• United States!

    United States: Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Go Now!

    United States
    Explore the vast openness and wildlife found roaming in the western United States, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park (pictured) in North Dakota. Begin Your Journey!

  • Trinidad & Tobago!

    Trinidad & Tobago: Beautiful Coastline. Go Now!

    Trinidad & Tobago
    These Caribbean islands mix Indian, African, and European cultures alongside beautiful beaches. Go Now!

  • Cuba!

    Cuba: Sandy beach. Go Now!

    Cuba
    Many people fear the unknowns of Cuba, but the history, culture, food, and impressive beaches lure many visitors every year. Explore Cuba!

  • Panama!

    Panama: Panama City skyline. Go Now!

    Panama
    Panama is best known for the Panama Canal, but the beaches draw tourists, as does Panama City (pictured), a modern capital quite different from most nearby cities. Explore Panama

  • Mexico!

    Mexico: Sunrise over the mountains in Puerto Vallarta. Go Now!

    Mexico
    Although many people just go for the beaches, Mexico offers impressive mountain vistas (pictured in Puerto Vallarta), great food, and historic ruins that compete with the best in the world. Begin Your Journey!

  • Barbados!

    Barbados: Pier on the beach. Go Now!

    Barbados
    This Caribbean island has hints of British culture, but is wholly Caribbean as well. Explore Barbados!

Architecture of Mexico

WARNING: Much of Mexico is unsafe, please read this travel warning before going!

Mexican Architecture - Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan

Although numerous early civilizations left behind small ruins in Mexico, architecture didn't make a truly lasting impact until the rise of the Mayans in about 100 AD. These people became very accomplished architects and builders and the earliest great monuments in the Americas today were left behind by these people, most of which are in modern day Mexico.

The first powerful center of the Mayans was at Teotihuacan (the "Place of the Gods"), which flourished until the 600s AD. Here the Great Pyramid of Cholula (the largest pyramid in the world; today it appears to be a large pyramid-shaped hill), the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Pyramid of the Moon were built. In addition to these monuments a large city was built, including palaces, and much of it remains intact today. Although originally covered with stucco and paint, most of what is visible today is simply stone.

Mexican Architecture - Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza

Despite the architecture of Teotihuacan, later monuments are largely considered more impressive, although they fall into a similar, descendant style. These sites include the ancient cities of Palenque, Chichen Itza, and Tikal (in modern day Guatemala). Chichen Itza is home to a pyramid now known as "Castillo," a true world wonder and the peak of Mayan architecture.

After the Mayan Empires declined in about 1250 the Aztecs rose to power and continued to build in a similar style as the late Mayans. By this point though architecture was on a decline as the Mayans and Aztecs were at war and most new construction by both groups was in the form of fortified walls and cities, including the cities of Mayapan, Tulum, Yagul.

Mexican Architecture - Metropolitan Cathedral
Metropolitan Cathedral

By the early 1400s the Aztecs had essentially settled the region and took power, shifting architecture again. The Aztec capital during this time was in Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City), one of the world's largest cities. The architecture here was a combination of engineering feats and structures as the city was built on a lake consisting of islands (many of which were man made) as most transportation was undertaken by boat.

Mayan power fell with the arrival of Europeans. Unlike much of North America, Mexico fell under Spanish rule as they colonized the region in the 1500-1700s. Also unlike much of North America, the Spanish brought their architectural styles to their new colonies, including New Spain (Mexico). The first form of architecture they introduced was in city planning as nearly every city was built around a central square and streets were made with local stones. At the center of these squares were generally government offices and a church.

Mexican Architecture - Church in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta

Due to Spanish colonization and the timing of their colonization, much of Mexico's architecture from the 1600s and 1700s is authentically Baroque (which arrived in the early 1600s). Among Mexico's finest Baroque architecture, the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral (1573-1813) and the Sagrario Metropolitano (1749-1768) in Mexico City are perhaps the best examples as these building also inspired later constructions; buildings that were built primarily in the cities of Puebla, Guanajuato, Morelia and of course Mexico city itself.

Mexico City, as the capital of New Spain, received the greatest amount of new architecture under Spanish rule. The city is riddled with thousands of historical monuments, many of which are from this early colonial period and are in the Baroque style, or in a sub-style falling under the larger Baroque definition, like the Churrigueresque Style. However, it is probably the city of Puebla that the style is the most unique as tiles became commonplace and local materials give the buildings a different look from most of Mexico's Baroque architecture.

Mexican Architecture - San Cristobal Cathedral
San Cristobal Cathedral

In about 1780-1800 the Spanish Baroque style ended in Mexico as the Neo-Classical style quickly took over. The School of Mines (1797-1813) in Mexico City and the church, El Carmen (1803-1807) in Celaya are among the most distinct. Like the Baroque style before it, the Neo-Classical style dominated the country through the 1800s.

Although the Neo-Classical style dominated the 1800s, the country was often in political rife and few buildings were constructed during this century. As the century came to a close there were multiple small movements that arose, most commonly in trying to imitate great European cities like Paris. This didn't introduce a new style so much as it introduced random buildings in various styles by numerous European architects. During this time the National Theater of Mexico (1904) and the Postal Palace (1902) were built among others.

Mexican Architecture - Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres

In the 1930s the styles from Europe began to decline as domestic (primarily ancient Mayan and Aztec) influences took over, as did influences from other American countries. This happened to coincide with the modern movement as new materials and techniques were introduced, including concrete and glass. Among the local inspirations, most were built as monuments to past leaders of the country. The modern style made the greatest impact on the country's larger cities, including the capital as skyscraper and other modern and post-modern buildings are common place in Mexico City and other large cities.

This page was last updated: March, 2013