Since 1325, the area we know today as Mexico City has held some sort of cultural or historical bond. The bond is so strong that, no matter what, no matter how bad a shape the country gets, they always return to it even though the entire city is sinking into the earth as we speak ... at just a few centimeters a year.

There have been several times throughout history where Mexico "temporarily" changed its capital city to Querétaro, Querétaro. The change would never last over a year before they moved it back to Mexico City.

My question, what is so special about the Mexico City area that causes the government to return to it every time? Even if they got into a situation today where they had to relocate the capital city, I am by now convinced that they would in fact return to it ... with all its air pollution, toxic waste and overfilled landfills.

Is there a definite reason for this or does the Mexican government just aim to use Mexico City until all of the buildings collapse. I even read an article published November 1949 in Popular Mechanics were they were pitching construction techniques to accommodate for the sinking. I am baffled.

  • 1
    Isn't this simply a matter of the historical center for the Aztec empire? As well, the emblem of the Mexico flag (eagle, snake, cactus) come from the legendary founding of the city. Nov 22, 2012 at 8:37
  • Historical to the 14th century, yes. Even though the emblem of their flag originates there, all of the most important events in Mexico, from the Mexican-American War to the creation of the 1917 Constitution happened elsewhere. Everything that I have read mentions a return to Mexico City. Other than the Aztecs stumbling upon a vision given to them by a diety, nothing significant ever occurred there. Throughout Mexico's history, the area is fought over several times, yet these struggles never occured within the city itself.
    – dockeryZ
    Nov 22, 2012 at 9:10
  • May be of some use: books.google.com/books?id=J_wzOoGtYQoC&pg=PA110
    – kubanczyk
    Nov 22, 2012 at 13:15
  • 1
    Apart from the comments above, the question itself could be answered as "there's no real answer": Venice continues to sink every year, NY is one of America's dirtiest and polluted cities: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_issues_in_New_York_City and Budapest has not changed locations since 1 AD (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest#History) - yet people still live on these cities. It's like asking why Japan continues to build buildings in such a seismic area: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seismicity_in_Japan. I don't believe there's an actual answer for this question, it just is. Nov 23, 2012 at 5:19
  • BTW, here is an interesting map of Mexico City from 1522. (Just came across this while preparing another question.)
    – Drux
    Jan 9, 2013 at 22:45

3 Answers 3


Many capital cities are located at a confluence of available water, moderate climate, and transportation intersections. This would describe Paris, London, Rome, and Mexico City. Many capitals in the US, including many state capitals, are 'in the middle' of two powerful interest groups. The US capital is situated on the boundary between what were Slave and Free states.

If one looks at Mexico from the satellite maps, the east lowlands are hot, humid, and exposed to hurricanes, the west is mountainous, the north is desert, and the south is jungle. I've driven through Mexico City, and it is polluted, but I noticed immediately that aside from that the climate was pleasant. The area is halfway between the Pacific and the Caribbean, keeping it from baking in the summer as would happen if it were farther north.

One other temporary capital of Mexico has been San Louis Potosi. I spent a day in the downtown touring some of the colonial buildings.

  • 2
    Minor correction. Both of the bordering states to DC were in fact slave states. Why a non-neutral site was picked is explained nicely by following the link in this answer.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 27, 2013 at 16:20

Mexico City, despite its other faults, has a number of desirable "central" characteristics.

  1. It is not in the "linear" center of the country, but it is near the "centroid" of the country, insofar as about equal numbers of the population live in the (sparsely populated) area north of the city, and in the (densely populated) areas south of the city.

  2. Its altitude is also "central," on a plateau between the northern and eastern lowlands, and the mountainous west. As a result, it is located in the (small) part of Mexico that has a relatively temperate (not tropical) climate.Life was more pleasant than elsewhere.

  3. Located on a plateau, it is relatively defendable. Spanish (and America) invaders had to struggle to reach it, after landing at Vera Cruz.

  4. It was originally located in the middle of a lake (most of which has been drained), which provided a good supply of fresh water for drinking and irrigation. It still has enough access to fresh water to support one of the world's largest cities (by population), which is unusual in Mexico.


The reason why the location of Mexico City is, "so special", is because "Once upon a time", it was the Capital of the Aztec Empire; in late Medieval and early Modern times, it was called, "Tenochitlan". Even when the Spanish Conquistador arrived in the early 1500's, he would have entered into the city of "Tenochitlan"-(and not "Mexico City").

In fact, there are many Aztec ruins within Mexico City and there may have actually been a Pyramid in the middle of the city. Although Tenochitlan may not necessarily have matched the awesome looking and older city of Teotiuchan-(approximately 30 miles away), Tenochitlan was probably an impressive looking and ingenuously designed city in its own way.

  • Unfortunate: the "geography" answer gets upvoted and accepted while this "history" answer garners a down-vote. Dec 1, 2017 at 19:57
  • 1
    @PieterGeerkens I'm not sure when it was accepted, but the other is a 4-year old answer on a 5-year old question. It has had quite a bit more time to gather votes.
    – justCal
    Dec 1, 2017 at 23:13
  • The corrected sentence is, "Even when the Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes arrived in the early 1500's, he would have entered into the city of "Tenochitlan"-(and not Mexico City).
    – user26763
    Dec 2, 2017 at 17:43
  • Please use the edit function (listed under your answer) and make changes in the body of the answer, not as a comment below. Comments can be deleted, and then your change is lost.
    – justCal
    Dec 3, 2017 at 14:39

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