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The Plaza de la Constitucion, or Zocalo in Mexico City, has been the center of activity in Mexico City for hundreds of years. The central plaza in Mexico City is surrounded by important buildings such as the Temple Mayor, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and Palacio Nacional. It’s also an important meeting spot for locals as well as visitors. If you get separated from your Mexico tour group, chances are you will find someone you know at the Plaza de la Constitucion. The Mexico City Zocalo is one of the largest public squares in the world, measuring 800 square feet.
The term zocalo, which refers to the main public squares in Mexican towns, is derived the Spanish word socle, which refers to the base of a statue. Public squares in Mexico acquired the name zocalo in the early nineteenth century when the Mexican leader Santa Ana removed a statue of the Spanish king Carlos IV from the main plaza in Mexico City in order to place a new monument celebrating Mexico’s independence. After removing the old statue, its base remained in the center of the plaza and the square was soon known as the Zocalo in Mexico City.
Plaza De La Constitucion is site of political protests, annual fiestas, concerts, and other special events. Most political protests or marches either start or end up at the Zocalo in Mexico City. If you’re there in the evening, stay for the nightly lowering of the flag ceremony at 6:00 p.m. Every evening without fail, the Mexican flag is lowered as a sign of respect for the nation.
One of the highlights of the main plaza in Mexico City is the Metropolitan Cathedral, one of the largest churches in North America. The Baroque-style church, built between 1563 and 1813, has over 150 windows as well as a crypt containing the former archbishops of Mexico City. If you’re visiting Mexico City, take a tour of the Cathedral to learn more about the history and significance of the church.
If you’re interested in the history of Mexico, take a tour of the Museo Temple Mayor, or Museum of the Main Temple. The museum displays Mayan ruins such as pyramids, statues of eagle warriors, and other Aztec statues. A large 3D map of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan is displayed right outside of the museum.
Another important building of the Zocalo is the Palacio Nacional, or National Palace. The National Palace takes up the entire eastern side of the Mexico City Zocalo and is a fine example of seventeenth-century government architecture in Mexico City. The National Palace has displays about the history of Mexico as well as paintings by the artist Diego Rivera.
Opposite of the National Palace is a commercial building with restaurants and upscale stores and restaurants. Some of the buildings surrounding the Mexico City Zocalo have top-floor restaurants that offer the perfect vantage point for watching the flag lowering ceremony as well as other events in the square.
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