One Road for the Revolution: Avenida 20 de Noviembre and the Pursuit of Modernity in Mexico City

Friday, January 6, 2012: 9:30 AM
Chicago Ballroom G (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Patrice Elizabeth Olsen, Illinois State University
In a simple ceremony on 7 March 1934, Mexico City’s governor Aarón Sáenz wielded a ceremonial pickax to begin the demolition required for the construction of the Avenida 20 de Noviembre. This new roadway, beginning at the Plaza de Tlaxcoaque and terminating at the Zócalo, required the demolition of notable colonial buildings, among them the venerable Higuera de San Felipe de Jesús and parts of the Tempo de San Bernardino. As this paper reveals, initially there was scant public protest against the irreparable loss of these artifacts of the colonial heritage. Department of Public Works traffic studies indicated that new, broader arteries were essential for the growing city; the centro histórico could not be immune to pressures of a growing urban population. To argue for the preservation of such structures was perceived to be anti-modern, a subversion of revolutionary ideals and goals. This study reveals that the new political, intellectual, and economic climate required and facilitated this destruction. It analyzes various demolitions, phases of construction, and assesses the symbolic content of the act of naming this new avenue to represent the beginning of the revolution as actively promoted by DDF and other public officials. While the revolution may have begun elsewhere, here it would continue. Urban space would be reclaimed for more socially responsive purposes, in consonance with the exigencies of modern life as well as the aspirations to create a modern, dynamic capital city.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>