Created by Viceroy Luis de Velasco in 1592, the current park is pleasingly and symmetrically criss-crossed by pathways, which culminate on French-style, ornate fountains and are surrounded on all sides by some poplar trees from which the park takes its name. However, the layout of the park was not always like this; rather, it began to take its current geometric shape by more or less the late 18th century. Originally half the size it currently is now – measuring 200 x 100 meters, rather than the current size of 400 x 200 meters – Alameda Central Park is one of the oldest city parks in the Americas and has an impressive backstory. One of the most notable events that used to take place on an area which is now part of the Alameda, although it wasn’t back then, is burning at the stake. Between 1571 and 1820, it’s said that around 50 people were killed in this manner. However, the history of this central Mexico City spot stretches far back beyond the creation of the Alameda Central Park – in fact, it used to be the site of an Aztec marketplace.
In the 18th century, the park was designated as a nobility-only spot by the Count of Revillagigedo although this selectivity soon came to an end, as Alameda Central was reclaimed by the masses following the winning of Mexican Independence in 1821. It’s even said that President Lopez de Santa Anna demanded the fountains be filled with alcohol in the mid-19th century! He wasn’t the only famous figure known to be a fan of this particular park though, as Empress Carlota (wife of Maximiliano of Hapsburg) allegedly considered it her favourite place, going as far as to plant roses there from time to time.
Having undergone restoration work throughout its long and illustrious life, Alameda Central Park was last spruced up in 2012. Illegal vendors, dogs and skateboarders were ousted and new paving slabs were introduced, along with trees and native-to-Mexico plants. The entire project was said to have cost the city MXN$240 million. Even so, and even if the park undergoes further changes and alterations, it will long live on in history after being immortalised in a mural by Diego Rivera. Titled Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central, it can be seen at the Diego Rivera Museum.