Colonia Roma
Colonia Roma is a colonia
Colonia (Mexico)
In general, colonias are neighborhoods in Mexican cities, which have no jurisdictional autonomy or representation. It is plausible that the name, which literally means colony, arose in the late 19th, early 20th centuries, when one of the first urban developments outside Mexico City's core was...

 or neighborhood located in the Cuauhtémoc borough
Cuauhtémoc, D.F.
Cuauhtémoc, named after the former Aztec leader, is one of the 16 boroughs of the Federal district of Mexico City. It consists of the oldest parts of the city, extending over what was the entire city in the 1920s. This area is the historic and culture center of the city, although it is not the...

 of Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

  just west of the city’s historic center
Historic center of Mexico City
The historic center of Mexico City is also known as the "Centro" or "Centro Histórico." This neighborhood is focused on the Zócalo or main plaza in Mexico City and extends in all directions for a number of blocks with its farthest extent being west to the Alameda Central The Zocalo is the largest...

. The area was a very shallow part of Lake Texcoco, dotted with tiny islands and one small island village of Aztacalco during the pre-Hispanic period. During the colonial period, the area dried up and became rural lands first owned by Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 and then by the Counts of Miraville. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this area west of what was Mexico City proper was being turned into “modern” colonias for the wealthy seeking to escape the deterioration of city center. The colonia’s height as an “aristocratic” and “European” enclave was from its founding in the 1900s until about the 1940s. However, wealthy residents began to move to newer colonias as early as the 1940s and problems associated with urbanization began to appear in the 1950s. Older mansions began to give way to modern commercial buildings in the 1960s and 1970s as the deterioration became more serious. The 1985 Mexico City earthquake
1985 Mexico City earthquake
The 1985 Mexico City earthquake, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake that struck Mexico City on the early morning of 19 September 1985 at around 7:19 AM , caused the deaths of at least 10,000 people and serious damage to the greater Mexico City Area. The complete seismic event...

 caused widespread destruction in the colonia, especially to newer and more commercial and apartment buildings, even causing one major development to mostly disappear. Since then, there have been efforts to conserve the area’s architectural heritage and regain some of its former prestige with some success.

Today, the area is a mixed use zone (residential/office) divided into three zones: a mostly commercial area along the main streets to the north, a cultural area along Alvaro Obregon and the mostly residential “Roma Sur” (South Roma). Its original wide streets, boulevards and small parks filled with trees remain. It is still home to about 1,100 mansions and other architecturally and historically important structures, mostly built between 1906 and 1939. Most of these are no longer residences but rather offices, cultural centers and other businesses. Examples of these adaptations include the Casa Lamm Cultural Center, the Casa Universitaria del Libro, the main building of the Universidad de Londres and the various art galleries which are mostly found on Colima Street.

This area was designated as a "Barrio Mágico"
Barrios Mágicos of Mexico City
The “Barrios Mágicos” of Mexico City is a list of twenty one areas in the Federal District, which have been named “magical neighborhoods” in order to attract tourism to them. The program is sponsored by the city government but is patterned after the “Pueblos Mágicos” program of the Mexican...

 by the city in 2011.

General description

The colonia was an exclusive area for the wealthy on the edge of the city when it was built in the very early 20th century. It declined from the mid 20th century to nearly the end of the same, but it has revived somewhat as a Bohemian area with restaurants, art galleries, offices and more. Today, the area attracts younger generations of artists, writers and urban hipsters, with rents rising once again. The colonia subdivides into three areas: a commercial zone on Avenida Insurgentes, Avenida Chapultepec and Avenida Cuauhtemoc, a residential area informally known as Roma Sur, and a cultural corridor along Alvaro Obregon Street.

The boundaries of the colonia are marked by the following streets: Avenida Chapultepec to the north, Avenida Alvaro Obregon, Eje 4 Sur Benjamin Franklin, Antonio M. Anza and Viaducto Miguel Alemán
Viaducto Miguel Alemán
Viaducto Miguel Alemán is a crosscutting freeway, opened in September 1950, that runs east-west across the middle of Mexico City. In the center of the road is a river encased in cement to control flooding...

 to the south, Avenida Cuauhtémoc and Jalapa Street to the east and Avenida Insurgentes and Avenida Veracruz to the west. Within, these boundaries, most of the streets are quiet and lined with large, leafy trees, mostly how they were laid out when the colonia was built. The largest street is Alvaro Obregon, whose traffic islands have large trees, walking paths and metal benches. On weekends, these islands fill with vendors selling art, antiques and collectibles. However, this and other of the larger streets such as Durango, Oaxaca, Querétaro and San Luis Potosí, were designated as “ejes” or axis streets in the 1950s for through traffic.
Along with the tree lined streets, green spaces were also created with the addition of small parks called plazas. The old heart of the neighborhood is the Plaza Rio de Janeiro, originally called Plaza Roma. This plaza is surrounded by a number of old mansions as well as a couple a tall modern towers. In the center, there is a fountain and a replica of Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

’s David
David (Michelangelo)
David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created between 1501 and 1504, by the Italian artist Michelangelo. It is a marble statue of a standing male nude. The statue represents the Biblical hero David, a favoured subject in the art of Florence...

. One mansion that faces this plaza is popularly called the La Casa de las Brujas (House of the Witches) although its official name is the Edificio Rio de Janeiro. The popular name of this red-brick castle-like structure, built in 1908, comes from the face that seems to be formed by the windows on the top of the corner tower and the Art Deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

 entrance, which was added in the 1930s. The Plaza Luis Cabrera is on the corner of Alvaro Obregon and Orizaba Streets. It was the setting for part of a short story called “La batallas en el desierto” by José Emilio Pacheco
José Emilio Pacheco
José Emilio Pacheco Berny is a Mexican essayist, novelist and short story writer. He is regarded as one of the major Mexican poets of the second half of the 20th century....


