Mexico is a country in the continent of North America and is renowned for its vibrant culture, historic sites, gorgeous beaches, and delectable cuisine. Mexico is noted for its blend of indigenous and European, modern and traditional, urban and rural, and this has helped to shape the wonderful culture of the nation which is reflected in every sphere of the existence of this country, from food to art and from place names to architecture. 

UNESCO recognizes and preserves World Heritage sites based on their significance to culture, history, or science. Mexico has been ranked first in the Americas and seventh in the world with 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

Here are 10 Mexican UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

1.Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza

Listed year: 1988

The biggest pre-Columbian Mayan metropolis in the Yucatán Peninsula was Chichén Itzá. Grand pyramids, holy temples, and ceremonial cenotes abound in the old metropolis. The El Castillo step pyramid, sometimes referred to as the Temple of Kukulkan, serves as its focal point. The Mayan serpent god who snakes down’ the temple’s stone stairway at dusk on the spring or autumn equinoxes is the subject of this temple’s devotion. The stunning snake heads at the base make the shadow play even better. Stone monuments and artistic creations of the Maya and Toltec cultures reflect their understanding of the earth and the cosmos. Chichen-Itza is one of the most significant instances of the Mayan-Toltec civilisation in Yucatán due to the blending of Mayan construction methods with fresh components from central Mexico. 

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Temple of Kukulcan (El Castillo) dominates the centre of the archaeological site_© Justin Lott
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Columns in the temple of a Thousand Warriors_© chichenitza.com
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The observatory temple (“El Caracol”)_ © Freepik

2. El Tajin, Pre-Hispanic City

Listed year: 1992

El Tajin, a city in the state of Veracruz, had its zenith between the early 9th and the early 13th century. It is a Mesoamerican city ruin with massive monuments and stone pyramids dotting a verdant valley. The 18-meter-tall Pyramid of the Niches, which has seven layers of tiny window-like niches, is the most notable of them all (hence its name). There are 365 niches altogether, which corresponds to the number of days in the solar calendar. El Tajin has endured as a magnificent illustration of the magnificence and significance of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic cultures.

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Pyramid of the Niches_© Erik Martin Del Campo
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Pyramid of the Niches_© Erik Martin Del Campo
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El tajin_© Erik Martin Del Campo

3. Historic Centre of Zacatecas 

Listed year: 1993 

Founded in 1546 following the discovery of a large silver vein. The town, which was constructed on the high slopes of a small valley, features stunning vistas and several historic structures, both civic and religious. The town’s centre is dominated by the cathedral, which was constructed between 1730 and 1760. It is remarkable for its symmetrical layout and the abundance of Baroque façades, where both native and imported ornamental features may be found.

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Panoramic view of Zacatecas_©Wikipedia
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Catedral de Zacatecas_©Adrián Cerón
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Symmetric facade of the Calderon Theatre at night_©travel Mexico

4. Ancient Maya City and Protected Tropical Forests of Calakmul, Campeche

Listed year: 2014

The site is located in the central/southern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula, in southern Mexico and includes the remains of the important Maya city Calakmul, set deep in the tropical forest of the Tierras Bajas. For more than twelve centuries, the city was important to the history of this area. It is known for its well-preserved monuments, which depict life in an ancient Maya metropolis. The property is also a part of Mesoamerica, the third-largest biodiversity hotspot in the world, which includes all tropical and subtropical habitats from central Mexico to the Panama Canal.

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Map of the archaeological site of Calakmul_©thehistoryhub
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Calakmul elevation_©thehistoryhub
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Calakmul sculpture_©thehistoryhub
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Calakmul top view_©thehistoryhub

5. Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System

Listed year: 2015 

This 16th-century aqueduct, which connects the states of Mexico and Hidalgo in the Central Mexican Plateau, is an illustration of the interchange of influences between traditional Mesoamerican building methods using adobe and the European heritage of Roman hydraulics. The site has an arcade with the highest single level ever constructed in an aqueduct. Padre Tembleque, a Franciscan friar, founded the project, and the nearby indigenous populations helped build it.

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View of the main arcade_©Edgar Valtiago
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Inside view of the Zempoala water tank_©Edgar Valtiago
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Detail of the water cistern of Zempoala church_©Nadia Gaes Nadia Garcia Espino
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Detail of the beginning of the aqueduct_©Nadia Gaes

6. Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl   

Listed year: 1994

Located in the states of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala, this is a serial property with 15 parts, built as part of the evangelisation and colonisation of the northern territories. They exhibit the architectural style used by the earliest missionaries, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians, who converted the native populace to Christianity in the early 16th century and remain in excellent condition. The architectural style boasts of new features like open spaces which include wide atria and posa chapels, which then later proved to be influential throughout the Mexican territory and even beyond the borders. 

