The Casa Talavera is a historic building, today used as a Cultural Center. It’s one of the oldest, best-known, and best-documented sites in the Barrio la Merced. Today, it’s part of the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UACM).
The property first enters the historical record as part of the estate of the Marquis of San Miguel de Aguayo. In fact, it was built over several ancient temazcales. These were important ancient saunas used in ritual practice and later banned by the Spanish. But archaeological evidence of them proved the name of the old neighborhood, Temazcaltitlán. The “place of temazcales” proved human habitation as far back as 1207 CE.
The Marquis built a grand house here already in the 17th century. The only remains of that structure are the patio that we see today. The Marquis de Aguayo owned vast estates in today’s Coahuila and Texas. Here, though, the property was the center of a number of outbuildings. It likely functioned to provided lodging to the extended family. The upper floors were private quarters that included a dining room, bedrooms, and dressing rooms.
Mural paintings from the 16th through 18th centuries are partially preserved within. Pressure from the surrounding neighborhood resulted in its use for part of the 20th century as a vegetable market, although it had also been a school for some years before and after the Mexican Revolution.
It was briefly taken over by squatters, but in 1980 when the City Government took over the property. With the foundation of the UACM it was reconfigured not just to serve as a university extension, but also to better present the buildings own history. Briefly having served as a leather tannery and Talavera-style tile factory, an onsite museum presents some of the more interesting aspects of the site.
The museum exhibits ancient pottery, cookware, and clay figurines. The collection includes some colonial artifacts and lectures, conferences, and courses often round out the center’s many activities.
La Merced is the classic, and some will argue, the only public market in Mexico City. If you miss out on this one, you're missing out on a lot!