Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park is the oldest and largest urban park in Latin America, and one of the oldest urban parks in the world. Originally sited on the outskirts of the city, today this large forested area is completely surrounded by the urban center. Many strands of Mexican history are interwoven with the history of the park, with public figures such as Nezahualcóyotl, Moctezuma, Hernán Cortés, Maximiliano, Porfirio Díaz, and Lázaro Cárdenas directly connected to Chapultepec Park. For centuries, the site has been the setting of important water management systems including a pre-Hispanic aqueduct created by the Aztecs—vestiges of this system can still be seen in the park. The Cárcamo de Dolores, a massive water tank inside a pavilion, features a mural and fountain designed by Diego Rivera. From 1951 to the 1990s, the Cárcamo acted as the main water collection point from the distant Lerma River before it was diverted to the reservoirs, supplying up to a sixth of the city’s water.
Containing nine museums, a zoo, an amusement park, and a variety of green recreational spaces located near popular commercial districts, Chapultepec Park is an invaluable ecological oasis, and a cultural, social, and civic space for the city residents and its visitors. Up to 15 million people visit the urban park each year, often keeping to a few of the more popular areas. A group of committed citizens have been working together since 2004 to rehabilitate the park, and to reactivate underused areas that have great development potential for continued public enjoyment.
Creation of a site museum
The inclusion of Chapultepec Park on the 2016 World Monuments Watch supports the ongoing efforts to restore the park’s environmental balance, functionality, and beauty, and to highlight its heritage values. In 2016 and 2017, WMF worked alongside the Chapultepec Trust in the restoration of the former nineteenth-century gatehouse building, which served as an entrance to the military school that once operated in the park. With the building restored with the support of American Express, Chapultepec Trust will now focus on its adaptive reuse as a museum and orientation center that will provide visitors with information about the park’s significant history and architecture, the rehabilitation program, and the variety of cultural programs hosted throughout the year.