Portales is only 15 minutes away from Centro Histórico, and maintains a laid-back city barrio look, feel and atmosphere. In just the past ten years, at least 50 apartment buildings have been built where once there were villas and old-time neighborhoods.
Although the neighborhood has undergone significant changes for these apartment buildings to be built, all of them are centrally located and have some of the city’s best access to transportation. Native capitalinos remember the neighborhood for the chronicler Carlos Monsiváis, his desk piled with papers, and the 11 cats he lived with. He’s still one of the neighborhood’s most famous residents.
Portales is home to the “Cineteca Nacional,” a 10-screen multiplex that offers plenty of film-fare (and plenty in English), including the acclaimed Muestra Internacional de Cine, an international festival of film. From October through March, open-air screenings are free at dusk on the grass-covered rear garden.
In addition to four new 180-seat theaters and new archive buildings, the new Cineteca includes a bookstore, café, restaurant, and the famous Roxy ice-cream parlor, all set around two grassy lawns, built in the style of a university campus.
Colonia Portales began as a villa in 1888. The Hacienda de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de los Portales was established between the settlements of Churubusco and Santa Cruz Atoyac. The Hacienda passed through several owners, but was maintained as a rural plantation. In the 1930s, new villas, quintas and country homes were built in the area, which became known as colonia Portales.
Today’s colonia Portales is a neighborhood that combines old traditional barrio lifestyle with the life in the big city. Home to several schools, hospitals, markets, an important archaeological site, and one of the biggest parks in the city, it’s a terrific place to visit and one of the city’s more distinctive residential areas.
/How to get there:
Take the subway heading to Estación Centro Médico, change to line 2 dirección Taxqueña and get off in estación Portales.
Take the Pesero (collective taxi van) to Estación Miguel Ángel de Quevedo towards Terminal Taxqueña, take the metro going to Cuatro Caminos, and get off in estación Portales.
Take the subway to Estación Zapata, take a pesero (collective tax van) all the way to Calzada de Tlalpan, and arrive at Colonia Portales.
Mercado de las Pulgas
Parque de los Venados
Teatro Hermanos Soler
Casa de Carlos Monsiváis
Zona Arqueológica Mixcoac
Canteens, bars and pulquerías
La Paloma Azul (Pulquería)
California Dancing Club
Santa Fe is one of those “new, new, new” areas in the west of Mexico City. So new that lots of Mexico City residents have never been there, and many of them will never go. But Santa Fe is, like all of Mexico City, loaded with history and curious facts that make it always worth looking into a little deeper.
During the long colonial period, the area was devoted to grazing animals and mining the relatively poor soil. The regions was divided into the towns of Santa Fe, Santa Lucia, San Mateo and San Pedro Tlaltenango Cuajimalpa. The villages were intersected by the Royal Road, New Spain’s first toll road that ran all the way to Toluca (and still does). Today it’s still known as the Vasco de Quiroga highway and the toll booth is still located in the nearby Contadero neighborhood.
Named in honor of the first bishop of Michoacan’s “Hospital of Santa Fe,” Vasco de Quiroga was that famous friar who taught different skills to the various peoples of Michoacan. He also started numerous hospitals that provided not only for the sick but for pilgrims and travelers.
Upon arriving in New Spain, Vasco de Quiroga took a look at the sorrowful state of things and got to work. Sent as a sort of a judge of the “Second Audiencia of Mexico,” which ruled from 1530 – 1534, he ended up founding both the Hospital and the Pueblo Santa Fe with his own money. Vasco de Quiroga’s believed primarily that charity would be the only way he could really make a difference. His attempt to redeem the fallen landscape led him to undertake no less than the founding of Thomas More’s Utopia, right here on Earth.
Within a few years, the hospital was itself called Pueblo Santa Fe, literally the “people of Santa Fe.” And after 1532, the project essentially took on a life of its own and began to expand to other congregations and to form similar hospitals and social charity projects wherever it went. Quiroga maintained control over nearly all of them and enforced a set of rules he’d written down himself.
Some of the rules still carry Quiroga’s idea of exactly how this was to translate into a Utopia on Earth. According to notes in the collection of the Institute of Historical Research of the University of Michoacan, “Parents should ensure the marriages of their children with daughters from other families in the same Pueblo-Hospital. Failing that the daughters of the poor from the same neighborhood could also be married.” Men were considered marriageable at fourteen, and women at twelve. In the extended family, all members were required to obey the eldest grandfather. Wives were to obey husbands, and children were to serve and obey parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Any need for servants from outside the family was to be avoided.
Santa Fe is said to be the remnant of that famous Utopian village. The ostentatious city of today grew up from the ashes of that early attempt at a perfect society. And though many Chilangos will still find it hard to believe, something of that hope and vision is likely still evident in the towers and underpasses that stand there today.