Colonia Roma is one of a number of “modern” colonias such as Colonia Juárez, Colonia Santa María la Ribera and Colonia San Rafael, which were built on what was the western edge of the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for wealthy residents looking to escape the city center. The streets and houses were designed and built based on European styles, which can still be seen today, especially on Orizaba, Alvaro Obregon, Colima and Tonalá Streets, where the older facades are best conserved. These were homes of bankers, factory owners, politicians, artists and businessmen who worked in the city center but lived here. Like its sister colonias, Roma has since lost many of its original mansion homes, but it has resisted this loss better. Today, there are an estimated 1,100 structures which date from the 1930s or earlier, compared to the 500 to 600 the remain in Santa María la Ribera and Colonia Juárez. Most of the area’s historically and architecturally significant structures were built between 1906 and 1939. These earlier structures include examples of Neo-colonial (which imitate the styles built during Mexico’s colonial period) and Art Deco, but most are “Porfirian,” meaning that they are a mix of French, Roman, Gothic and Moorish elements which were all fashionable in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of these old mansions is the home of television personality Paco Stanley
Paco Stanley
Francisco "Paco" Jorge Stanley Albaitero was a Mexican television entertainer. He studied law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico . Paco Stanley also specialized in Psychology, Marketing and Advertising....

, who says he bought the structure because of its “small friendly ghosts,” naming it “La Princesita” or The Little Princess. Stanley uses the property both as living space and office. These houses and streets have provided the backdrop for films such as Los Olvidados
Los olvidados
Los Olvidados is a 1950 Mexican film directed by Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel....

, filmed in La Romita by Luis Buñuel
Luis Buñuel
Luis Buñuel Portolés was a Spanish-born filmmaker — later a naturalized citizen of Mexico — who worked in Spain, Mexico, France and the US..-Early years:...

 and literary works such as Batallas en el desierto by José Emilio Pacheco, Agua Quemada by Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes Macías is a Mexican writer and one of the best-known living novelists and essayists in the Spanish-speaking world. He has influenced contemporary Latin American literature, and his works have been widely translated into English and other languages.-Biography:Fuentes was born in...

, Manifestacion de Silencios by Arturo Azuela and El Vampiro de la Colonia Roma by Luis Zapata .

However, the colonia now also has a large number of more modern structures, defined as having been built since the 1950s. These structures came to replace many of the original structures as the character of the colonia changed, along with the lack of urban planning, zoning and the destruction caused by the 1985 earthquake. Owners of many of the older structures have had or have wanted to demolish or radically change them for economic reasons, a process which still persists today. In cases where they have succeeded, modern office and apartment buildings have appeared. Not only are these structures taller and markedly different in design, they also weigh more, affecting the ground around them and causing damage to remaining earlier structures.

While the older mansions are no longer economically viable as residences, there has been efforts since the 1990s to save them, by converting them into offices, stores, restaurants and other businesses with restrictions aimed at conserving their facades and the colonia’s overall character. Like neighboring Colonia Condesa, Roma has a number of cafes, restaurants and other eateries established in older structures (as well as newer ones). One difference between the two neighboring colonias is that Condesa’s popular habit of placing tables on the sidewalks outside has not really caught on in Roma. The practice is spotty in Roma, mostly appearing with cafes and small eateries, but more formal restaurants look down on the practice. A number claim that it discourages potential customers from walking by, thinking the area is private property.

Colima Street is home to a number of art galleries which have worked since the 1990s to establish themselves as an international art market to compete with New York, Paris, London and Tokyo. These galleries include the Landucci Gallery. Artists such as Mexican photographer Victor Carresquedo and American Barry Wolfryd have set up shop in the area as well as the Centro Libre de Arte, Mexico City’s newest fine arts school. The goal is to promote Mexican art from its current status as regionally relevant to one with broader appeal, by not only promoting native artists more effectively at home but also by sponsoring international tours, featuring established artists such as Francisco Toledo
Francisco Toledo
Francisco Benjamín López Toledo is a Mexican graphic artist. He studied at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Oaxaca and the Centro Superior de Artes Aplicadas del Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico, where he studied graphic arts with Guillermo Silva Santamaria...

, Roberto Márquez
Roberto Márquez
Roberto Marquez is a painter originally from Mexico. He later moved to Arizona, and then to New York. His paintings incorporate dreamlike images from literature, Mexican history, and the painter himself.-References:...

 and Alfredo Castaneda as well as newer talents such as Cisco Jimenez and Guillermo Kuitca
Guillermo Kuitca
Guillermo Kuitca is an Argentinean artist who was born in Buenos Aires in 1961, where he continues to work and live. Kuitca's work has been shown extensively around the globe, and is included in many important public collection, including The Tate Gallery, England; The Metropolitan Museum of Art,...

. The area is also attracting South American and Central American artists looking to break into the U.S. and world art markets.

While there have been efforts to restore the area’s reputation as aristocratic and upscale, the area still has problems associated with deterioration. There are a number of cabarets and men’s clubs, which have attracted and sustained prostitution in the area. There are still unmaintained and abandoned buildings in which live squatters and other very poor people. Since the 1990s, there was a small poor community of about 35 Otomi
Otomi people
The Otomi people . Smaller Otomi populations exist in the states of Puebla, Mexico, Tlaxcala, Michoacán and Guanajuato. The Otomi language belonging to the Oto-Pamean branch of the Oto-Manguean language family is spoken in many different varieties some of which are not mutually intelligible.One of...

 in the colonia, living in abject poverty. Most earned money and depend on community soup kitchens. Most live as squatters in abandoned buildings.

