The 2018 World’s Best Awards
In 2018, Mexico reigns supreme. For the second year in a row, San Miguel de Allende, a colonial oasis in the country’s central highlands, comes in first place. (It is appearance a top our 2017 list was a first in the awards’ 23-year history.) Meanwhile, Oaxaca has climbed to second place, and Mexico City is making a welcome return to the top 15. “Mexico City is beautiful,” one T+L reader wrote. “Even though it’s overpopulated and the traffic can sometimes be a challenge, the culture and history outweigh any inconveniences. The food is outstanding and can really be eye-opening.”
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende (Spanish pronunciation: [san mi’ɣel de a’ʎende]) is a city and municipality located in the far eastern part of the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. It is part of the macroregion of Bajío. It is 274 km (170 mi) from Mexico City, 86 km (53 mi) from Queretaro, and 97 km (60 mi) from the state capital of Guanajuato.
Historically, the town is important as being the birthplace of Mexican General Ignacio Allende, whose surname was added to the town’s name in 1826, as well as the first municipality declared independent of Spanish rule by the nascent insurgent army during the Mexican War of Independence.
San Miguel de Allende was also a critical epicenter during the historic Chichimeca War (1540–1590) where the Chichimeca Confederation defeated the Spanish Empire in the initial colonization war. Today, the town is a proclaimed World Heritage Site, attracting thousands of tourists and new residents from abroad every year.
The city and municipality of Oaxaca de Juárez (Spanish pronunciation: [waˈxaka ðe ˈxwaɾes]), or simply Oaxaca, is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of the same name. It is located in the Centro District in the Central Valleys region of the state, on the foothills of the Sierra Madre at the base of the Cerro del Fortín extending to the banks of the Atoyac River.
This city relies heavily on tourism, which is based on its large number of colonial-era structures as well as the native Zapotec and Mixtec cultures and archeological sites. It, along with the archeological site of Monte Albán, were named a World Heritage Site in 1987. It is also the home of the month-long cultural festival called the «Guelaguetza», which features Oaxacan dance from the seven regions, music and a beauty pageant for indigenous women.
The city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan was founded by the Mexica people in 1325. The old Mexica city that is now simply referred to as Tenochtitlanwas built on an island in the center of the inland lake system of the Valley of Mexico, which it shared with a smaller city-state called Tlatelolco. According to legend, the Mexicas’ principal god, Huitzilopochtli, indicated the site where they were to build their home by presenting an eagle perched on a nopal cactus with a snake in its beak.
Between 1325 and 1521, Tenochtitlan grew in size and strength, eventually dominating the other city-states around Lake Texcoco and in the Valley of Mexico. When the Spaniards arrived, the Aztec Empire had reached much of Mesoamerica, touching both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.
The city had been the capital of the Aztec empire and in the colonial era, Mexico City became the capital of New Spain. The viceroy of Mexico or vice-king lived in the viceregal palace on the main square or Zócalo. The Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishopric of New Spain, was constructed on another side of the Zócalo, as was the archbishop’s palace, and across from it the building housing the City Council or ayuntamiento of the city.
Mexico City is located in the Valley of Mexico, sometimes called the Basin of Mexico. This valley is located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in the high plateaus of south-central Mexico. It has a minimum altitude of 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) above sea level and is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes that reach elevations of over 5,000 meters (16,000 feet). This valley has no natural drainage outlet for the waters that flow from the mountainsides, making the city vulnerable to flooding. Drainage was engineered through the use of canals and tunnels starting in the 17th century.
Mexico City primarily rests on what was Lake Texcoco. Seismic activity is frequent here. Lake Texcoco was drained starting from the 17th century. Although none of the lake waters remain, the city rests on the lake bed’s heavily saturated clay. This soft base is collapsing due to the over-extraction of groundwater, called groundwater-related subsidence. Since the beginning of the 20th century the city has sunk as much as nine meters (30 feet) in some areas. This sinking is causing problems with runoff and wastewater management, leading to flooding problems, especially during the rainy season. The entire lake bed is now paved over and most of the city’s remaining forested areas lie in the southern boroughs of Milpa Alta, Tlalpan and Xochimilco.