The Plaza del Seminario is the eastern counterpart to the Plaza Menor or Plazuela del Marqués on the westside of the Cathedral. It's sometimes called the Plaza del Templo Mayor, as it serves as the entrance plaza to the museum. But more commonly, and more officially, it's known as the Plaza Manuel Gamio for one of the archaeologists most instrumental to the opening of the museum.
- Manuel Gamio Martínez (1883–1960) was an archaeologist, sociologist, and a leader of the indigenismo movement. Considered the father of modern anthropological studies in Mexico, he was born in Mexico City. He studied engineering and later archaeology, ethnology, and anthropology. At 19, he left his studies to work on the family rubber plantation and there learned the Nahuatl language from the workers. Having developed an interest in indigenous cultures, he resumed school at the National Museum. He later earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University. He became one of the most important early scientific investigators to explore Teotihuacan. He was also an early champion of indigenous people's rights to recognition and a place in Mexican public life.
The plaza is historically remembered for having been near to where the city's first layout was planned by Alonso García Bravo
in the 1520s. The Royal and Pontifical University
was also established here already in 1551. Today, it's the UNAM Museo Hoy. The plaza still most commonly bears the name of the 1689 Seminario Conciliar de San Pablo
. This was ordered demolished in 1861, but not fully eradicated until 1928 when it was replaced by a hotel and later a pharmacy, both still bearing the Seminario
name. The street along the plaza's eastern edge is still called Seminario
to this day.
When the archaeological zone took shape in 1978, the Plaza del Seminario settled into the shape we see and experience today. It was here that Manuel Gamio first revealed one corner of the ancient Templo Mayor in 1913. It was previously believed to be directly underneath the cathedral. Over the course of the 20th century, the contour of the plaza would change numerous times.
The Plaza Manuel Gamio was completed in the late 1970s with the addition of the fountain. This includes a scale model of ancient Mexico-Tenochtitlan. But today, international visitors experience it as a plaza vibrant with the calls of traditional dancers, themselves recalling part of the Indigenismo
movement championed by Manuel Gamio.