Palacio Nacional – Mexico City
Mexico City’s Palacio Nacional (National Palace) is located on the eastern side of the city’s central square known as the Zócalo. The palace is currently the seat of the country’s federal executive and the palace of the Mexican ruling class has been located on this exact site since the time of the Aztec Empire. This is one of the most fascinating aspects of Mexico City. The fact that the current presidential palace was constructed using materials from Monteczuma’s palace and that the ruins of the Temple Mayor of the Aztecs are located just a short walk away is an incredible juxtaposition of two drastically different civilizations. The palace was originally built in 1521 as Hernán Cortés’ palace after the Aztec temple was leveled by the Spanish. Throughout the years the palace underwent significant changes and additions including almost a complete rebuild after much of the building was destroyed in a fire in the 1600’s. Today, visitors can tour the palace daily. Just make sure to bring some form of ID or they won’t let you in.
Diego Rivera Murals
The history and architecture are both incredibly impressive but the real reason for our visit was to see the Diego Rivera murals and we were completely blown away. Neither of us are art connoisseurs, but we didn’t need to be in order to appreciate Rivera’s masterpieces. Rivera painted the murals between 1929 and 1935, depicting the history of Mexico from 1521 to 1930. There really couldn’t be a more fitting location for this type of historical depiction given the significance of this site over that exact same time period.
The central patio leads to the main stairwell where we were first greeted by the massive murals. The mural on the staircase covers over 4,800 square feet across three separate walls…it’s huge. As you climb the staircase, you first come face to face with the west wall which is the main section of the mural. This section is essentially one gigantic battle scene where Rivera paints the country’s history of armed conflict. Standing on the first landing before the stairwell splits in two directions and looking up at the west wall is unbelievable. The scale of the mural combined with the intensity of the story being told can be appreciated by anyone regardless of their interest in art.