Presidential Residence and Office, Alcázar Site Museum, Chapultepec Castle

The castle fell into disuse after the fall of the Second Mexican Empire in 1867. in 1876, a decree established it as an Astronomical, Meteorological and Magnetic Observatory on the site. In 1878 the first National Astronomical Observatory was established in the Chapultepec Castle, for which the building was once again conditioned. Specialized equipment was installed, the main telescope was arranged in the High Knight, for which a dome was added to the tower; In addition, new rooms and two guard posts were built. In 1883 the observatory was transferred to the town of Tacubaya so that the Castle could become, again, Military College, in addition to summer residence of Porfirio Diaz.

Diaz intended the building to be a showcase for Mexico’s artistic and technological progress, in part because it was frequented by foreign characters. He installed, for example, a large stained glass window on the east terrace of the upper floor of the Alcázar, which has been preserved to date; elevators, including one that climbed people from the base of the hill; and a bowling alley, a fashion game among the well-to-do, in whose room the first cinema exhibition was held in Mexico in 1896.

The palace underwent several structural changes from 1882 and during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz. The other Presidents who made the palace their official residence were Francisco I. Madero, Venustiano Carranza, Álvaro Obregón, Plutarco Elías Calles, Emilio Portes Gil, Pascual Ortiz Rubio and Abelardo Rodríguez. It was used for a time as an official guest house or residence for foreign dignitaries.

Diaz intended the building to be a showcase for Mexico’s artistic and technological progress, in part because it was frequented by foreign characters. He installed, for example, a large stained glass window on the east terrace of the upper floor of the Alcázar, which has been preserved to date; elevators, including one that climbed people from the base of the hill; and a bowling alley, a fashion game among the well-to-do, in whose room the first cinema exhibition was held in Mexico in 1896.

In 1916, President Venustiano Carranza ordered the demolition of the building southwest of the College (built during the Porfirian era) to make the Alcazar more visible; that is where he installed the offices of the federal government and the presidential residence. The consecutive presidents maintained this headquarters until the government of Abelardo Rodríguez.

In 1939, President Lázaro Cárdenas decreed that the National Museum of History be installed in the Chapultepec Castle, an area declared a national heritage site. Between 1941 and 1944 the building was restored and adapted to house the collections that had been designated to the museum. On September 27, 1944, President Miguel Ávila Camacho inaugurated the National Museum of History.

Finally on February 3, 1939, President Lázaro Cárdenas decreed a law establishing Chapultepec Castle as the seat of the National Museum of History (Museo Nacional de Historia) with the collections of the former National Museum of Archaeology, History and Ethnography, (now the National Museum of Cultures). The museum was opened on September 27, 1944. President Cárdenas moved the official Mexican presidential residence to Los Pinos, and never lived in Chapultepec Castle.

Currently it is still used as a museum. Its 19 rooms contain a vast range of pieces that exceed ninety thousand where the history of Mexico is exhibited and illustrated since the Spanish conquest, with various objects such as medieval armor, swords and cannons among many others. His collection of objects has been organized in 6 curatorships:

Painting, sculpture, drawing, engraving and printing.
Historical documents and flags.
Technology and weapons.
Clothing and accessories.
Furniture and household goods.

It also provides services such as library, video library, photo library and guided tours.

Agreement Hall
A castle for the museum: Far from bringing tranquility to the country, the departure of Porfirio Díaz to Europe, in May 1911, could not prevent the prolongation of the Mexican Revolution, which gave rise to the modern Mexican state. The presidents continued to occupy the Castle as a residence and transformed the facades and rooms to their liking. In this room the rulers received the members of their cabinet to discuss and resolve public affairs. President Lázaro Cárdenas moved his official home to Los Pinos and handed over the Castle to the people of Mexico, in 1939, so that the National History Museum, which opened in 1944, was established there.

Lobby of agreements
The presidents and their agreements: A work visit to the presidential house should be reserved only for the most urgent matters of public life; The restless mind of those who waited in this room to meet with the president found a resting place in the breadth of the terrace and in the profile of the mountains of the valley that dominate from this site.

The success of the Porfirian Mexico pavilion presented at the International Exhibition of Paris in 1889, profuse in decorations that evoked pre-Hispanic cultures, was a good example of the new nationalist fashion in which Maya and Aztec iconographies proliferated. Such style is manifested in artistic and decorative objects such as the oil “Moctezuma receives the messengers” by Adrián Unzueta (1893), and in the Mayan-inspired furniture made already in the 20th century.

Ladder of the Lions
In 1878, when the Castle terrace was extended to adapt its facilities to the National Astronomical, Meteorological and Magnetic Observatory, a new access to the upper floor was opened on this site, where the scientific instruments of the institution would be located.

Later, at the initiative of Porfirio Díaz, that access was transformed in accordance with the dignity of the presidential house: a new staircase was constructed, made of white marble with brass railings. Years later, around 1915, the staircase was remodeled by instructions of President Venustiano Carranza; the access to the garden was protected by leaded windows, the work of the painter Saturnino Hernán and from then on, the central section was flanked by the lion sculptures that give it its current name.

