Mexico, Federal District

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Mexico, Federal District

Mexico, Federal District, is the seat of Mexico's national government, covering an area of approximately 592 square miles. It is dominated by Mexico City, which was built over the ruins of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán. Today the city and its suburbs, referred to as the Zona Metropolitana, have sprawled northward beyond the district, into the adjacent state of Mexico. Much of the city is built on the drained lake beds of the central valley, and as the underlying silts have dried, buildings have settled tens of feet over the centuries. This unstable subsoil also has increased Mexico City's susceptibility to severe damage from earthquakes, the most recent one devastating the city in 1985.

The Constitution of 1824 authorized Congress to identify a seat of government and establish a Federal District. It selected Mexico City and defined the district as a circle with a radius of 5.5 miles centered on the Plaza Mayor, which formed an area of about 95 square miles. This Federal District disappeared in 1836 as the territory was incorporated into the Department of Mexico. The 1857 Constitution, however, reestablished the Federal District as a state, and its borders with the neighboring states of Mexico and Morelos were finalized in 1898. The Federal District lost its status as a state and became a special political entity under the direct rule of the president in 1928. It was subdivided into sixteen delegaciones in 1970. The district is governed by the jefe del departamento, who is appointed by the president. The city government is concerned with environmental issues and in 1989 began a program called Hoy no Circula, banning 20 percent of registered vehicles from driving on each weekday.

In 1990 the Federal District proper had a stable population of about 9 million, but the surrounding metropolitan area continued its explosive growth. Its population increased from 3.1 million in 1950 to 18.7 million in 2003. The Mexico City area accounts for 37-38 percent of the nation's gross domestic product and about half of the manufacturing industries, but it has suffered badly from overcrowding, pollution, and pressure on basic services. The Programa de Reordenación Urbana y Protección Ecológica del Distrito Federal is intended to control pollution, development, and further industrialization; increase green areas; and improve overall services. In 2003 construction ended on the city's Torre Mayor on the central Paseo de la Reforma, which as of 2007 was the tallest building in all of Latin America. In 2006 the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City was ranked seventy-fourth in the world by the Times Higher Education Supplement, which makes it the Spanish-speaking world's highest-rated institution of higher learning.

See alsoMexico, Constitutions: Constitutions Prior to 1917 .


Todo México: Compendio enciclopédico, 1985 (1985), pp. 121-125; Atlas de la Ciudad de México (1987).

Jonathan Kandell, La Capital: The Biography of Mexico City (1988).

Peter Ward, Mexico City: The Production and Reproduction of an Urban Environment (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Arrom, Silvia Marina. Containing the Poor: The Mexico City Poor House, 1774–1871. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

Curcio-Nagy, Linda A. The Great Festivals of Colonial Mexico City: Performing Power and Identity. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004.

Lear, John. Workers, Neighbors, and Citizens: The Revolution in Mexico City. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.

Warren, Richard A. Vagrants and Citizens: Politics and the Masses in Mexico City from Colony to Republic. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2001.

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Mexico, Federal District

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