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Sinking Mexico City

Mexico City. One of the biggest and most attractive cities in the world. Filled with young and cultural vibe, Mexico City has an abundance of fascinating architecture, modern in design or ancient in inspiration. While there are too many intriguing offerings to see in one day, or even one lifetime, in this metropolitan capital, here is what I suggest: explore the collection of strange facts and curiosities, starting with the famous sinking buildings.

The stunning white-gold bulding is the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Up until the 1970’s, the building was still standing symmetrically to the street level. Today, this colossus is visibly sinking on its right side, forcing the insertion of a ladder for people to access its interior.

This is a curious phenomenon occurring in Mexico City affecting mainly Hispanic churches and other construction from the same and later periods.

Mexico City’s sinking phenomenon

The sinking phenomenon has been part of the city since pre-Hispanic times, when the Aztecs decided to build the capital of their empire over lakes. This decision benefited them in terms of the defense of the territory in war situations, but that also gave rise to certain problems that continue to this day: floods, the lack of drinking water, the sinking of the city. All these issues which forced them to to build dams that would allow draining the lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico and thus be able to raise the city height by accumulating land underneath.

A representation of Tenochtitlán.

In order to achieve this, lakes and rivers were dried up and replaced by streets, thus altering the subsoil of the city and thus contributing to the problem of future large constructions.

The Spanish arrival continued with the same strategy, building a number of churches on top of pyramids and other Aztec monuments.

Today the ground is slowly giving up as most of these buildings were erected on an already built up Aztec city.
The Aztec’s legacy people of today dare to suggest the phenomenon to be a silent vengeful curse…

Mexico City holds the world record for subsidence. From 1862 to date, it accumulates up to 14 meters of topographic depressions, mainly due to the deep pumping of water.

The city is sinking on a daily basis, so far it has gone down of about 10 metres in the last few decades.

One theory explains that underneath the city is located the aqueduct which sustains the thirst of over 9 million people. As millions of people drink its water, it slowly becomes less sustaintable and more prone to degradation and debilitation of the structure.
Another explanation dates back from the Aztecs and the Spanish arrival: during the Aztec period when the city was known as Tenochtitlan, the town was initially built on a Lake Texcoco by creating islands using dumped soil. When the Spanish arrived they erected a second city on top of the Aztec ruins after been demolished. A city atop of another.

The Spanish built on top of the Aztec city. Now it is possible to appreciate what they had covered.

The base, however, was a lake. Drained and all, but still a lake.

Some of the most famous Sinking Buildings:

This has caused buildings to lean and sink into the ground at a rate of up to one foot a year in the most extreme places.

A balcony that has suffered from unevenness of the ground and shows a wavy effect as a result of the ground’s debilitation.

The leaning Metropolitan Cathedral on the right side.


The Ex Teresa Arte Actual museum is inclined over its right side


The Metropolitan Cathedral leaning on the right side.
This is the pendulum hanging inside the Matropolitan Cathedral right on main aisle. If you look carefully, the pendulum shows you how the foundations of the cathedral have been shifting since it’s conception.




A curious Italian-Chilean travel writer and culture enthusiast who loves to discover the obscure and unusual in everything.


  1. Pablo Garuti

    Muy interesante, lo copié a un amigo que trabaja en Mexico que no tenia ni idea de este interesante aspecto cultural de Mexico City
    Gracias Stana !


    1. Stanito

      Mil gracias, Pablo 😀 ! Sii fíjate que se ven clarísimos los edificios inclinados, tanto así que tienen que reforzar el pavimento constantemente.


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