One of the largest cities in the world, Mexico City is the capital of Mexico. It is the largest city in sheer number of people in the western hemisphere and it is over 570 square miles in area. Mexico City is home to the Mexican government and has always been the political center of Mexico.
Mexico City was founded by the Aztec Indians in 1325 on an island in Lake Texcoco. Nearly two centuries later, the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes conquered it after a 79-day siege in 1521, obliterating most of the old city. The city was quickly rebuilt and served as the capital of the new colony under Spain. Mexico City served as the capital of Mexico as it progressed into an independent nation. It was invaded by the United States during the Mexican-American War in 1847. Despite being home to various forms of government over the years, it became the cultural center of the country.
Mexico City is considered the third-largest city in the world in population. It has over twenty million people within the boundaries of the metropolitan area. Only Tokyo, Japan with 34 million and Seoul, South Korea (with perhaps just one hundred thousand more people than Mexico City) outrank it in terms of population. In the city proper, there are over nine million people. It is located in a valley in the central mountains of Mexico at an altitude of over 7,000 feet.
There are more museums in Mexico City than any city in the world. It is home to the world-renowned floating gardens of Xochimilco and a statue of an angel on a huge column called the Angel of Independence. There are a number of impressive cathedrals in Mexico City and there are more theaters than any other city with the exception of New York, Toronto and London.
The lake that Mexico City was built upon was drained to alleviate the constant flooding that occurred. However, that precipitated a water shortage that has plagued Mexico City ever since. Mexico City is also the site of some of the worst air quality in the world. The pollution is intensified because of the lack of winds.
The ancient Aztecs had a legend that tells how Mexico City was founded. In the tale, a band of warriors have a vision in which God tells them to build their home where they see an eagle devouring a snake while sitting on a cactus. The men saw this happen and built their city, which became Mexico City. The Mexican flag has a depiction of the eagle with the snake in its talons.