Casa Lamm

The best known landmark in the colonia is the Casa Lamm . La Casa Lamm was a project to rehabilitate one of the old mansions which was supported by local authorities. Today, it is a cultural center and restaurant located in a restored mansion that dates to 1911 on Alvaro Obregon Street. The house was built by Luis Lamm, one of the original developers but he never lived there. Instead, he rented it to a religious organization which ran an orphanage. In 1939, it was sold to a private family, which kept it and maintained it until 1990. In 1993, the mansion was renovated and opened as a private cultural institute.

The institute consists of art exhibition space and management, some graduate level programs in the fine arts and a restaurant and bookstore, which are open to the public. Since it opened, it has hosted numerous art exhibitions. In 1999, it received custody of Televisa
Televisa is a Mexican multimedia conglomerate, the largest mass media company in Latin America and in the Spanish-speaking world. It is a major international entertainment business, with much of its programming airing in the United States on Univision, with which it has an exclusive contract...

’s large art collection, which was formerly housed in the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo in Polanco
Polanco (Mexico)
Polanco is the name that usually refers to a group of seven official neighborhoods in Mexico City, located north of Chapultepec Park. The official names of the neighborhoods are: Los Morales , Del Bosque, Polanco Reforma, Polanco Chapultepec, Chapultepec Morales, Bosque de Chapultepec and...

. This collection contains works by artists such as Sergio Hernández, María Izquierdo
María Izquierdo
María Izquierdo was a Mexican painter. She was born in San Juan de los Lagos in the state of Jalisco; her birth name was María Cenobia Izquierdo Gutiérrez. Her father died when she was five years old and she lived with grandparents afterward in small towns of Aguascalientes, Torreón, and Saltillo...

, Francisco Toledo, Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns, Jr. is an American contemporary artist who works primarily in painting and printmaking.-Life:Born in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns spent his early life in Allendale, South Carolina with his paternal grandparents after his parents' marriage failed...

, Gerhard Richter
Gerhard Richter
Gerhard Richter is a German visual artist. Richter has simultaneously produced abstract and photorealistic painted works, as well as photographs and glass pieces, thus undermining the concept of the artist’s obligation to maintain a single cohesive style.- Biography :Gerhard Richter was born in...

, Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Manuel Álvarez Bravo was a Mexican photographer.Álvarez Bravo was born in Mexico City on February 4, 1902. He came from a family of artists and writers, and met several other prominent artists who encouraged his work when he was young, including Tina Modotti and Diego Rivera...

, Tina Modotti
Tina Modotti
Tina Modotti was an Italian photographer, model, actress, and revolutionary political activist.- Early life :Modotti was born Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti Mondini in Udine, Friuli, Italy...

 and Guillermo Kahlo
Guillermo Kahlo
Carl Wilhelm Kahlo was a German photographer and father of artist Frida Kahlo, who painted his portrait....

. This collection is displayed on a rotating basis on a wing which was added for it. In 1994, Casa Lamm, along with art galleries OMR and Nina Menocal have worked to make Roma a center for the visual arts in Mexico, attracting more galleries, artists and others to set up shop here. The ongoing project has had mixed success. It has attracted the participation of entities such as the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana
Salón de la Plástica Mexicana
The Salón de la Plástica Mexicana is an art museum of plastic arts, which was founded by a group of notable artists on November 16, 1949. Today the SPM is located in the Calle de Colima 196 in the Colonia Roma and in the Donceles 99 in the Centro Histórico of Mexico City...

, the Universidad de la Comunicación, Jomart, the Universidad Interamericana de México and the Casa de Francia, and various galleries have has full and profitable shows. However, security problems and lack of maintenance of public areas in the colonia by the city government have sometimes made it difficult to attract or keep artists and institutions.

The institute offers studies in poetry, novel writing and theater of the 20th century. It also offers a master’s degree in Literary Appreciation and Creation, which combines both classes on criticism as well as workshops for writers mostly focusing on Latin American and European works. On the ground floor of the building, facing the street are the bookstore and restaurant. The Liberia Pegaso bookstore contains large selections in English and Spanish, especially in art-related books. The restaurant was last remodeled in 2003, and is considered to be a very fashionable place to eat. Most of the dining area is centered on an open-air patio accented by a black fountain. The menu is a mix of Mexican and international cuisine.

Casa Universitaria del Libro

The Casa Universitaria del Libro (University House of Books) is located on Puebla and Orizaba Streets. The building dates from 1920, when it was built by Joaquin Barando for the McGregar family. During the Second World War it was used as the Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

ian embassy. The Centro Asturiano took possession in the 1930s. When this institution moved to Polanco in 1986, it began to lease the building free to the Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM) . Although unproven, it is still rumored that the house was used for prostitution at one point and there is also local legend which states that a ghosts wanders through its halls, rooms and especially in the terrace. The bookstore specializes in the promotion of mostly written works produced by those associated with UNAM in the center of the city away from the Ciudad Universitaria
Ciudad Universitaria
Ciudad Universitaria , Mexico, is UNAM's main campus, located in Coyoacán borough in the southern part of Mexico City. Designed by architects Mario Pani and Enrique del Moral, it encloses the Olympic Stadium, about 40 faculties and institutes, the Cultural Center, an ecological reserve, the Central...

. It sponsors approximately 250 activities per year such as book readings and signings, conferences, seminars and round tables. There is no other bookstore in Mexico dedicated solely to the promotion of a university’s academic and literary production.

