The Russian Embassy in Mexico is housed in a legendary mansion on the very corner of the La Condesa neighborhood.
This embassy objective is to develop bilateral relationship between Russia and Mexico, as well as to provide consular services to Russian and Mexican citizens so as to provide visas, cultural interchange, commercial services and means of communication. The house has been standing since 1911. There it is, majestic and discreet on Circuito Interior, on Avenida José Vasconcelos . It was built in the last year of the Porfiriato and has survived the Mexican Revolution, the two world wars, the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and neoliberalism. And every day it gets older. Now uniformed guards and security cameras guard what we know as the home of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Mexico, whose eclectic English façade – so fashionable at the beginning of the 20th century – is barely visible behind a row of trees.
History of the house, which encompassed 4 colonies
Its history began when Tacubaya was still a town surrounded by unpopulated lands where the rich families of the time built their mansions of rest . Moreover, the Russian Embassy today occupies the same property as the great house of the Hacienda Santa Catarina del Arenal (built in 1610), which was dedicated to pulquera, livestock and fruit production, and its land covered what today they are the Condesa, Hipódromo, Roma and Juárez colonies . In 1704 the Count of Miravalle acquired it for his wife and then inherited it from Doña María Magdalena Catalina Dávalos Bracamontes and Orozco Espinoza de los Monteros y Castilla, Third Countess of Miravalle, descendant of Moctezuma and related to Carlos II of Spain. She was famous “for her beauty, good education and poetic talent.” It is because of her, in fact, that the hacienda was known as “La Condesa”.
In 1825, the last Miravalle heir sold the farm and by 1869 it became the property of the Vicente Escandón Garmendia family. Don Vicente’s granddaughter, Dolores Rubín Escandón, and her husband Jorge Gómez de Parada, received the old farmhouse and surrounding fields as a wedding gift in 1911.
Gómez de Parada, architect, decided to demolish the old 16th century colonial center to build the mansion that we see today, in the shape of an H and with two levels.
The current house of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Mexico has a main entrance with 6 Doric columns that give access to a very large double-height central hall. The lighting is natural thanks to a glass that covers it and in the center there is a beautiful staircase of imperial design. The couple lived there during the most violent years of the Revolution and in this context their nine children were born.
First embassy of the USSR in the American continent
In 1922, during the presidency of Álvaro Obregón, the Gómez de Parada y Rubín family left for Europe and the palace remained closed until, due to financial problems, they rented it to the Brazilian government to serve as their embassy. Later, they returned to live there for 11 years, but in 1942 they left again and sold the mansion to the Soviet Union to house the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Mexico. This became the first embassy of the USSR in the American continent.
Since then, the embassy has been the subject of speculation. It is said, for example, that Josef Stalin established the diplomatic headquarters in Mexico to provide “diplomatic cover” to a small and sophisticated group of spies who had two main missions: to free Ramón Mercader from the Lecumberri prison – where he was imprisoned after kill Leon Trotsky– and get the secrets of the Manhattan Project –– the American program to develop and manufacture the first atomic bomb. The operation to free Mercader was a failure. However, the mission to obtain information on the Manhattan Project from Mexico City worked perfectly, so much so that Stalin was able to replicate the atomic bomb in the USSR a few years later.
Starting in the 1950s, the Soviet embassy became the nerve center of the KGB’s secret operations, the Soviet secret service, in the American continent. Several embassy employees are said to have been undercover agents. It is even stated that there “guerrilla training was organized in Mexico to recruit and send young students to the Patricio Lumumba University in Moscow.” The government of Mexico was aware of this and there was a time when diplomatic relations between the two countries were strained. In fact, President Luis Echeverría ordered the expulsion of diplomats and demanded that his ambassador leave Moscow. It is also said that the Soviet Embassy was the object of espionage by the Americans and the CIA. Declassified documents reveal that two presidents of Mexico, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and Luis Echeverría,They received direct orders from the CIA and, through the Mexican security agencies, maintained permanent surveillance and even photographed those who entered the USSR embassy. There is also much speculation about the appointment that the American Lee Harvey Oswald had at the Soviet embassy in 1963 to ask for asylum, two months before he committed (supposedly) the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And so thousands more stories that even inspired spy movies likeAnd so thousands more stories that even inspired spy movies likeAnd so thousands more stories that even inspired spy movies likeThe Falcon and the Snowman (1985) with Sean Penn and Tomothy Hutton.
Embassy of the Russian Federation
They also say that in 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, soldiers with Soviet weapons, shields and flags were seen leaving the mansion. The house would from that moment become the Embassy of the Russian Federation and part of the new world order.However, the embassy would continue to celebrate the ties of friendship between Russia and Mexico and would continue its work to spread the Russian vision of life and history, which we are sorely missing in a world dominated by the USA and Europe. At the same time, the embassy continues to be the subject of more contemporary controversies, worthy of a neoliberal world: such as the protest of gays outside the embassy in disagreement over the treatment received by members of the LGBTTI community in Russia or the demonstration of activists from Greenpeace and Amnesty International (AI) in front of the embassy to demand the release of 30 people detained by the Russian government when they tried to make a peaceful protest in the Arctic seas for a drilling to extract oil.
Most of the stories and events that occur within the walls of the Embassy of the Russian Federation are private, but with the little we know it is enough to turn to see it whenever we pass in front of it .