Moctezuma Plaza – Cuernavaca, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Moctezuma Plaza

The former headquarters of a leader in the Mexican Revolution, and the site of an often-reproduced image. 

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This building was once the Moctezuma Hotel, where the Zapatista army was installed during the Mexican Revolution. In the decades since the revolution, the space has been filled with other hotels, shops, and offices. Today, the building is a cultural center, and the legacy of the Moctezuma Hotel lives on in the form of a much-reproduced photograph.

The Moctezuma Hotel was built in 1903. It was a luxurious hotel, with columns and high arches made of red brick.  During the Mexican Revolution, this grand hotel served as headquarters for General Emiliano Zapata Salazar, the leader of the peasant revolution in Mexico’s state of Morelos. It was in this hotel that an iconic photograph of Zapata was taken, standing in front of one of the hotel’s staircases.

The photo was published in Leslie’s Magazine in 1912. After the assassination of President Francisco Madero in 1913, the revolutionary leaders, including Zapata, became famous. The Mexican press used the same photo for its illustrations, and the engraver José Guadalupe Posada was inspired by it for his informative pamphlets. Diego Rivera used the same photo as a reference for Zapata in his murals.

Zapata was assassinated in 1919, and his death made him a romantic revolutionary leader. In the 1960s, the same photo of him was used in Mexico alongside images of Ché Guevara. Today, the photo is used for puzzles, shirts, flags, bills, textbooks and has inspired paintings, sculptures and more. This photo is said to be the most reproduced photo of a Mexican citizen in the world.

Know Before You Go

The building is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance is free.