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223 × 148 × 21 mm
224 pages
107 illustrations, 75 in colour
15 Jul 2019

Mexico City Cradle of Empires Nick Caistor

Mexico City has always been a seat of empire. In its grandiose pretentions and sheer swagger, it gives the impression of power exercised over great distances. And yet this power has frequently been contested, lending the city a tough, battle-hardened look. At the same time, life in the Mexican capital can be carefree and intoxicating, and it continues to offer any visitor not only glimpses of past grandeur, but a fascinating wealth of the culture of Mexico today. This book explores how the city has grown over the centuries from the Tenochtitlan city-state, to the capital of the Spanish empire’s ‘New Spain’, to French intervention, revolution, to the newly branded CDMX. Nick Caistor leads us through centuries of history and into the material city of today: from recently constructed museums and shopping malls, to neighbourhoods where centuries-old traditions still appear to be the norm. Whether sampling ice cream at Xochimilco, watching freestyle wrestling at the Arena Mexico, or savouring long Mexican breakfasts, Nick Caistor reveals why the city continues to fascinate.

‘Celebrating the city’s wonders without shying away from the darker periods of its history, Mexico City is a concise and often surprising companion to this long-suffering, infuriating and endlessly captivating place . . . Sweeping through so many centuries in a relatively short space is no mean feat, but Caistor avoids monotony or information overload by peppering his account with vivid multi-sensory descriptions . . . The illustrations contribute to his kaleidoscopic, magpie-like way of telling the city’s story.’ — TLS

‘Caistor gets to the root of what makes Mexico, both City and country, so enthralling.’ — Catholic Herald

‘It is not easy to understand Mexico City. Even its inhabitants are often lost in the enigmas of its history and its streets. The Mexicans themselves need translators to guide them through the labyrinths of this gigantic city. Nick Caistor in this wonderful book proves to be a great decoder of the mysteries of the ancient Tenochtitlan, now a fascinating postmodern urban monster. Mexico City: Cradle of Empires is the best companion for the curious traveler who wants to go beyond the myths and become immersed in its fascinating reality’ — Roger Bartra, author of The Cage of Melancholy. Identity and Metamorphosis in the Mexican Character

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Nick Caistor is a former BBC Latin American analyst, and Latin American editor of Index on Censorship magazine. He broadcasts regularly on Latin American literature and art. He is the author of Mexico City: A Cultural and Literary Companion (1999) and Octavio Paz (Reaktion, 2007). He is editor of two anthologies and has translated many novels by Latin American and Spanish authors.


1 The Founding of Tenochtitlán
2 The Spanish Conquest
3 Spanish Colonial Rule
4 Independence and Reaction
5 The Porfiriato
6 The Years of Revolution
7 From Revolution to Megalopolis
8 Apocalypse and Beyond

The Zócalo
Chapultepec Park
Arena México
Coyoacán’s Ghosts
A Mexican Breakfast
La Santa Muerte in Tepito
Los Alebrijes
The Museo Soumaya and Nuevo Polanco
Virgen de Guadalupe

Suggested Reading and Viewing
Photo Acknowledgements