Deep underneath the hustle and bustle of Mexico City lies a labyrinth of tunnels that transports more than 5 million people every day. Its almost impossible to visit the city and not hop aboard at least once. With more than 195 stations and 12 lines, the Mexico City Metro is one of the largest and most used in the world. But something that makes this metro unique, apart from its well-known on-board salesmen and peak-hour lines, is the picturesque metro map filled with colorful symbols.
A Stroll Down Memory Lane
The Mexico City Metro system began construction on June 19, 1967 and on Sept. 4, 1969 the first train began operation from Chapultepec to Zaragoza. It had been proposed years before, but due to its high costs it was always vetoed. Bernardo Quintana, Founder of ICA was of the first to propose the construction plan and it was not until Gustavo Diaz became president that the government decided to bring it to life.
How did they finance it? During the 1960s, Mexico had a good relationship with France and it decided to help finance the construction of the Metro. The Banque Nationale de Paris provided finance in agreement to pay 3 percent annually for the next 30 years. This metro is known as one of the cheapest in the world, not only in its construction but also in its use since it is heavily subsidized.
Who constructed it? ICA was responsible for the civil works and electromechanics, along with Compañía Mexicana de Comercio Exterior and Cie Francaise d’Importation et d’Exportation. Rail technology giant Alstom provided the MP-68 model train for the first line.
Who designed it? Ingenieros en Sistemas de Transporte Metropolitano (ISTME) under the supervision of the architect Pedro Ramírez were responsible for the design of the trains and stations.
What do the symbols of the Mexico City Metro stand for?
From grasshoppers and peaches to mammoths the Mexico City Metro System’s colorful map is more than what meets the eye. Lance Wyman is the architect responsible for the never-ending quest to discover what each symbol means. After providing the design services for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, he joined forces with two Mexican architects, Arturo Quiñónez and Francisco Gallardo to create the metro system’s “Guess Who” game board. Can you guess what each symbol means?
Metro Talisman- Line 4
Yes, it’s a mammoth. During the construction of the line, workers found the remains of a mammoth during excavation. In many cultures, the elephant (descendant of the mammoth) is considered a good luck charm if the trump is pointing up, giving the station its name: Talisman.
Metro Popotla – Line 2
A tree, but it is no ordinary tree. This tree native to Mexico is called ahuehuete, also known as the tree of the “Sad Night. Popotla is located between what was once a path that lead from Tenochtitlan to Tlacopan, where the Battle of the Sad Night (Batalla de la Noche Triste) took place. Legend says that Hernan Cortes rested here after losing to the Mexica and actually stopped to cry under a ahuehuete tree. After several fires, only parts of the tree remain.
Metro Copilco – Line 3
This Omeca symbol is related to water and by blending it with a water snake, it was believed to represent a Celest dragon which was later known as the Water God. Copilco in Mexica dialect means Royal Crown and is an area that was buried under layers of lava when the volcano Xitle erupted, creating the Pedregal area.
Metro Tlahuac – Line 12
Located in the Tlahuac area, it was a pre-Hispanic settlement on near the Lake of Texcoco representing a translation of the word that means “place where cuitlal grows”. Cuitlal is a species of Algae that grows near Xochimilco.
Metro Camarones – Line 7
A shrimp with no ocean? This station gets its name from Camarones Roadway that passes through the area. In 1790 there was a small town called Camarones located on a path that went from San Salvador Xochimanca and Azcapotzalco. In pre-Hispanic times, it is said that there was a river and aqueduct. Its waters carried small critters that if cooked and wrapped in corn leaves tasted just like shrimp.
Metro Miguel Ángel de Quevedo – Line 3
This tree represents a Mexican engineer that dedicated his life to the preservation of vegetation and flora. Miguel Angel de Quevedo, also known as the Apostle of the Tree, was the chief of the Forestry department in the Ministry of Agriculture as well as the founder of the Mexican Forest Society.