TAR Travelogue - Mexico City
Each week, we'll bring you fascinating facts about the cities the TAR teams compete in.
Mexico City, Mexico
Population: Almost 24 million
Mexico's capital, once the center of Aztec civilization, is the country's cosmopolitan business, art, and culinary hub. From the Alameda, a leafy center of activity since Aztec times, to the Zona Rosa, a chic shopping neighborhood, Mexico City offers endless options to urban adventurers.
Mexico City is both the oldest (675 years) and the highest (7,349 ft) metropolis on the North American continent. And with nearly 24 million inhabitants, it is the most populous city in the world. It is Mexico's cultural, political, and financial core - on the verge of the 21st century but clinging to its deeply entrenched Aztec heritage.
Unfortunately, the single most widely known fact about Mexico City is that its air is polluted. So you might picture the city, its streets packed with vehicles, wrapped daily in a cloak of black smog. In reality, in spite of the serious pollution problem, the capital has some of the clearest, bluest skies anywhere, especially in spring and summer. At 7,556 ft, it often has mild daytime weather perfect for sightseeing and cool evenings comfortable for sleeping. Mornings can be glorious - chilly and bright with the promise of the warming sun.
If Mexico City's smog brings Los Angeles to mind, so might the fault line that runs through the valley. In 1957 a major earthquake took a tragic toll, and scars are still visible from the devastating 1985 earthquake - 8.1 on the Richter scale. The government reported 10,000 deaths, but many locals believe the toll was closer to 50,000.
Growing nonstop and completely surrounded by mountains, Mexico City covers the flat, sprawling 1,482-square-km (572-square-mile) Meseta de Anáhuac (Valley of Mexico). The city is surrounded on three sides by the state of Mexico and bordered on the south by the state of Morelos. Glossy magazine ads usually tout Mexico's paradisiacal beach resorts and ancient ruins, but cosmopolitan, historic Mexico City is a vital destination in itself - more foreign and fascinating than many major capitals on faraway continents.