View of Mexico City and the Zócalo from the Torre Latinoamericana

View of Mexico City (including the cathedral and the Zócalo) from the Torre Latinoamericana

Upon first inspection, the Torre Latinoamericana does not seem overly impressive. As far as skyscrapers go, it’s fairly short and squat, and in need of a facelift. Once you learn the history of the building, however, this unassuming edifice suddenly becomes an icon of modern high-rise technology. Constructed in 1956, it was the world’s first skyscraper located on highly active seismic land, and it is one of the only quake-proof highrises to withstand two major earthquakes; the tower survived a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in 1957, and a magnitude 8.1 in 1985. It has since become a national historic monument, which might help to explain its slightly run-down appearance–any future renovations must respect the original design, retaining the tower’s 1950’s modernist aesthetic. Architecturally sensitive face-lifts of this kind take time to plan and execute.

Located at the top of the tower is a large outdoor panoramic lookout. On one of our last days in the city, we decided it was high-time (pun intended) that we took advantage of the Torre Latinoamericana’s excellent view. Getting to the “Mirador” (which means balcony or viewing platform in Spanish) is a relatively easy task. You walk into the ground floor entrance and buy a ticket to the top from a very clearly labeled kiosk beside the elevators. They put a paper bracelet on you, and you’re good to go up and down the tower for the rest of the day. (Though we didn’t, it would probably be interesting to return at night.)

As part of your entrance fee, you get free admission to a newly renovated museum exhibit located a few floors below the outdoor viewing area. It’s worth your while to wander through the short maze of historic images and info-graphics that tell the story of the building and the area. The view from the top is spectacular, and on a good day you can clearly see the distant ring of mountains that encircle the massive Valley of Mexico.

The air quality in Mexico City can vary from day-to-day, and the views from the tower are best on a clear day. So if a beautiful clear day crops up, it’s worth changing you plans to hit the tower… it might be your last clear day in the city. (We learned this the hard way, but the views were still spectacular.)

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