Friday, November 15, 2013

Another neighborhood

I was reading an article in a magazine in the apartment about interesting neighborhoods in Mexico City.  I had already visited all but one of them, the "colonia Santa María la Ribera".  Yesterday was warmer, and the sun was peeking from between the clouds.  So I decided that I would take an excursion to Santa María..  It was an easy trip up Insurgentes Avenue on the Metrobus (and the bus wasn't overly crowded for a change!)

After I returned from my excursion I did some more research on the neighborhood on the internet.  Santa María la Ribera, located to the northwest of the "centro histórico", was the city's first planned neighborhood.  It was developed in the late 1800's, and attracted wealthy families. It remained a very affluent "colonia" until the 1930's, when middle class families started moving in, and the rich moved on to newer, more stylish areas of the city.  The neighborhood has more than 1000 buildings which are classified as having historic or artistic significance.  After the great earthquake of 1985, displaced families from poor neighborhoods moved into Santa Maria.  The neighborhood fell into decay, and it became one of the poorest, most crime-ridden, and dangerous parts of the city.

Hmmm.  If I had read that first, I probably would have never ventured to Santa María.  Yes, the neighborhood seemed rather shabby.  There was a great deal of once beautiful architecture that had fallen into disrepair or even complete abandonment.  But, judging from the people I saw on the street, the neighborhood felt as solidly middle class as where I'm staying.  I did not feel at all unsafe. (Perhaps, after dark it might be a different story.)

Then I read something else on the internet that said that, after years of neglect, the neighborhood is experiencing a resurgence.  Artists and intellectuals are taking advantage of the low rents and moving in.  New restaurants and even art galleries are starting to appear.  I could imagine that if the beautiful, old buildings were restored to their former grandeur, Santa María la Ribera could once again be a fashionable address.

Here are some photos of the faded glory of the neighborhood...

The Church of the Holy Family, completed in 1906, and very non-Mexican in appearance, is a mixture of Byzantine and Gothic styles.

Its stained glass windows were imported from France.

This unusual metal building was prefabricated in Germany in 1902.  It was shipped to Mexico and rebuilt, and for many years was the natural history museum.  It is now owned by the National University of Mexico and is a museum for exhibits of contemporary art.

The major point of interest in Santa María is this Moorish style pavilion which stands in the middle of the neighborhood's park.  It was built to represent Mexico in the St. Louis World's Fair of 1884. The prefabricated structure was moved several times before ending up here in 1910.  After years of neglect, it was recently restored.




  1. I like Santa Maria La Ribera. It has a kind of cool vibe, though F says it's still dangerous. But he also thinks the Centro Historico is dangerous too; I've never had any problem in either place. The blog below (now out of date) is written by a Mexican-American guy who moved to Mexico and lived in SML for a spell before moving back to Dallas. It's worth reading if you like the area. He rented a place on the plaza with the Kiosko and it has a fabulous loggia overlooking the plaza.


    For as long as I've been going to Mexico City (2005), I've been trying to learn about real estate gentrification there, but it seems to be an almost foreign concept. It's not like it doesn't happen. Within the past 15-20 years, SML, Roma Norte, Condesa, and a number of other areas have gentrified. But no one I know seems to have any idea of what might be the next up-and-coming area, and moreover, seems to think it's a weird thing to wonder about.

    As someone who does a lot of fantasy real estate shopping in DF, I would very much like to know the answer to that question. Maybe someday I'll find it.

    Nice article.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where someday we hope to purchase a place in DF. Of course we've been hoping for years now.

    1. My friend Alejandro told me the same thing after I had visited Santa María la Ribera... that it's a dangerous neighborhood. But he didn't seem upset that I had visited it by day. I have no idea what it's like by night. He's also warned me not to go too far east or north of the Zócalo in the Centro Histórico. I have to admit that one night after dining at the Hostería de Santo Domingo we drove down a couple streets in the Centro that seemed downright scary.