dusk near Cuernavaca

dusk near Cuernavaca

Thursday, August 10, 2017

An Historic Spot

Yesterday when I went downtown I took the subway to the Pino Suárez station.  Pino Suárez is the name of one of the streets which runs into Mexico City's main plaza.  As I walked down the street toward the plaza I came upon this mural made of tiles.

The mural is based on a colonial oil painting which depicts the meeting of the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés (usually spelled Cortez in English) and the Aztec emperor Moctezuma (known to us as Montezuma).  Tradition has it that it was on this spot where the two first met in 1519.  

Moctezuma and his retinue don't look very Aztec in their appearance or their attire.

If you turn the corner you realize that the mural is on the back wall of the colonial Church of Jesús Nazareno.  

It was in this church where Cortés was buried.  I went inside hoping that I could find the tomb of the conquistador.  I asked a lady who was in charge of a small stand selling religious objects if she knew where his grave is.  She said that there is a plaque on the wall next to the altar, but that no one knows exactly where his remains are located.   Cortés is looked upon today as a villain, the man who ruthlessly destroyed the Aztec civilization.  I did some research later, and read that in 1882 there was a plan to move his remains next to those of the heroes of the Mexican War of Independence.  There was enormous outrage over the proposal and fear that his tomb would be desecrated.   So his body was moved to a secret location within the church.

(Photography within the church is not permitted.)

Adjoining the church is the Hospital de Jesús.  Its main entrance is on the next street tucked between shoe stores.  From its nondescript façade dating from the 1930s, you would never imagine that this is a place of historical significance.

I decided to try to go inside, and no one at the entrance desk stopped me.  Within the 20th century shell is the heart of the original 16th century building.  This is the oldest continuously operating hospital in the Americas.

There are two lovely courtyards separated by a grand staircase.

A mural on one of the walls once again portrays the meeting of Cortés and Moctezuma.

In this depiction, Moctezuma looks like an Aztec!  The woman next to Cortés is Malinche, a native who was the conquistador's interpreter and mistress.  She too is looked upon as a villian for betraying her people and aiding the Spaniards.  You might say that she is the "Benedict Arnold" of Mexican history.

The inscription by the staircase tells you that this hospital was founded by none other than Hernán Cortés in the year 1524, just three scant years after the conquest of the Aztec Empire.

And here is a bust of Cortés, probably the closest thing to a monument in his honor that you find anywhere in Mexico!


  1. You could write a tourist book HIDDEN HISTORY OF MEXICO CITY!

    1. Well, it comes from reading a lot of guide books and scouring the internet for places of interest in Mexico City!