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Franciscan Ensemble of the Monastery and Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Tlaxcala (extension of the Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl)_© Jose Montealegre
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Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl_© Wiper Mexico
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View of the cloister and bell tower of the monastery in Yecapixtla_© Tripbucket

7. The historic centre of Morelia

Listed year: 1991 

Built in the 16th century, according to a checkerboard layout, Morelia is a distinguished example of urban planning combining the ideas of the Spanish Renaissance with the Mesoamerican experience. The city has major axes and streets that run well suited to the slopes of the central hill of the valley and open up in numerous urban squares and gardens. The Historic Center of Morelia World Heritage site includes 249 monuments of prime importance, of which 21 churches and 20 civil constructions crystallize the architectural history of the city, affirming a masterly and eclectic amalgamation of the medieval spirit with Renaissance, Baroque and neoclassical elements all reflected in the characteristic pink stone, along with abundant arcades and imposing towers and azulejos covered cupolas that dominate the city. 

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Beautiful Colonial Cathedral of Morelia in Michoacan, Mexico _© Brian Overcast
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_Drone view of the city drawn in a checkerboard layout_© Bekiaviajes
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The Clavijero Cultural Center_© Julie Rose

8. The historic town of Guanajuato and adjacent mines 

Listed year: 1988

Guanajuato is a municipality located in north-central Mexico, founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century and during the 18th became famous as the world’s leading silver-extraction centre. Due to the prosperity of mines, one can find fine Baroque and neoclassical buildings in the city which eventually influenced buildings throughout central Mexico. The churches of La Compania and La Valenciana are among the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in Central and South America. The narrow and winding streets run in the city due to the difficult terrain many of which are partially or fully underground forming a series of tunnels. The historic centre of the churches and businesses was built predominantly using pink or green sandstone.

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Aerial view of the colourful and dense city_©Adam Pierce
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Drone view of the city_©Adam Pierce
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Pedestrian friendly alleyways_©Wild Junket
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Architectural style_©Adam Pierce

9. Luis Barragan house and studio 

Listed year: 2004 

Luis Barragan house and studio, alternatively known as Casa Luis Barragan, is the architect’s former residence in Mexico City. The house is a true reflection of his architectural style – minimalism with a blend of vernacular setting and the use of colours to pull focus on the forms and spaces formed by the use of planes. The house’s main facade is aligned with the street and practically blends in with the neighbouring structures exhibiting no relation to the personality of its interiors. The architect has playfully crafted the structure with the appropriate placement of windows controlling the amount of light and framing the views along with the colourful planes and the perfect material palette. Upon his death in 1988, Casa Barragan became a museum to be enjoyed by the public and was listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites in 2004.

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View of Casa Barragan from the street_© Creative Commons
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Color at Luis Barragan’s House_© Forgemind ArchiMedia
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Barragan House Office_© Forgemind ArchiMedia
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Casa Barragan Interior_© Forgemind ArchiMedia
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Patio of the House_© Forgemind ArchiMedia
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Luis Barragan House Patio_© Forgemind ArchiMedia

10. Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) 

Listed year: 2007

The ensemble of buildings, sports facilities and open spaces in UNAM that date back 70 years, was envisioned by more than 60 architects, engineers and artists and displays a modernist architectural style with open courtyards, secret passageways and pavilions with references to local traditions, especially to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past. It embodies social and cultural values of universal significance and is a combination of many things: bold geometry, openness, abstraction, humanistic design, permeability with nature, decaying masonry walls, and local lava rocks used as walls and pavers throughout the campus. The geometric volumes sit perfectly in sync with the indigenous landscape, adorning the campus with a fresh sense of space and humane touch.  

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UNAM_©Yueqi Jazzy Li
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UNAM_©Yueqi Jazzy Li
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UNAM_©Yueqi Jazzy Li
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UNAM_©Yueqi Jazzy Li
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UNAM_©Yueqi Jazzy Li
UNAM_©Yueqi Jazzy Li

References :

(a) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_Mexico

(b) http://www.casaluisbarragan.org/eng/en_patioollas.html

(c) https://www.archdaily.com/102599/ad-classics-casa-barragan-luis-barragan

(d) https://archeyes.com/luis-barragan-house-studio/

(e) https://www.archdaily.com/909408/photographer-yueqi-jazzy-li-captures-the-dynamism-of-mexico-citys-unam-campus

(f) https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1463/

(g) https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1061/

(h) https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/676/

(i) https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/631/

(j) https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/702/gallery/&maxrows=39

Author

Jahnavi Patil is a young enthusiastic writer who is passionate about architecture and architectural philosophy. She is currently studying architecture at Dr. D. Y. Patil College of Architecture, Navi Mumbai.

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