Museo Objeto del Objeto

Museo Objeto del Objeto (Object of the Object Museum or MODO) was inaugurated in 2010, following Mexico City's tradition of collectors founding or expanding museums with their personal collections. This museum is based on the collection of ordinary objects such as commercial packaging (especially beverage containers), advertisements, household appliances and more for a total of over 30,000 items collected by Bruno Newman
Bruno Newman
Bruno Newman is a businessman from Mexico City. He is the founder and co director of Zimat Consultores, a publisher, photographer and the founder of the Museo del Objeto del Objeto .-Career:...

 over more than forty years. The museum is dedicated to communication and design, using the collection as a starting point for collaboration and research.


The Sagrada Familia Church is located on the corner of Puebla and Orizaba Streets. Its architecture is classed as Romanesque Revival and Gothic Revival, which was designed by Mexican architect Manuel Gorozpe. The first stone was laid in 1906, but most of structure was built between 1910 and 1912, of reinforced concrete. At the time, the church was criticized as “mediocre, ostentacious and of decadent taste.” In the 1920s, painter and Jesuit priest Gonzalez Carrasco decorated the interior with murals, with two smaller paintings realized by Hermano Tapia. The interior also contains the remains of Miguel Agustín Pro, a Jesuit priest executed by Plutarco Elias Calles in 1927 during the Cristero War and is considered to be a martyr. The church is fronted by a small atrium bordered bya wrought iron fence constructed by the Gábelich workshop, which was in neighborhing Colonia Doctores. It is one of the few wrought iron works to survive from the early 20th century.
On the corner of Querétaro and Zacatecas Streets is the Nuestra Señora del Rosario Church, which was built by Mexican architects Angel and Manuel Torres Torija. This church is Gothic Revival begun in 1920 and concluded in 1930. While built after the Porfirio Díaz era of the late 19th and early 20th century, this church shares many of the features as churches from that time. Records indicate that the project was probably planned around 1911 but was delayed due to the Mexican Revolution. The facade contains a decorative rose window, common to Gothic styles with ojival doors and windows. The interior is spacious with three naves with notable stained glass windows with orient themselves vertically.

Educational institutions

In addition to the educational programs at the Casa Lamm and the Casa Universitaria del Libro, the colonia has a number of private educational institutions from primary school to university. Some, such as the Instituto Pedagogico Anglo Espanol, the Instituto Renacimiento and the Colegio Mexico have been established since the first half of the 20th century.

There are two universities based in the colonia. The Universidad de Londres is a mostly business college. Its main campus is in Colonia Roma, but it also has eight other facilities in other parts of Mexico City and three in other parts of Mexico. The Roma campus is housed in one of the palatial mansions from the Porfirian era on Orizaba street. It offers twenty bachelor’s degrees, eight master’s and eight certificate programs.

The Universidad de las Américas de la Ciudad de México (UDLA)
Mexico City College
Mexico City College was founded in 1940, as an English speaking junior college in Mexico City, Mexico.In 1946 the college switched to a 4 year Bachelor of Arts degree-awarding institution, then changed its name to University of the Americas in 1963 and in 1968 to Universidad de las Americas,...

 was founded in 1940 as the Mexico City Junior College (MCC). In the 1960s, its name changed to the University of the Americas and shortly thereafter to the current one. It was founded in Colonia Roma but moved to a facility on the Mexico City-Toluca
Toluca, formally known as Toluca de Lerdo, is the state capital of Mexico State as well as the seat of the Municipality of Toluca. It is the center of a rapidly growing urban area, now the fifth largest in Mexico. It is located west-southwest of Mexico City and only about 40 minutes by car to the...

 highway. When the institution split in the 1980s, one campus moved to Puebla
Puebla, Puebla
The city and municipality of Puebla is the capital of the state of Puebla, and one of the five most important colonial cities in Mexico. Being a planned city, it is located to the east of Mexico City and west of Mexico's main port, Veracruz, on the main route between the two.The city was founded...

 and the other moved to the current location back in Colonia Roma in newly built facilities. UDLA offers seven bachelor’s degrees, four graduate degrees and various certificate programs. It is located in a modern facility on Puebla Street.

La Romita

La Romita is a small section of the colonia which used to be an independent village and colonia and whose streets are still significantly different from the rest of Roma. The territory of modern Colonia Roma in pre-Hispanic times consisted of the very shallow waters of Lake Texcoco
Lake Texcoco
Lake Texcoco was a natural lake formation within the Valley of Mexico. The Aztecs built the city of Tenochtitlan on an island in the lake. The Spaniards built Mexico City over Tenochtitlan...

 and a number of very small islands of firm ground. A recent study of former lake area, including Colonia Roma, has shown that uneven sinking of streets and ground is most likely caused by the presence of archeological remains such as villages on former small islands and chinampa
Chinampa is a method of ancient Mesoamerican agriculture which used small, rectangle-shaped areas of fertile arable land to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Valley of Mexico.-Description:...

s (man made floating islands). This sinking has created small mounds of 50 to 100 cm. The village of Aztacalco (Nahuatl
Nahuatl is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" This language name has several spellings, among them náhuatl , Naoatl, Nauatl, Nahuatl, Nawatl. In a back formation from the name of the language, the ethnic group of Nahuatl speakers are called Nahua...

:house of heron
The herons are long-legged freshwater and coastal birds in the family Ardeidae. There are 64 recognised species in this family. Some are called "egrets" or "bitterns" instead of "heron"....

s) was on one of these small islands. It was an independent village from colonial times until the very early 20th century, when it was made its own colonia in 1903 with the name of La Romita. When Colonia Roma was created, Romita was officially incorporated into it, but the local residents fought redevelopment. The area has since developed semi-independently from the rest of Colonia Roma, both in infrastructure and socially. Even today, the area is relatively difficult to access, with narrow streets leading to a very small plaza and church called Santa María de la Natividad de Aztacalco. This church was established in 1550, but it was “demoted” from parish to chapel in 1962. The local residents were of a significantly lower social class than the rest of Roma, with the wealthy residents avoiding it for fear of thieves. In the 1930s and 1940s, the area had two legendary female thieves named Plácida Hernández and the other only referred to as “La Loba” (The She-Wolf) .

