El Sargento is one of the most beloved trees in Mexico City. Even in death (the tree died in 1969), it’s much visited and the tree’s multiple trunks stands directly in front of a major monument dedicated to an Air Force Squadron that saw action during World War II (pictured above).
Taxodium mucronatum is commonly called (in English) the Montezuma cypress. The Nahuatl name ahuehuete might be translated as “old water tree.” The National Tree of Mexico since 1921, the tree grows throughout Mexico City and has been long considered sacred and associated with great authority.
El Sargento was a giant ahuehuete tree. It’s said to have been planted by Nezahualcoyotl (1402–1472) in 1460. Nezahualcoyotl was tlatoani (ruler) of the city-state of Texcoco to the east of Mexico City. He’s known to have planted many trees in this area at the request of Moctezuma I. El Sargento is thus believed to have lived about 509 years. It’s often considered second in fame only to the Tree of the Victorious Night, also deceased.
Today, the remains of the tree are just one of the sites along the Calzada del Rey in Chapultepec park. Immediately across this walkway is the Fuente de la Templanza. Visitors to the area are richly rewarded by the presence of many similar still-living trees. There are also many sites, monuments, and fountains for which the Bosque de Chapultepec is rightly so beloved.