Photo Locale of the Month – January 2015

I have decided to introduce a new feature on this blog that I hope to turn into a monthly recurrence: the Photo Locale of the Month.

Each month, I’ll highlight a particular place from my travels – not just a city but a specific site within that city – and I’ll introduce it to you through pictures.

As always, all images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise.

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For the first month, I thought I’d feature a favorite place from what is perhaps my favorite city in the world.  The place is Chapultepec Castle and the city is Mexico City.

Castillo de Chapultepec 3

Castillo de Chapultepec sits atop Cerro de Chapultepec (Hill of the Grasshoppers) in a large forested park that fronts some of Mexico City’s most expensive real estate.

Castillo de Chapultepec 2 - view of Bosque and Polanco

You need a good understanding of Mexican history to fully understand the role that Chapultepec castle has played in Mexico’s turbulent history.  It is, however, the only castle in the mainland Americas to have ever been occupied by royalty.

Castillo de Chapultepec 30

The castle was built by Spanish viceroys during the late 17th century, and furnished with all of the expected velveteen, sateen, and polished gold and bronze.  It served as a military academy following the 11-year Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821).

Castillo de Chapultepec 38 - Sacrifice of the Boy Heroes - ceiling fresco by Gabriel Flores Garcia

During an attack by American troops that occurred in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, six Mexican cadets fought off the gringo invaders for as long as they could, and finally jumped to their deaths from the ramparts.  The Juan O’Gorman-painted ceiling mural in the above pic shows cadet Juan Escutia plummeting to his death, flag wrapped around him.  The photo below looks eastward from the castle grounds, towards Paseo de la Reforma, on a rare, smog-free day.  The six white columns in the center memorialize the “Niños Héroes,” or “Boy Heroes.”

Castillo de Chapultepec 29

Some years after the Mexican-American War, Mexico warily agreed to European rule while its infrastructure developed.  An uneasy French-Austrian-Mexican “alliance” was formed, and in 1864, Maximilian I of Austria’s Habsburg dynasty accepted the crown.  Here is the bedroom used by his wife/consort, Empress Carlotta:

Castillo de Chapultepec 31 - Carlotta's bedroom

This second round of European rule didn’t last long.  The first president of “modern” Mexico to reside in the palace was Porfirio Díaz, a controversial, larger-than-life leader who proved as adept as politics as he did as a military general before his presidency.  Díaz served seven terms but today is largely regarded as pro-business and anti-farmer.  Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros painted the anti-Díaz mural “The Porfirism of the Revolution,” on display in one of the castle’s galleries as seen here:

Castillo de Chapultepec 47 - The Porfirism of the Revolution - by David Alfaro Siqueiros

World War II-era president Lázaro Cárdenas eventually proclaimed that Chapultepec Castle was to forever be preserved as a museum of Mexican history, which it is today.  The castle grounds often play host to concerts and weddings, and doubled as Capulet Mansion in the 1996 Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes-starrer William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet.

You can access the castle by foot or by tourist train.  Admission to the castle is free on Sundays; it’s closed on Mondays (along with the rest of Chapultepec Park).  Here is the official website – it’s only available in Spanish.

Castillo de Chapultepec 16

All pictures were taken with a Nikon DSLR camera.

Author: gringopotpourri

Gringo - aka Scott - was born outside of Chicago and has lived most of his life in or around big cities. He spent two years of his adult life in Mexico City (talk about big cities!) and fell in love with Mexican food, history, and women, all while weathering the culture shock. Life's journey has since brought him to rural Tennessee, perhaps the biggest culture shock of them all. Scott also enjoys movies, hiking, and travel in general.

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