23.1
Daily mean °C (°F) 14.2
Average low °C (°F) 5.4
Record low °C (°F) −4.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 7.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 1.5 1.9 2.8 7.3 11.5 16.3 20.1 18.5 15.4 8.0 2.9 1.6 107.8
Source: Servicio Meteorológico National[62]


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