The Plaza Loreto shopping center is the only shopping center mentioned in The City’s Timeline. It started as a mill—in 1759. As shopping centers go, that’s like antiquity.
Re-opened in 1995, the paper mill had only stopped producing paper in 1991. Today, it’s a center for commerce; still, an asset is the original Soumaya Museum, it’s something of a cultural center, too. It’s certainly one of the nicest projects in industrial rehabbing and retro-fitting we have seen.
A Bright Valley of Colonial-Era Industry
The paper mill was built near the Magdalena River. The oldest building was part of a 15th century land grant from Hernán Cortés himself. Martín Cortés, the conquistador’s son is said to have installed a watermill here to grind grain, and later pulp for paper. It would continue do so until the 19th century. But of course, this paper mill and others like it, trace their histories up the Magdalena River, even as far as Los Dinamos National Park. The Plaza Loreto is but the downstream area of an extensive colonial and modern-day industrial valley.
A 1905 fire resulted in the property’s sale. By 1906, the site re-opened as the Fábrica de Papel de Loreto y Peña Pobre. Grupo Carso took over the property after another fire broke-out in the 1980s, nearly wiping-out what remained of the paper plant. The new owners began a thorough, culturally sanctioned restoration of the site. The first museum opened here in 1994. The much more recognizable Soumaya Museum opened in the city’s Granada neighborhood much later. It’s still an offshoot of the original site.
Today, the shopping center is not intimidatingly large. On the contrary, it’s pleasantly walk-able and the excellent retrofitting helped the plaza retain much of its character and personality. With a good number of better shops and eateries, it makes a trip to the museum, or to the surrounding neighborhoods well worth it.