The Zocalo has served as the historical, cultural, and ceremonial center to the past and present occupants of Mexico City. It is the main square of the entire city and the center which is next to major sites like the Government Palace, the Federal District buildings, and the Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos, the largest cathedral in the Americas. Not only used as ceremonial center, the Zocalo also served as a center of trade and commerce because of its location in regards to the major roads that met there in and its quantity of free space. It is located only a block away from the ruins of Templo Mayor, which to the people of Tenochtitlan were the center of the entire universe, and was the central location of the entire city pre-colonialism.
The word “zocalo” is derived from “plinth” which is a heavy base that usually supports a column. This specific plinth in the square was never built upon, but the locals of Mexico City had already begun to refer to the main square as “zocalo” which subsequently lead to the term “zocalo” being widely used throughout Mexico to describe the main squares in cities. The Zocalo’s formal name is “Plaza de la Constitucion,” named after the Cadiz Constitution of 1812.
Because of the conquest in the early 16th century, the original plaza was in shambles. Antonio Rubial Garcia says “After the violent conquest of the city, and the semi-destroyed temples and palaces, the new political center began to be built. The indigenous sacred space was covered little by little while the greater place of the Spanish city was armed in the esplanade that extended between the old palaces of the Mexican kings.” Since these occurrences, the Zocalo became the absolute center and the paradigm of which other cities in the country would design their city centers.
The Zocalo has had many different looks during its existence. As of today, the Zocalo is one of the largest plazas in the world with 57,600 square feet void of any statues or monuments. The only structure today on the Zocalo is the flag of Mexico at its center. In November of 2015, Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera Espinosa announced a plan to renovate the Zocalo to allow for more space and to salvage the historical area from diminishing. In a report by Infrastructure Mexico, it is stated the purpose was to “revive the historical center” and “prioritize the mobility of pedestrians and cyclists, restrict vehicular circulation in its immediate surroundings and renovate the access points to the metro Line 2.” The project was completed in 2017 to give the Zocalo its modern look after an estimated $300 million USD was poured into the restorations of the square and some surrounding historical structures. The Zocalo’s rich history of events such as the Independence Day celebrations, government protests, and even its use as a concert venue has put it on the map as one of the most historical locations in Mexico.