A fact that is little known among both Mexicans and Americans is that the Alameda Central, the gorgeous park at the heart of Mexico City, actually served as the inspiration for New York City’s Central Park.
How is this so? To better understand this story, we must start at the beginning…
A brief history of Alameda Central
Viceroy Luis de Velasco y Castilla was the representative of the Spanish Crown in New Spain at the end of the sixteenth century. He understood the need for a place where the newly formed society could meet and parade.
This is how the idea for the very first park in Mexico City came about. It opened to the public in 1592 to great success, as it became the rendezvous and favorite spot of many citizens. The name comes from álamos, Spanish for poplar trees, which were originally planted there.
As the years went by, the Alameda Central evolved and shifted shapes several times to fit with the specific era, fads, and needs. Nevertheless, it remained as a green shelter in the middle of an ever busier city.
A brief history of Central Park
Now, let’s travel to the mid-eighteenth century. Between 1821 and 1855, population in New York City nearly quadrupled. The city was quickly expanding towards the north of the island of Manhattan, and its needs were changing.
Two men, backed by many influential New Yorkers, expressed the need for a public park. One of them was Andrew Jackson Downing, considered the first American landscape architect. The other was William Cullen Bryant, famed poet and editor of the Evening Post.
It was Bryant who, after his journeys to Mexico City, cited the Alameda Central as a reference and an example of a green area in the midst of a big city. Of course, Central Park would go on to become a much larger and more ambitious project, spanning around 843 acres.
Alameda Central today
The Alameda’s latest restoration took place in 2012. As of today, the park has about 300 trees, 12 fountains, 8 monuments and a kiosc. It is about 21 acres wide and it sits at what is still one of the busiest spots in the city.
Almost all day long, this place is buzzing with capitalinos who escape their daily routines to enjoy some fresh air and meet their friends or lovers. Only a block away is City Express Alameda, the perfect place to stay if you’re visiting Mexico City’s downtown area.