The Ciudadela is a great architectural complex
designed in 1807 to accomodate the 'Real Fábrica de
Tabacos' (Tobacco Factory); architect José Antonio
González and engineer Miguel Constanzo were in
charge of overseeing it's construction.
The Real Fábrica de Tabacos' building was renamed by
the inhabitants of the city as “Ciudadela” (citadel)
due to its austere, almost military character.
Faithful to the recquirements of its functionality
focused on production, it's a one floor building
distributed on a square plan in which the corners
and middle section are accentuated through spaces
that surpass the taken in outline of the rest of the
building. The courtyard it originaly had at its
centre is now divided in four covered ones seperated
by two intersecting bays that form a cross. Its
exterior is extremely sober and has little
ornamentation, mainly moldings and friezes in grey
stone which contrast with the reddish tone of the
The outburst of the war of Independence a little
after the building's inauguration as well as its
strategic position near one of the access roads to
Mexico City were the reasons why it was subsequently
used as headquarters and also a prison. It was in
this place in which Jose María Morelos y Pavón, one
of the heroes of mexican Independence, spent his
last days before being transfered for his execution.
A century later, on february 1913 many executions
took place there during the bloody period of the
'Decena Trágica' (Ten Tragic Days) which ended the
democratic government of Francisco I. Madero. After
decades of not being used to its full potential the
building was transformed into the 'Biblioteca de
México', the most visited public library in the
city; afterwards a few modifications were made in
the interior so as to provide new spaces for other
cultural institutions like the 'Centro de la Imagen'
(Image Centre), a museum specialized in photography
which actively hosts several exhibitions relative to
the visual arts.
On the esplanade in front of The Ciudadela there's a
square called 'Plaza Morelos'; an ample space full
of trees, it boasts an interesting monument
dedicated to the memory of this important historical
character as well as two exquisitely cast bronze
fountains. At the weekends, the famous dancing
lessons which have already become a tradition in the
area are offered free of charge to people of all
ages and backgrounds; this activity has led the
square to be also known as 'Plaza del Danzón' (Cuban
To one side of The Ciudadela, on Balderas Avenue,
there often is a popular crafts, books and antiques
market where one can find some interesting objects
at a reasonable price.
The 'Biblioteca de México' is open to the public
every day except holidays from 8:30 to 19:30 hrs.
The 'Centro de la Imagen' is open Tuesday through
Sunday from 11:00 to 18:00 hrs.