The area had one famous gang known as the Halcones (Falcons). This gang was prominent in the 1940s and 1950s, when it was led by Arturo “El Negro” Durazo and controlled a large part of La Romita. Durazo befriended and protected a more studious resident of the area, José López Portillo
José López Portillo
José López Portillo y Pacheco was the President of Mexico from 1976 to 1982.Born in Mexico City, López Portillo studied Law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico before beginning his political career with the Institutional Revolutionary Party in 1959.He held several positions in the...

, who eventually went into politics and became president of Mexico
President of Mexico
The President of the United Mexican States is the head of state and government of Mexico. Under the Constitution, the president is also the Supreme Commander of the Mexican armed forces...

 from 1976 to 1982. In return for protection received when he was young, Portillo made Durazo the chief of police of Mexico City. This led wide scale corruption and brutality until Durazo was replaced and jailed by the following president Miguel de la Madrid
Miguel de la Madrid
Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado is a Mexican politician affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party who served as President of Mexico from 1982 to 1988.-Biography:...

 . The area still has a reputation for crime and is found at the extreme northeast of the colonia near Metro Cuauhtémoc
Metro Cuauhtémoc
Metro Cuauhtémoc is a metro station on the Mexico City Metro.It is located at the northern extreme of Avenida Cuauhtémoc, in the Cuauhtémoc borough, in the centre of Mexico City.The station logo depicts the head of an eagle...


Centro Urbano Benito Juárez

Another distinct area of the colonia is on the far southeast corner and is of more recent creation. The Centro Urbano Benito Juárez
Centro Urbano Benito Juárez
The Centro Urbano Benito Juárez, more commonly called the Multifamiliar Juárez, was a large apartment complex built on the southeast section of Colonia Roma, Mexico City in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was one of several projects of this type by architect Mario Pani, designed to be...

, or Multifamiliar Juárez was a very large apartment complex in the 1940s and early 1950s. Prior to this, it was the site of the Estadio Nacional (National Stadium) which was used for sporting and political events, and La Piedad Park.

It was one of several projects of this type by architect Mario Pani
Mario Pani
Mario Pani Darqui was a Mexican architect and urbanist, one of the most active under the rule of president Miguel Alemán Valdés...

. It was designed to house city government workers and to be semi-autonomous with its own schools, administration, businesses etc. and incorporate as much outdoors space as possible. It also featured one of the largest mural projects of the 20th century by artist Carlos Mérida
Carlos Merida
Carlos Mérida was a Guatemalan artist.-Early life:Mérida was born in Guatemala City to a family from Quetzaltenango, boasting a Maya and Zapotec heritage which was often an inspiration in his art. He began studying music but became hearing-impaired due to illness. He then changed to the visual arts...

. The complex was one of the largest projects in the world to integrate artwork into the architecture. Carlos Mérida’s mural work here was the most important of his career and the largest mural project in Mexico in the 20th century.

Despite having been tested for ground stability, the complex suffered damaged from an earthquake in 1957. Later, most of the complex, and the mural work with it, were destroyed by the 1985 Mexico City earthquake
1985 Mexico City earthquake
The 1985 Mexico City earthquake, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake that struck Mexico City on the early morning of 19 September 1985 at around 7:19 AM , caused the deaths of at least 10,000 people and serious damage to the greater Mexico City Area. The complete seismic event...

 and the demolition of many of the damaged buildings. Many of the buildings could have been saved, but it proved uneconomical to do so. The government erred when it created the rental contracts with tenants by neglecting to add a clause allowing them to raise rents. By 1985, there were tenants paying as little as 200 pesos a month for rent. ($25USD in 1950, $.10USD in 1985). For this reason, maintenance of the buildings and grounds suffered until it became impossible. The government decided that this was the time to condemn nearly all of the buildings, with only several still remaining. The earthquake made most complex disappear. What remains continues to deteriorate. There are problems with lack of parking, crowded streets, abandoned units and crime. Most the land where the demolished buildings stood has become the Ramon Lopez Velarde Park. This park is frequently used by residents of the southeast corner of the colonia as well as neighboring colonias and the visitors from the Centro Medico. However, since it was established, it has experienced degradation due to lack of maintenance, trash, graffiti and homeless.


During Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 times, this area was shallow lake and a number of very small islands. The Aztecs farmed on chinampa
Chinampa is a method of ancient Mesoamerican agriculture which used small, rectangle-shaped areas of fertile arable land to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Valley of Mexico.-Description:...

s, which were small floating artificial islands moored close to firm land. The repeated creation and sinking of these islands over time extended solid land in the area. The most important settlement was Aztacalco (house of herons in Nahuatl) which was located on one of these small islands. After the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, this area was part of the lands granted to Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 by the Spanish Crown in 1529. During much of the colonial period, it was part of the property of the Counts of Miraville, but by the early 20th century, it was the property of two families named Echegaray and Calero Sierra, and bordered the lands of the Hacienda de la Condesa. Although still rural, it was already bordered by streets such as Avenida Chapultepec and Avenida La Piedad (today Avenida Cuauhtémoc) .

