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In Mexico City, the Zócalo (main square) was the central place from which the grid was then built outward.
The Spanish lived in the area closest to the main square in what was known as the traza, in orderly, well laid-out streets.
Franciscan friar Toribio de Benavente Motolinia, one of the Twelve Apostles of Mexico who arrived in New Spain in 1524, described the rebuilding of the city as one of the afflictions or plagues of the early period: The seventh plague was the construction of the great City of Mexico, which, during the early years used more people than in the construction of Jerusalem.
The crowds of laborers were so numerous that one could hardly move in the streets and causeways, although they are very wide.
Indian residences were outside that exclusive zone and houses were haphazardly located.
Spaniards sought to keep Indians separate from Spaniards but since the Zócalo was a center of commerce for Indians, they were a constant presence in the central area, so strict segregation was never enforced.
By draining the area, the mosquito population dropped as did the frequency of the diseases they spread.
Colonial Spanish cities were constructed on a grid pattern, if no geographical obstacle prevented it.When the Spaniards arrived, the Aztec Empire had reached much of Mesoamerica, touching both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.Cortés and his men marched along the causeway leading into the city from Iztapalapa, and the city's ruler, Moctezuma II, greeted the Spaniards; they exchanged gifts, but the camaraderie did not last long.Many died from being crushed by beams, or falling from high places, or in tearing down old buildings for new ones.Preconquest Tenochtitlan was built in the center of the inland lake system, with the city reachable by canoe and by wide causeways to the mainland.