We get off the Turibus at the area called the Zocolo . This is the historic, political and cultural heart of Mexico City. It is built on top of the remains of the centre of the Aztec Empire, which in turn was built on top of a series of lakes and canals. The Spanish drained the waterways but the land was still little more than a swamp. Since then, the soft ground and the pumping of underground water for the city’s needs has meant that much of Mexico City’s historic heart is sinking. The Catedral Metropolitana alone has sunk 7m (23ft) since it was built. It is one of the most impressive baroque cathedrals in the world. But much of it appears to be leaning at a rather alarming angle. Indeed it is hard to see some of the gorgeous interior because of all the scaffolding needed to keep the massive structure from collapsing.
The streets of the Zocolo are narrow and lined with architectural examples from every period of Mexican history. Again the streets are all closed to traffic and the area is full of pedestrians. There are sidewalk cafes and restaurants, trendy stores, street musicians and a lot of police. The police presence is strong throughout the city. Many of them ride Segways, which seems extravagant for a poor country. The number of police is actually a little alarming, as is the fact that nearly all stores and restaurants of any size employ security guards to stand at their door. Even Burger King employs security guards, which seems a little superfluous. What self respecting crook would want to steal a Burger King sandwich. We have been warned to be careful, especially at night, but we feel perfectly safe in the tourist areas.