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the mostly dried lakebed areas west of Mexico City were being developed into “modern” colonias for the city’s wealthy looking to leave the deteriorating city center. Aztacalco, then called La Romita or La Romerita, was established as a colonia in 1903. At about the same time, the rest of the land which is now Roma, called Hacienda de Romita or Potreros de Romita, was acquired by an investment group called Companía de Terrenos de la Calzada de Chapultepec. This group included British circus owner Edward Walter Orrin, along with famous clown Ricardo Bell, U.S. engineer Casius Clay Lamm and his sons, and Mexican Pedro Lascuráin
Pedro Lascuráin
Pedro José Domingo de la Calzada Manuel María Lascuráin Paredes was both Mexico's and the world's briefest-ever serving president....

. The intent was to develop the land into a residential subdivision, which was approved by the city government in 1902, with the name of Roma instead of Romita. The project also had participation from the Porfirio Díaz
Porfirio Díaz
José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori was a Mexican-American War volunteer and French intervention hero, an accomplished general and the President of Mexico continuously from 1876 to 1911, with the exception of a brief term in 1876 when he left Juan N...

 government, which commissioned itself to provide infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer, and would be the first colonia in Mexico City with these services. The colonia was also designed with wide streets, with tree-filled traffic islands and boulevards such as those in Paris. The names of these new streets came from the states and cities which the Orrin Circus had performed. The largest of these streets was and still is Avenida Alvaro Obregon, originally called Avenida Jalisco. Small parks such as Plaza Rio de Janeiro and Plaza Luis Cabrera were added for more green space. These streets and plazas still remain although a number of the wider streets such as Alvaro Obregon, Durango, Oaxaca, Querétaro and San Luis Potosí have been converted into “eje” or axis roads for through traffic. The project also included the incorporation of the formerly separate La Romita, but residents resisted and the two communities remained socially separate.

After the initial development of infrastructure and some homes, project stalled after the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution
Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution...

 in 1910. After the war was over, Roma, along with sister colonias of Colonia Juárez
Colonia Juárez (Mexico City)
Colonia Juarez is one of the better–known neighborhoods or colonias in the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City. Its boundaries are: the corner of Paseo de la Reforma and Eje Bucareli to the north, Avenida Chapultepec to the south, Eje 1 Poniente to the east and Circuito Interior José Vasconcelos to...

, Colonia Condesa, Colonia San Rafael
Colonia San Rafael
Colonia San Rafael is a colonia of the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City, just west of the historic city center. It was established in the late 19th century as one of the first formal neighborhoods outside of the city center and initially catered to the wealthy of the Porfirio Díaz era. These early...

, Colonia Santa María la Ribera and others, experienced a building boom in the 1920s and 1930s. The architecture in all of these areas at this time rejected Mexico’s traditional Baroque
Baroque architecture
Baroque architecture is a term used to describe the building style of the Baroque era, begun in late sixteenth century Italy, that took the Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical and theatrical fashion, often to express the triumph of the Catholic Church and...

 architecture of red tezontle
Tezontle is a porous, extrusive, igneous, volcanic rock used extensively in construction in Mexico. It is usually reddish in color.-Uses:Tezontle can be mixed with concrete to form lightweight concrete blocks, or mixed with cement to create stucco finishes. Tezontle is often used as the top...

 stone and wrought iron balconies and window rails for a more modern look, heavily influenced by European trends, especially French, and eventually Art Deco. The colonia was at its most exclusive, considered aristocratic and “European,” from its beginning to the end of the 1930s, with its historically and architecturally significant buildings constructed between 1906 and 1939. It not only attracted wealthy Mexican families, but also a number of foreign residents the initial British and American developers to a number of French and Spanish. By the 1930s, the colonia has a number of clubs or meeting houses such as La Bandida, where many politicians in Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho served as the President of Mexico from 1940 to 1946.Manuel Ávila was born in the city of Teziutlán, a small town in Puebla, to middle-class parents, Manuel Ávila Castillo and Eufrosina Camacho Bello. He had several siblings, among them sister María Jovita Ávila Camacho and...

’s government would meet, and erotic bathhouses such as La Torre. Although two significant churches were built between 1900 and 1940, the Cristero War
Cristero War
The Cristero War of 1926 to 1929 was an uprising and counter-revolution against the Mexican government in power at that time. The rebellion was set off by the strict enforcement of the anti-clerical provisions of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 and the expansion of further anti-clerical laws...

 in the 1930s and its related religious persecutions, resulted in their closing, with services held clandestinely in private homes.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the area was still exclusive and could boast of having been the home of influential artists, businessmen and politicians. Residents from the first half of the 20th century included former presidents of Mexico Luis Echeverría
Luis Echeverría
Luis Echeverría Álvarez served as President of Mexico from 1970 to 1976.-Early history:Echeverría joined the faculty of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1947 and taught political theory...

, José López Portillo
José López Portillo
José López Portillo y Pacheco was the President of Mexico from 1976 to 1982.Born in Mexico City, López Portillo studied Law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico before beginning his political career with the Institutional Revolutionary Party in 1959.He held several positions in the...

, Álvaro Obregón
Álvaro Obregón
General Álvaro Obregón Salido was the President of Mexico from 1920 to 1924. He was assassinated in 1928, shortly after winning election to another presidential term....

 and Miguel de la Madrid
Miguel de la Madrid
Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado is a Mexican politician affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party who served as President of Mexico from 1982 to 1988.-Biography:...

, as well as Ramón López Velarde
Ramón López Velarde
Ramón López Velarde was aMexican poet. His work is generally considered to be postmodern, but is unique for its subject matter. He achieved great fame in his native land, to the point of being considered Mexico's national poet....

, Concepción Acevedo de la Llata|“Madre Conchita,” who was accused of planning Obregon’s assassination, Francisco I. Madero
Francisco I. Madero
Francisco Ignacio Madero González was a politician, writer and revolutionary who served as President of Mexico from 1911 to 1913. As a respectable upper-class politician, he supplied a center around which opposition to the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz could coalesce...

