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The Plaza del Estudiante is a historical city plaza in the territory between La Lagunilla and Tepito, north of the City Center. Its story begins with the expulsion of the Carmelite order from their convent in 1862. That was the result of the Religious Reformation of the late 1850s. Today, the Templo del Carmen is the only part of the convent remaining. The Plaza del Carmen, as the square had been called, recalled the name of the convent, although its location is not really representative of the convent’s former layout. The Calle de los Aztecas was opened in 1868, already bisecting part of the abandoned convent grounds.
Over the next several years, the already wealthy José Ives Limantour purchased several properties in the area. His family made significant money purchasing former ecclesiastical properties. By the late 1880s, he was directly involved in the opening of what’s today known as the 3rd Calle del Carmen, extending Aztecas street to the south.
Having become the Finance Minister during the Porfirio Díaz regime, and the leader of the Cientificos, it was in that role that he championed (and financed) the building of the Casa del Estudiante. It’s still known as the Honorable Casa Nacional Del Estudiante. Essentially a dormitory, it was the first of its kind in the country.
Even today, two students are admitted from each of the 31 states so that they may attend one of the public universities in the capital.
The building is Eclectic in style with strong Renaissance influence. The architect was Mauricio María y Campos Elguero who was simultaneously redesigning the Legislative Palace on the Calle de Donceles. His work on the palacial construction that is today the Russian Embassy is also worth having a look.
With the opening of the National Students’ House, the entire character of the plaza out front was changed. The Plaza del Estudiante was primarily used by students from the National University which was long headquartered in the Historical Center. They remained here in great numbers through the middle of the 20th century.
Today, like the Plaza Torres Quintero to the east, the plaza is nearly lost beneath the crush of tianguis. The dormitory, dignified if a little scruffy at the elbows, is used for the exact same purpose. Today, it’s managed by an organization set up by the students themselves in the 1980s.