Grasshopper Hill

There is a hill in Mexico City that has been considered both a sacred and strategic location for hundreds of years; the high ground over which battles have been fought and where rulers have built palaces.

The Toltecs named the hill “Chapoltepec” which in Nahuatl means “at the grasshopper hill.” Remains of a Toltec altar have been found on the hill’s summit.

After the Aztec conquest, the hill became an exclusive retreat for the ruling and religious elite and in the 1420s the first palace was built for Aztec emperors: Nezahualcoyotl, Moctezuma I and Moctezuma II. (Remember those names, I’ll mention them again in a bit.)

During the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs a battle occurred at Chapultepec Hill in 1521, and shortly thereafter, the Franciscans built a small hermitage over the indigenous altar but it was demolished in 1785 to make way for a castle for Spanish viceroys.

In 1821, Mexico achieved independence from Spain after which the buildings on top of Chapultepec Hill were used for a gunpowder warehouse and in 1841 a military academy.

In 1847, the Hill was the site of The Battle of Chapultepec Hill. On September 13, 1847, six young Mexican military cadets (called Niños Heroes in Spanish or “Boy Heroes.”) were killed in that battle with U.S. troops. It was one of the last major battles of the Mexican-American War.

The Military Academy Watch Tower was constructed in 1842. It was captured by the United States forces and the US flag was raised over the Watch Tower during the Mexican–American War.
The Memorial to the Niños Heroes to honor their sacrifice. The youngest of the six cadets was only 13 and the oldest 19 years of age. September 13, 1847, the date of the battle, is now celebrated in Mexico as a civic holiday.
This view from Chapultepec Castle shows the 6 white columns of a memorial to the Boy Heroes and the Reforma Avenue lined with skyscrapers to the Angel Monument and beyond.

One of the strangest chapters in Mexican history occurred more than 40 years after Mexican independence from Spain when Austrian-born Maximilian von Hapsburg was selected by French Emperor Napoleon III to rule over Mexico!

Chapultepec Castle on Chapultepec Hill, along with Iturbide Palace, also in Mexico City, are the only royal palaces in North America. Today, Chapultepec Castle is open to the public and houses the National History Museum.
Chapultepec Castle offers a magnificent view of Mexico City from its elevation of 7,628 feet above sea level.
Construction on Chapultepec Castle began in 1785 while the Spanish ruled Mexico and was finally completed in 1864 when it became the residence for the Emperor Maximilian and his consort Empress Charlotte.

Maximilian was the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, and Charlotte as the daughter of King Leopold I of Belgium was a princess. (Her cousin was crowned Queen Victoria of Great Britain In 1837.)

Emperor Maximilian and Empress Charlotte brought this royal carriage with them when they traveled to Mexico in 1864. The carriage was made in Milan, Italy. He was 31 years old and she was 24 years old when they arrived in Mexico.
This photo and the following one are two views of one long room that contains “his & hers” pianos and portraits of Charlotte and Maximilian
The pianos – one French and one English belonged to Maximilian and Charlotte.

It was a short reign; Maximilian was executed on June 19, 1867.

The French Bedroom was believed to be Empress Charlotte’s. Many of the expensive furnishings were left behind when the palace was abandoned by Maximilian after Charlotte had returned to Europe seeking support for her husband’s government.
In a time when water from the springs had to be carried by mule or wagon to the castle, both Maximilian and Charlotte had their own bath rooms, this one belonged to Charlotte.
Stained glass window in the palace.

After Maximilian’s death, Chapultepec Castle fell into disuse. In 1876 a decree established it as an Astronomical, Meteorological and Magnetic Observatory until 1882 when it was remodeled and declared as the official Presidential Residence. In 1939 a law established Chapultepec Castle as the National Museum of History moving the official Mexican presidential residence to Los Pinos in Chapultepec Forest. Since 2018 Los Pinos has been open to the public and the official Presidential Residence is now the National Palace on the Mexico City Zócalo.

The Presidential Dining Room of Chapultepec Castle.
The “Ambassadors Hall”with furnishings from the Porfirio Diaz presidency.
President Porfirio Diaz’s bedroom circa 1906.

Remember the names of Moctezuma I and II, the Aztec Empire rulers? The spelling of Moctezuma was corrupted to “Montezuma “in Western art, music and literature such as in The Marines’ Hymn. The lyrics of the first stanza are…“From the Halls of Montezuma; To the shores of Tripoli…”

According to Wikipedia the words “Halls of Montezuma” honors the U.S. Marine Corps role in the Battle of Chapultepec and the subsequent occupation of Mexico City…(even though) the “halls” of Chapultepec were actually erected by the Spanish rulers of Mexico, more than two centuries after the Aztec Emperor Montezuma was overthrown.” Not only that, “but the Marine Corps tradition maintains that the red stripe worn on the trousers of officers and non-commissioned officers, and commonly known as the “blood-stripe”commemorates the high number of Marine NCOs and officers killed storming the castle of Chapultepec in September 1847.”

I didn’t know that! Did you?

We flew American Airlines Business class from Mexico City for $78.56 each. I hope to share in a future post our recent travel hacking experiences, but next time I will publish the Cost of Travel CDMX.

I really enjoyed our visit to Chapultepec Castle, but our Mexican Journey has ended, for now, and we are “home” (in a Airbnb) in Spokane, Washington for the holidays.

If you’ve read this far (did you?) I thank you! I appreciate my readers so very much and always love to read your comments. Until next time!

2 responses to “Grasshopper Hill

  1. Your trip into Mexico has been an eye-opener on all fronts! So nice to not hear about the beaches that all the tourists frequent. The history was great! I had never heard about the “blood stripe” nor many other subjects you covered. Thank you for the wonderful tour! And, as a native of Tacoma, what a difference for you to be in WA! Merry Christmas & a Happy Healthy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Georganna. I appreciate your comments. Once a tour guide, always a tour guide sharing history and stuff. Are you traveling with SLV (or anyone) these days? It’s strange – from CA to OR to WA. Maybe Idaho is next?

      Like

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