’s widow, Jorge Ibargüengoitia
Jorge Ibargüengoitia
Jorge Ibargüengoitia Antillón , was a Mexican novelist and playwright who achieved great popular success with his satires, three of which have appeared in English: Las Muertas , Dos Crimenes , and Los Relámpagos de Agosto Jorge Ibargüengoitia Antillón (Guanajuato, Mexico, January 22, 1928 -...

, Fernando Benitez, Juan José Arreola
Juan José Arreola
Juan José Arreola Zúñiga was a Mexican writer and academic. He is considered Mexico's premier experimental short story writer of the twentieth century. Arreola is recognized as one of the first Latin American writers to abandon realism; he uses elements of fantasy to underscore existentialist and...

, José Agustín
José Agustín
José Agustín Ramírez Gómez is a Mexican novelist.-Career:Agustin's first novel, La Tumba was the brief but provocative story of a Mexican upperclass teen, deemed indecent by the public but gathering praise from older writers...

, Pita Amor
Pita Amor
Guadalupe Teresa Amor Schmidtlein , who wrote as Pita Amor, was a Mexican poet. She was born in Mexico City, the youngest child of a family with seven children, of mixed French, German and Spanish ancestry, a member of the Mexican aristocracy...

, Julio Sesto, Fernando Solana
Fernando Solana
Fernando Solana Morales is a Mexican diplomat, politician and businessman. He has served as the Mexican Secretary of Public Education, of Commerce and of Foreign Affairs....

, Alfonso García Robles
Alfonso García Robles
Alfonso García Robles was a Mexican diplomat and politician who, in conjunction with Sweden's Alva Myrdal, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982....

, Andrés Palca, María Conesa, Pascual Ortiz Rubio
Pascual Ortiz Rubio
Pascual Ortiz Rubio was a Mexican politician. He was born in Morelia, Michoacán as the son of Pascual Ortiz de Ayala y Huerta and Lenor Rubio Cornelis...

, David Alfaro Siqueiros
David Alfaro Siqueiros
José David Alfaro Siqueiros was a social realist painter, known for his large murals in fresco that helped establish the Mexican Mural Renaissance, together with works by Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, and also a member of the Mexican Communist Party who participated in an...

, Enrique Bátiz Campbell and Leonora Carrington
Leonora Carrington
Leonora Carrington OBE was a British-born Mexican artist, a surrealist painter and a novelist. She lived most of her life in Mexico City.-Early life:...

. However, a number of families began to move out when newer exclusive zones such as Polanco, Anzures and Lomas de Chapultepec were built even further to the west. Rents were frozen all over the city during the Second World War, initially as a temporary measure, but this freezing was never lifted until the 1990s. Loss of rental income would eventually led to landlords’ lack of maintenance of older buildings as the decades progressed.

By the 1950s, the colonia began to attract lower-class residents due to the low rents. Long time residents complained about the influx of Arabs, Jews and Mexicans from southern states such as Campeche
Campeche is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. Located in Southeast Mexico, it is bordered by the states of Yucatán to the north east, Quintana Roo to the east, and Tabasco to the south west...

, Chiapas
Chiapas officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Chiapas is one of the 31 states that, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 118 municipalities and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutierrez. Other important cites in Chiapas include San Cristóbal de las...

 and Tabasco
Tabasco officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Tabasco is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 17 municipalities and its capital city is Villahermosa....

 into the neighborhood. Some areas became dangerous at night. La Romita, due to its socioeconomic segregation was considered very dangerous with organized gang activity by the 1950s. Vagabonds and gang activity in the Plaza Rio de Janeiro area was also a problem by the end of this decade.

In the 1960s, older residences began to give way to newer commercial buildings, especially in the northern part of the colonia. Businesses such as General de Gas, Woolworth’s, the Mexican Red Cross and Telefonos de Mexico (Telmex)
Telmex is a telecommunications company headquartered in Mexico City that provides telecommunication products and services in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and other countries in Latin America. In addition to traditional fixed-line telephone service, Telmex also offers Internet access, data,...

 established centers here. By the end of the decade, most of the north, especially along Avenida Chapultepec, was redefined as commercial space. The newer, taller and heavier buildings not only began to change the character of the colonia, they affected the ground around them, causing damage to the older mansions that neighbored them.

Serious decline began in the 1970s. More wealthy families moved out as more office buildings were constructed, and Carlos Hank Gonzalez
Carlos Hank González
Carlos Hank González , nicknamed El Profesor , was a Mexican politician and influential businessman. Originally a teacher, he was an entrepreneur who built political contacts along with a business empire, leading to various government and political positions at the state and national level...

’s “eje” road system, made the colonia less isolated from the rest of the city and less exclusive. Men’s clubs and prostitution began to appear. The commercial development either destroyed or radically modified the mansions of the early 20th century. One reason for this was that there was little in the way of urban planning or zoning regulations either in this colonia or neighboring ones, so many older homes were either converted into offices and businesses or razed completely to make way for office and apartment buildings.
The deterioration culminated with the 1985 Mexico City earthquake
1985 Mexico City earthquake
The 1985 Mexico City earthquake, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake that struck Mexico City on the early morning of 19 September 1985 at around 7:19 AM , caused the deaths of at least 10,000 people and serious damage to the greater Mexico City Area. The complete seismic event...

. A geological fracture erupted southwest to northeast thorough the colonias of Colonia Condesa, Colonia Cuauhtémoc
Colonia Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City
Colonia Cuauhtémoc is a colonia or official neighborhood located just north of Paseo de la Reforma, west of the historic center of Mexico City. The colonia was created in the late 19th century after some false starts and is named after a statue of Cuauhtémoc which features on Paseo de la Reforma...

