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Mexico City’s center square is about a mile or so from what the Aztecs considered to be the center of the universe. Even so, the Zocalo (named for the base of a celebratory column that never was built) largely occupies the main ceremonial grounds of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, over which modern-day Mexico City rests. The east side of the Zocalo is framed by the National Palace, home to Mexico’s government. As such, the square—the largest in the city—is a frequent venue for not only festivals, tourists and political rallies but also protests and demonstrations.

Located well within the tropical zone, Mexicans — like the Aztecs — discovered long ago that the only way to escape the heat and humidity is to move up. Mexico City rests on a plateau roughly a vertical mile above sea level. While this mitigates the tropics’ enervating climatic effects, it comes at a price: basic transport costs within Mexico’s mountainous core territories are among the highest on Earth, complicating every type of economic and cultural development imaginable.

For more on Mexico and the future of the North American Drug Way, see Chapters 13 of The Accidental Superpower and 13 of The Absent Superpower.