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Mexico Travel - The Business Section
( Originally Published 1939 - Presented For Historical Purpose )
FOUR GREAT AVENUES LEAD FROM THE DISTRICT AROUND the Alameda to the Cathedral or to the Zocalo-Tacuba, Cinco de Mayo, Madero, and 16 de Septiembre. The street you will probably use the most is the Avenida Madero, and the place on this street at which you will spend most of your time is Sanbarn's. In this district, close to the main tourist offices, are concentrated so many worth-while sights that the tourist often fails to notice them.
The House of Tiles
Sanborn's occupies a building that is famous in Mexico City. Known as the CASA DE Los AZULEJOS, or in translation, the House of Tiles, it was built in the late seventeenth century and, except for a few ecclesiastical buildings, is perhaps the finest example of Mexican tile work in the country.
Where we Americans say that a man is so worthless that he will never set the world on fire, the Mexicans say that he will never build a house of tiles. There is a story that a great noble, disappointed in one of his sons, upbraided the boy with this remark. The son, in answer, promptly set about to reform himself, and soon acquired such an exemplary reputation that he was considered a great match, and finally won for himself a wife of extraordinary wealth. Thereupon, he proceeded (presumably with his wife's money) to build a house of tiles.
The interior of the house has been converted into a place of business, and the main patio has been roofed over to house the restaurant. It is worth going in to see the patio and the lovely old colonial fountain that stands in the center, in spite of the peacocks and other modern decorations which deface the walls.
On the stairway, leading from the restaurant up to the balcony, there is a fresco by Orozco called "Omniscience."
The San Francisco, and San Felipe de Jesus Churches
Across the street from Sanborn's are the two churches Of SAN FRANCISCO and SAN FELIPE DE JESUS. The original structure of the church of San Francisco, dating from 1 r,2 5, was built largely of stones from the great Aztec temple; the facade, the portico, and the baroque doors were added later in the early eighteenth century. The church of San Felipe de Jesus is in modern style and is dedicated to the patron saint of Mexico City.
The School of Mines
Behind Sanborn's on the opposite side of the Avenida Cinco de Mayo is the SCHOOL OF MINES. You should walk down the side of the building opposite the post office and see how the building has sunk into the soft soil on which it was constructed. It has been propped up in an endeavor to save it, although parts of it have been closed to use. The interior should be visited for the sake of the stairway and the patio.
The Iturbide Palace
The ITURBIDE PALACE is so Called because the first Mexican emperor (of that name) once lived there. It is almost directly opposite Wells Fargo & Co. Express, and from this side of the Avenida Madero you can get the best view of the sculpturing on the facade. In recent years the patio has been covered over and converted into a sort of arcade, lined with shops. This is said to be the only four-story colonial building in Mexico.
The Profesa Church
A little further down the street, past the Ritz, is the PROFESA CHURCH. Despite the fact that the building was damaged in a flood in 19 2 9 and one of the towers is badly cracked, the facade. and the towers are among the best examples of Mexican baroque of the seventeenth cen tury. This church is on the corner of Avenida Madero and Isabel la Catolica.
The National Bank
Turn down Isabel la Catolica to the right, and on the corner of the Avenida V. Carranza, you will see the National Bank of Mexico, occupying the old house of THE CONDES DE SAN MATEO VALPARAISO. It takes only a few minutes to see the facade, the doors, and the stairway, so you should not by any means pass it by without a visit.
The National Library
A block down the same street is the NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEXICO, housed in an ancient Augustinian temple which was completed in 1692 and converted into a library after the reform laws were passed. The central nave of the church has been converted into the MAIN READING ROOM, certainly one of the most imposing rooms of its kind in any library in the world. The collection of manuscripts, chronicles, and books is rare, but naturally of more interest to the bibliophile than to the casual tourist.
The Hospital of Jesus
Pass the library and turn down the Avenida Republica del Salvador to the corner of Avenida Pino Suarez, where the HOSPITAL OF JESUS, the oldest in Mexico, is located. It was founded by Cortes in 1524, with funds which are still pouring interest into the coffers of the organization. There is a legend about this hospital which might even be a fact-that on this site Cortes and Moctezuma met for the first time.
The House of the Conde de Santiago
On another corner of the same intersection is the HOUSE OF THE CONDE DE SANTIAGO. This is another one of the really great colonial mansions. Notice that the waterspouts of the house are in the form of cannons. This type of waterspout was permitted only in the houses of nobles. The patio of the house is extremely fine, as is the stairway leading up to the upper floors.
A short walk of three blocks will now bring you back to the Zocalo and into the district described in another chapter.