, Colonia Guerrero
Colonia Guerrero, Mexico City
Colonia Guerrero is a colonia of Mexico City located just north-northwest of the historic center. Its borders are formed by Ricardo Flores Magón to the north, Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas and Paseo de la Reforma to the east, Eje1 Poniente Guerrero to the west and Avenida Hidalgo to the south...

, Colonia Hipódromo Condesa
Colonia Hipódromo Condesa
Colonia Hipódromo Condesa is a colonia or neighborhood located west of the historic center of Mexico City. The colonia is part of the “La Condesa” area of the city, which also includes Colonia Condesa and Colonia Hipódromo. This colonia is better known popularly as part of La Condesa, as it shares...

, Colonia Juarez
Colonia Juárez (Mexico City)
Colonia Juarez is one of the better–known neighborhoods or colonias in the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City. Its boundaries are: the corner of Paseo de la Reforma and Eje Bucareli to the north, Avenida Chapultepec to the south, Eje 1 Poniente to the east and Circuito Interior José Vasconcelos to...

, Colonia Maza
Colonia Maza
Colonia Maza is a colonia or official neighborhood in the Cuauhtémoc borough just north of the historic center of Mexico City. The colonia’s borders are marked by the following streets: Calle Hierro , Eje 1 Oriente and Avenida FF.CC...

, Colonia Morelos
Colonia Morelos
Colonia Morelos is a colonia located just north of the historic center of Mexico City in the Cuauhtémoc borough. It has been a poor area since Aztec times, with many residents today living in large tenements called vecindades. The area, particularly the Tepito neighborhood, is known for crime,...

, Colonia Peralvillo
Colonia Peralvillo
Colonia Peralvillo is a colonia located in the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City, just northwest of the city’s historic center. It has been a poor area since colonial times, but the modern colonia was not established until the late 19th and early 20th centuries...

, the northern part of Colonia Roma and Colonia Tabacalera
Colonia Tabacalera
Colonia Tabacalera is a colonia or neighborhood in the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City, on the western border of the city's historic center. It was created in the late 19th century along with other nearby colonias such as Colonia San Rafael and Colonia Santa María la Ribera...

. In Roma alone, 472 buildings partially or completely collapsed mostly in the northern part of the colonia around Morelia, Mérida, Cordoba, Puebla, Cuauhtemoc, Insurgentes, San Luis Potosí and Chiapas streets. Most of these buildings were newer, built since the 1950s and many were used for lower class housing, leaving 15,000 homeless. The Conjunto Urbano Benito Juárez, located in the southeast corner of the colonia, was mostly destroyed. The main reasons for the widespread destruction in Roma was that much of it was built on soft former lakebed and much of the newer construction was taller and not as solidly constructed as the older mansions. The widespread destruction and homeless, not only in Roma but in the rest of the city center, created an urgent need for new housing. Destroyed properties were expropriated, and lower class housing was hastily constructed. The cause most of the rest of the older and wealthier residents to leave, and lowered property values greatly. This damage and reconstruction not only cause the flight of the wealthy from Roma, but from neighborhing Colonia Condesa as well, even though it did not suffer significant damage. The effects of this earthquake remain in Roma. As of 2005, there were still fifteen inhabited buildings with serious structural faults at risk of collapse and another 700 considered to be significantly compromised.

The most serious decline of the colonia occurred from the 1970s to the early 1990s. The population of the colonia declined from 95,000 inhabitants in 1970 to 35,000 in 1995. Between the commercialization that has been ongoing since the 1960s and the aftermath of the 1985 earthquake, Colonia Roma has lost a large portion of its original structures from the first decades of the 20th century. Due to their size, most of the old mansions became economically unviable as residences, but their central location and proximity to major transportation has made them and the surrounding area valuable for business, pushing owners to want to radically alter or even destroy them.

However, the 1985 earthquake spurred not only stricter building codes for new structure, but also neighborhood associations with the aim of conserving and restoring the architectural heritage and prestige of the colonia. These have worked to halt construction of tall apartment and office buildings and to conserve the remaining early 20th century mansions. Neighborhood groups succeeded in having the city’s attorney general’s office relocated in the mid 1990s as well as nixing the construction of an underground parking garage at the Plaza de las Cibeles. Since 1990, no new apartment buildings have been constructed, although some of the older constructions has been adapted as such. Rents hit bottom just after 1985, attracting artists and urban hipsters
Hipster (contemporary subculture)
Hipsters are a subculture of young, recently settled urban middle class adults and older teenagers with musical interests mainly in alternative rock that appeared in the 1990s...

into the area. Many of these people were also interested in the restoration and conservation of the old mansions, converting them into office space and other businesses but conserving the original facades. In 1988, city authorities decided to rescue and renovate the La Romita area, especially its church, Santa María de la Natividad de Aztacalco. In the entire colonia, there are still 1,100 mansions from the early 20th century, even though restoration and conservations efforts have had mixed success. One problem is the lack of government maintenance of roadways and another is that private investment into conserving, refurbishing (as offices and businesses) and resale of the buildings has been spotty and sporadic. Today, the best-conserved mansions are along the streets of Colima, Tonalá, Alvaro Obregon, and Avenida Chapultepec. One of the colonia’s successes since the 1990s, has been the opening of a number of art galleries, especially along Colima Street, which was mostly spurred by the establishment of the Casa Lamm Cultural Center. There has been progress into zoning much of the colonia as mixed use (residential/office), with focus on promoting the older mansions as commercial and cultural space. Traffic has been routed around much of the area to keep more residents from moving out. Since 2002, there have been efforts to formally designate and catalogue the historical and architecturally significant structures in order to have even more protections afforded to these buildings.

External links

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