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The Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishopric of New Spain, was constructed on another side of the Zócalo, as was the archbishop's palace, and across from it the building housing the City Council or ayuntamiento of the city.

A famous late seventeenth-century painting of the Zócalo by Cristóbal de Villalpando depicts the main square, which had been the old Aztec ceremonial center.

Indian residences were outside that exclusive zone and houses were haphazardly located.Spaniards sought to keep Indians separate from Spaniards but since the Zócalo was a center of commerce for Indians, they were a constant presence in the central area, so strict segregation was never enforced.Ever since, the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has controlled both of them.In recent years, the local government has passed a wave of liberal policies, such as abortion on request, a limited form of euthanasia, no-fault divorce, and same-sex marriage.Mexico’s capital is both the oldest capital city in the Americas and one of two founded by Amerindians (Native Americans), the other being Quito.

The city was originally built on an island of Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs in 1325 as Tenochtitlan, which was almost completely destroyed in the 1521 siege of Tenochtitlan, and subsequently redesigned and rebuilt in accordance with the Spanish urban standards.

In 1524, the municipality of Mexico City was established, known as México Tenochtitlán, After independence from Spain was achieved, the federal district was created in 1824.

After years of demanding greater political autonomy, residents were given the right to directly elect a Head of Government and the representatives of the unicameral Legislative Assembly by popular vote in 1997.

When the Spaniards arrived, the Aztec Empire had reached much of Mesoamerica, touching both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

Cortés and his men marched along the causeway leading into the city from Iztapalapa, and the city's ruler, Moctezuma II, greeted the Spaniards; they exchanged gifts, but the camaraderie did not last long.

The city consists of sixteen municipalities (previously called boroughs).