1st Edition

Mexico City’s Zócalo A History of a Constructed Spatial Identity

By Benjamin A. Bross Copyright 2022
    264 Pages 55 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    264 Pages 55 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book presents a case study of one of Latin America’s most important and symbolic spaces, the Zócalo in Mexico City, weaving together historic events and corresponding morphological changes in the urban environment. It poses questions about how the identity of a place emerges, how it evolves and, why does it change? Mexico City’s Zócalo: A History of a Constructed Spatial Identity utilizes the history of a specific place, the Zócalo (Plaza de la Constitución), to explain the emergence and evolution of Mexican identities over time.

    Starting from the pre-Hispanic period to present day, the work illustrates how the Zócalo reveals spatial manifestations as part of the larger socio-cultural zeitgeist. By focusing on the history of changes in spatial production – what Henri Lefebvre calls society’s "secretions" – Bross traces how cultural, social, economic, and political forces shaped the Zócalo’s spatial identity and, in turn, how the Zócalo shaped and fostered new identities in return. It will be a fascinating read for architectural and urban historians investigating Latin America.

    List of Figures



    1. From Mexica Axis Mundi to Spanish Conquest

    2. The Plaza Mayor’s Nascent Urbanscape

    3. Major Events in the Plaza Mayor During the Viceroyalty

    4. The Last Decades of the Viceroyal Period

    5. A Nascent National Identity

    6. Mexico’s Second Empire and the Restored Republic

    7. Expressions of National Identity During the Porfiriato

    8. From the Mexican Revolution to World War II

    9. The Plaza de la Constitución in the Second Half of the 20th Century

    10. A Recent History of the Zócalo as Public Space

    11. The Zócalo, Mexico’s Public Square 


    Image Credits



    Benjamin A. Bross is a registered architect and Assistant Professor at the Illinois School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.

    "Mexico City’s Zócalo has molded Mexican identity as much as it has been reconfigured by this complex and diverse society over the past seven centuries. Benjamin A. Bross's masterful prose unearths the layers of history at the epicenter of the city, from the first settlements in a primeval landscape of volcanoes and lake systems to one of the largest metropolis of the 21st century, one which seems to have severed its ties to nature yet remains subject to its inner workings. The Zócalo is the beating heart and soul of Mexico, a symbol of the constant reinvention and reinterpretation of its spatial identities, both national and local." Dr. Gabriela Lee Alardín, Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Civil Engineering, Ibero-American University, Mexico City

    "No matter the path we follow, vertigo is what we feel when we enter to El Zócalo through one of several scenic streets or avenues such as Francisco Madero, 5 de Mayo, Pino Suárez or 20 de Noviembre. That feeling is even stronger when we realize that we are facing the architectural landscape of more than seven uninterrupted centuries of human settlement. With this masterly and beautifully written book, Benjamin A. Bross demonstrates that this vertigo has an explanation. El Zócalo is a privileged space in which the prodigious cultural diversity and historical depth of Mexico can be thought. Strata after strata, this longue durée study exposes continuities and discords, remembrances and oblivions that are best intelligible within architecture and public space. The goal of Benjamin A. Bross book is challenging as well as ambitious. Unravelling one by one the meanings of space changes in El Zócalo is to open windows for the understanding of the evolution and consolidation of a Mexican solid sense of national unity, despite been constantly confronted by too many forces." Dr. Jorge L. Lizardi Pollock, Professor of History, Theory and Research, University of Puerto Rico School of Architecture