Friday, January 15, 2010

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #16): Mexico City, D.F.

Originally called Tenochtitlan, Mexico City was the capital of the Aztec nation when it was found by Spanish conquistadores nearly 200 years after natives began building what became a beautiful city of 300,000 built on an island in the middle of a lake. When Cortes and his band of soldiers came upon Tenochtitlan after their 1519 arrival on Mexico’s east coast, they found a city that was easily equal in scope to almost any place in Europe at that time. Although Cortes’ soldiers were badly outnumbered, the Aztec emperor Moctezuma protected him because he thought the fair-skinned, bearded Cortez was the reincarnation of the god Cuetzalcoatl returning to fulfill ancient prophesies. Cortes repaid this hospitality by kidnapping the emperor, attacking a number of Aztec temples and placing Christian chapels alongside their altars. Eventually the natives rebelled, killing Moctezuma and driving Cortes’ forces from the city. It was a matter of time, however, before the Spaniards regrouped and finally took the city for good in August 1521.

Since then, Mexico City has evolved into one of the world’s leading urban areas, with over 25,000,000 residents. It is the capital of Mexico, as well as the nation’s business hub and media center. There are too many places worth visiting in Mexico City to list, but the “can’t miss” list includes the Palacio de Bellas Artes, one of the world’s most beautiful theaters; the Catedral Metropolitana, a massive yet ornate church that took 250 years to finish; the Bosque de Chapultepec park on the city’s west side featuring lakes, woods, lawns, a zoo, amusement park and museums; and the Palacio Nacional, a 17th century edifice housing the President’s office, the national archives, the federal treasury, and awesome courtyard murals painted by Mexico’s most famous artist, Diego Rivera, that give details of national history.

Mexico City is also a center of baseball in the country as home to both the Liga Mexicana offices and the Mexico City Diablo Rojos, who began in 1940. The Red Devils shared Mexico City for decades with the Tigres franchise before the latter moved away in the 1990s. Both teams played at the old Social Security Stadium, which has since been replaced by the modern 25,000-seat Foro Sol, Mexico’s second-largest ballpark. The Diablos have won 15 Mexican League pennants since 1956, most recently in 2008. There has not been a decade in which the team hasn’t won a flag since the 1950s.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#17): Puebla

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