Mexico city: 1671 / Vetus Mexico

Mexico city: 1671 / Vetus Mexico
Reproduced in 1965 by Historic Urban Plans, Ithaca, New York, no. 123 of 500

Hi everyone,

As we are approaching the end of Latinx Heritage Month, I would like to feature this panoramic view of ancient Mexico City. Last semester, I presented a map of Mexico City in 1556; reproduced by the same publisher and in the same year, this 1671 map named Vetus Mexico shows ancient Mexico city from another perspective.

Like the 1556 map, the print also presents the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan at the time of the Spanish conquest. Mexico city is constructed in the middle of Lake Texcoco with bridges and causeways connecting it to the surrounding countryside. The lettered keys, with the legend on the upper left corner, highlight the important sites such as temples and plazas. In the foreground, the indigenous people are mostly depicted as naked and are cast in shadows while the Spanish are well-dressed in fine clothes and beaver hats. The somehow triumphal depiction of the arrival of the Spanish troops reflects an early colonial imagination of the westerners, where they perceived themselves as the advanced civilization as compared to the primitiveness of the indigenous people. 

This Mexico city print was originally from English geographer and publisher John Ogilby’s America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World, a book published in London in 1671 which was translated and edited from works of Dutch scholar Arnoldus Montanus. Like Giovanni Battista Ramusio, the Italian cartographer who never had been to Mexico yet made the Mexico City 1556 map, neither John Ogilby nor Arnoldus Montanus had ever also visited America. They probably relied on secondary sources such as accounts of travelers or soldiers. Their maps show the general public interest in and imagination of the “new world” in the early modern era.

Feel free to take a look at the previous post on the 1556 Mexico City Map on this website if you are interested! 

Good luck with the midterms!

Yidan Xu ’24