Mexico City's zocalo, or main square, where much of SPECTRE's pre-title action took place


Our search for the heart of Franz Sanchez’ drug empire, starts on the airport of Mexico City, because we are visiting Mexico, the country EON used as fictional Isthmus in their 16th Bond film, Licence To Kill. The film is about a Banana republic, who’s president Hector Lopez is being kept alive by drug lord Franz Sanchez, in trade for the latter’s immunity. Sanchez can do whatever he wants and even uses a fake money raiser, Professor Joe Butcher, to make his deals, live on television, without anyone paying attention.

More recently, EON returned to Mexico City to film the spectacular opening sequence for SPECTRE, recreating the Day of the Dead procession. Most of these scenes were staged around the central square, or zocalo.
Mexico City is a huge city, providing a home to an estimated population of 19 million. Like in so many Middle American countries, the Mexican economy leaves an immense gap between a relatively small group of rich people, and a huge group of poor people. This latter group is clearly present in the capital and the ‘rich’ foreign traveller will undoubtedly suffer the inconveniences of attempts of pick-pocketing and swindling. But don’t let this spoil your enthusiasm, because Mexico has far too much to offer to just ignore this country.

Around the Plaza de la Constitución you find the old centre of Mexico City. This is the typical touristy area, with beautiful buildings, ancient excavations, museums and lots of craftsmen shops. In this highly interesting area the attentive Bond historian might stumble upon two locations worth mentioning. First we have the city theatre, or Teatro de la Cuidad. Its monumental facade was used in the exterior shots of Sanchez' casino headquarters. Because the theatre is located in a very narrow and busy street, the facade was rebuilt in the studios for use in the close up sequences, when Bond climbs the building to attach an explosive substance underneath the windows of Sanchez' office.
Mexico City's Teatro de Cuidad, Sanchez casino HQ exterior in Licence To Kill (1989)
Villa Arabesque in Acapulco served as Sanchez' house in Licence To Kill (1989)
Returning to the city, you will enter the Periferico, the highway that leads around the city. Following this road from the north to the west, you will eventually encounter an exit leading towards Toluca. After an hour ride, you will arrive at the ring road of Toluca. Taking the northern side of it, you will immediately see signs directing you towards Parque Centro Ceremonial Otomi. Right after you passed a Nissan manufacturing plant, you have to take the exit on the right, leading towards Temoaya. Take your time for this road, because it is filled with speed bumps.
After you have passed the town of Temoaya, the road leads into the mountains, and after a few kilometres you will reach the park. This is, or rather ‘was’, Franz Sanchez’ drug laboratory. In normal life, it is a recently built park to commemorate the Otomi Indian culture. It is also very often used by sportsmen for training purposes, because of its high altitude location. The main building is next to the huge square, which in real life does not house a helicopter platform. The building is on both sides surrounded by the typical ‘tipi’-style, cone shaped buildings, in Licence to Kill used by Professor Joe to seduce the ‘innocent’ Pam Bouvier, who pretended she came to donate her savings but actually came to rescue Bond.


This and much more can be found in the chapter
'Discovering Isthmus' in ON THE TRACKS OF 007
The Centro Ceremonial Otomi near Temoaya, Professor Joe's drug lab in Licence to Kill (1989)

Connected hotels:

Gran Hotel Cuidad de Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico
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