MEXICO: Hardened Artery

Construction gangs cut down stately, 40-foot trees along Mexico City's famed Paseo de la Reforma. Bulldozers ripped at the broad islands on which the trees stood, and cranes swung weathered statues from street-side pedestals. Cuauhtémoc himself, last of the Aztec princes, was hauled from his sandstone eminence near the Paseo's intersection with Avenida Insurgentes. In his place, concrete mixers poured new pavements.

The Paseo had been laid out by the Emperor Maximilian in 1865 as a shortcut from downtown Mexico to his palace atop Chapultepec, three miles away. It was called the Calzada del Emperador (Emperor's Highway) until the empire's...

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