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