Battle room of Chapultepec
The American invasion

Chapultepec Castle was the scene of one of the most sensitive chapters in the history of Mexico: the final battle of the war between Mexico and the United States in the mid-19th century. The invasion had its origin in the interest of the United States to extend its national space at the expense of the northern Mexican lands and even dominate the Pacific Ocean coast.

Based on the “Manifest Destiny” doctrine, the Americans, as the chosen people, sought to consolidate their power on the new continent, since territorial expansion was considered an indispensable condition for their economic development.

Having as background the support for the separation of Texas and its subsequent annexation to the United States, in 1846 the US Congress declared war on Mexico, arguing the illegal invasion of the Mexican Army in its territory. The armed clashes culminated with the assault on Chapultepec Castle on September 13, 1847. A year later, in 1848, the Guadalupe Hidalgo treaty was signed, through which the territories north of the Rio Grande were ceded. Many were the civil and military Mexicans who lost their lives during the invasion, some of them know their names, but many more remain anonymous; all of them, however, are part of our memory.

Porfirio Diaz’s bedroom
Porfirio Díaz in Chapultepec: The presidential family had their residence in the house number 8 of the street of La Cadena (today Venustiano Carranza), which occupied most of the year, and during the summer frequented Chapultepec Castle, which was adapted to perform luxurious dances and receptions.

From his youth, Porfirio Díaz maintained the habit of getting up at dawn, performing gymnastics exercises and swimming. In the early hours he issued orders and received his ministers in the National Palace, the official seat of the presidency. And when public affairs allowed it, he left Mexico City for Querétaro, Michoacán or Jalisco to devote himself to one of his favorite amusements: hunting.

Carmen Romero Rubio’s bedroom
A model of distinction: Daughter of a prominent military of adverse political current to President Diaz, Carmen, his wife, “gathered qualities capable of rendering the most demanding heart.” Educated, elegant, discreet and pious, Mrs. Carmelita won for Porfirio the acceptance of some of the sectors most reluctant to her government. Although he always took care to stay away from the political affairs of the president, he helped improve his public image and did not hesitate to intercede on behalf of those in need who sought his help. Her bedroom, imported from France like her husband’s, reflects in her austerity and elegance the taste for European fashions that was adopted not only at home, but by the country’s upper classes.

Carmen Romero’s office
Don Porfirio and Carmelita: Porfirio Díaz Mori, widower, fifty-one years old, then Minister of Development, and Carmen Romero and Castelló, seventeen, celebrated their civil and religious marriage in November 1881, and remained united until death of the general, already in exile in Paris, in 1915. Although they had no offspring, they lived with the children of Don Porfirio – Luz, Porfirio and Amada – as well as some of his sixteen grandchildren.

Office of the President
A study at home: Porfirio Díaz attended high school at the Tridentino Seminary of his native Oaxaca, a city where he pursued law school. Throughout his life, he always found moments for reading and studying – although he never corrected some spelling mistakes. Among the books in his library were historical and jurisprudence works, as well as books in which the peace and progress achieved during his rule were exalted.

National History Museum, Chapultepec Castle
The National Museum of History is the Chapultepec Castle that holds the memory of the history of Mexico, from the conquest of Tenochtitlan to the Mexican Revolution. Its rooms show a diversity of objects representative of four centuries of the history of Mexico. The museum is located in the Castillo de Chapultepec, whose construction began in 1785 during the government of the Viceroy of New Spain, Bernardo de Gálvez. Although it was created for rest home, over time it was adapted to different uses: it was a military school, imperial residence with Maximilian and Carlota (1864-1867), presidential residence and, since 1939, headquarters of the National Museum of History.

The museum has 12 permanent exhibition halls that present the historical trajectory of the country, from the Conquest to the Mexican Revolution; and 22 rooms in the area known as Alcázar, where the rooms of Maximiliano and Carlota and President Porfirio Díaz are recreated, as well as a room that recalls the assault on Chapultepec Castle.

Chapultepec Castle is located on top of Chapultepec Hill in the Chapultepec park. The name Chapultepec stems from the Nahuatl word chapoltepēc which means “at the grasshopper’s hill”. The castle has such unparalleled views and terraces that historian James F. Elton wrote that they can’t “be surpassed in beauty in any part of the world”. It is located in the middle of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City at a height of 2,325 meters (7,628 ft) above sea level. The site of the hill was a sacred place for Aztecs, and the buildings atop it have served several purposes during its history, including that of Military Academy, Imperial residence, Presidential home, observatory, and presently, the National Museum of History.

It was built at the time of the Viceroyalty as summer house for the viceroy. It was given various uses, from the gunpowder warehouse to the military academy in 1841. It became the official residence of Emperor Maximilian I and his consort Empress Carlota during the Second Mexican Empire (1864-1867). In 1882, President Manuel González declared it the official residence of the President. With few exceptions, all succeeding presidents lived there until 1939, when President Lázaro Cárdenas turned it into a museum.