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Mexico City's oldest house. Mexico City's oldest house.

City’s oldest house will be cultural center

16th-century home is located in La Merced on edge of the historic center

A restoration project is breathing new life into Mexico City’s oldest house, which will open its doors to the public in October as a museum and children’s cultural center.

Located on the eastern fringe of the capital’s historic center in the neighborhood of La Merced, the home dates back to the end of the 16th century.

In an interview with the newspaper Milenio, the head of the Mexico City Historic Center Trust said the capital’s Housing Institute (Invi) took possession of the dwelling in 2010 but it wasn’t until 2015 that the restoration work began.

Number 25 Manzanares street is now in the second of three redevelopment stages, Mariano Leyva Pérez Gay explained.

Juan Benito Artigas, a researcher and expert on 16th-century Mexican architecture at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), is overseeing the work.

The first stage involved underpinning the house’s foundation, cleaning and the removal of a range of elements that have been added on to the structure over the years, Pérez said.

The second stage includes reconstruction work and the restoration of aspects of the home that have largely stood the test of time, while the third phase will consist of making the final preparations for the house’s new incarnation as a cultural center.

Pérez said that around 5 million pesos (US $272,000) have been invested in the project to date, adding that the aim is for children’s music, film and literature workshops to be offered at the restored home within six months.

The federal Secretariat of Culture is collaborating on the project that will benefit an estimated 800 children who live in the neighboring streets of an area that is overrun with informal commerce and prostitution.

Pérez said the new center will offer a safe space to children and the site’s museum will also seek to educate visitors about the heritage and history of both the home and the neighborhood it is located in.

“. . . The intention is to avoid stigmatizing the residents of the neighborhood as murderers, thieves and informal hawkers,” he said.

The trust head also explained that the design of the home’s layout predates the arrival of the Spanish but features such as windows and gargoyles are the result of colonial influence.

“This early house is a mix between Spanish culture and pre-Hispanic culture. The structure is strictly pre-Hispanic in the calpulli style . . . the walls are of braza stone and tezontle, the frames of quarry stone . . .” Pérez said.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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