Paseo de la Reforma is the most important avenue and emblematic of Mexico City, and one of the most famous in the world. The important skyscrapers and famous monuments like the globally recognized Angel de la Independencia (Angel of the Independence) make this avenue stand out from the rest. It was drawn from the models of some European cities such as the Champs Elysées in Paris.
Originally called “Paseo de la Emperatriz,” it was built under the command of Maximiliano of Habsburg and Carlota Amalia of Belgium, who held the title of emperors of Mexico. After the triumph of the government of Benito Juárez, it was renamed “Paseo Degollado” in honor of Santos Degollado, a Mexican Liberal politician and military leader. Upon Juárez´s death, the government of Sebastían Lerdo de Tejada consolidated its current name in honor of the process known as Reforma.
In the beginning of the XIX century, when the Emperor Maximiliano of Mexico settled in the fortress of Chapultepec Castle, it became evident that there was no way to communicate directly with Mexico City, in particular with the National Palace, and to reduce the time of transfer from one place to another.
There is one theory that the construction of the “Paseo de la Reforma” was due to Carlota´s insistent claims to Maximiliano did not return home at night due the poor road conditions. They built the avenue to ensure the safer travels, which in times of rain the royal carriage have some difficulties to continue the journey back home. Although some historians of the time indicate that the Emperor liked the company of women at night, reason why, it´s absence in the Castle caused the discomfort of the Empress.
In order to give elegance to the Empire of the new Emperor, they planned to build a spectacular tree-lined avenue with ridges, roundabouts, amazing fountains, and sculptures.
“El Paseo de la Emperatriz” was a road that led to nowhere. It was used as an equestrian ride for exclusive use of the imperial court with the royal carriage. There was a promulgated writing law that stated: it is strictly forbidden that public transit, including all kind of vehicles.
With the defeat of the Empire, in addition to the “El Paseo de la Emperatriz” was never finished, and neither Maximiliano nor Carlota could see it concluded, since the death of Maximiliano and the madness of Carlota. In 1867 during Benito Juárez´s government they the change the name to “Paseo Degollado.” In 1872, he abolished the exclusive use of the road for the royalty, and made it open to the public.
It was only after Juárez´s death, during the presidential term of Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, that the design and urbanization of road were started. The statue of Christopher Columbus made in Paris was placed and received his definite name: “Paseo de la Reforma”.
During the long period of government of General Porfirio Díaz was one of the most active constructive and beautifying stages of the “Paseo de la Reforma”. General Díaz and a circle of technocratic advisors called “The Científicos” (The Scientists) chose the avenue as place for the construction of monuments, banks, corporate headquarters, as well as numerous lanterns, statues, and decorative elements to be observed along the road.
In 1957, Ernesto P. Uruchurtu began the expansion of the Paseo de la Reforma from the roundabout of “El Caballito” (Little horse) to the unión with the “Calzada de los Misterios” (Roadway of the Mysteries) with a distance of 2.6 km.
Some of the most emblematic monuments of Paseo de la Reforma include:
- Monumento a Cuauhtémoc (Monument to Cuauhtémoc),
- Monumento a Colón (Monument to Colón),
- Ángel de la Independencia (Angel of Independence),
- Fuente de la Diana Cazadora (Diana the Huntress fountain)
- Estela de Luz (Pillar of Light).
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