The Contemporary Urban Mexico: A Problem of Interpretation

Pancho Villa//Emiliano Zapata. México December 6th 1913). Casasola Archive
Pancho Villa//Emiliano Zapata. Mexico December 6th 1913. Casasola Archive

Calling this place ‘America’ is to name it after a stranger. ‘Turtle Island’ is the name given this continent by Native American based on creation mythology. The United States, Canada, Mexico, are passing political entities; they have their legitimacies … but they will lose their mandate if they continue to abuse the land. ‘The state is destroyed, but the mountains and rivers remain.’[1]

Gary Snyder, 1990 

The national state of Mexico is experiencing an inflection point concerning the urban dynamics on its territory. After the “monopoly of the urban” by the Valley of Mexico –Mexico City- for centuries, The United Mexican States have witnessed the appearance of nearly 27 million new urban dwellers spread across the country in the last 20 years (1990 – 2010)[2]. This impulse of living in cities has resulted in hundreds of manmade landscapes demanding the supply of water, food, waste management, electricity, telecommunications and housing, just to mention few elements in the present scene of human settlements.

The contemporary Mexico is a young electoral democracy and it is already an international player in terms of economy; estimations from the World Bank suggest that Mexico is the 13th largest economy in the world and will be the 7th economy by 2050;[3] in addition, it is estimated that approximately 10% of the world’s biodiversity is concentrated in Mexico[4]. Human development, economic growth and ecosystem conservation are three major elements regarding the stability of the Mexican landscapes and territories.

Although the creation and enforcement of federal institutions and research institutes with the aim of studying the urban dynamics of the country, an understandable confusion about the “metropolitan Mexico” permeates nowadays. Part of this confusion is manifested in the method of mapping and representing the national territory.

Despite the vast gamut and technical accuracy of the contemporary cartography, the final products (maps) of the key publications that analyze the urban Mexico are ordinary, conventional and limited pieces of representation. The lack of complexity in the construction of a ‘geographic consciousness’ is an obstacle for the interpretation of the Emerging Landscapes of Mexico.

Guaymas, México. Ernesto Valero Thomas (EVTh)
Guaymas, México. Ernesto Valero Thomas (EVTh)

After the review and analysis of contemporary publications dealing with the national territory, one conclusion is clear: the drive of refreshing the cartographic consciousness of the current Mexican landscapes comes from both, social and natural sciences. On the one hand, documents such as Delimitation of the Metropolitan Areas of Mexico (2011)[5], The Contemporary Urbanization of Mexico (2011)[6], Mexican Cities of the 20thCentury (2008)[7], The Formation of the Economic Regions of Mexico (1983)[8], North America An Introduction (2009)[9] and The Atlas of the Territorial Processes of Yucatan (1999)[10], concentrate their attention in the delimitation of human settlements in Mexico.

On the other hand, publications such as The General Ecologic Ordinance of the Territory (2012)[11], The Natural Heritage of Mexico: 100 Case Studies (2010)[12] and Towards a Synthesis of the Mexican Biogeography (2005)[13] are focused on the bio-regionalization of ecosystems and biotic components of the Mexican geography.

Plenty of bi-dimensional, high-quality maps are used to illustrate the data provided by the studies above mentioned; however, the lack of amalgamation of information into solid pieces of cartography is blocking the understanding and interpretation of the Mexican territory and its ecosystems.


[1] Quote taken from The Practice of the Wild

[2] The Contemporary Urbanization of Mexico (2011)

[3] World Bank figure

[4] UNESCO

[5] Delimitation of the Metropolitan Areas of Mexico (2011)

[6] The Contemporary Urbanization of Mexico (2011)

[7] Mexican Cities of the 20thCentury (2008)

[8] The Formation of the Economic Regions of Mexico (1983)

[9] North America An Introduction (2009)

[10] The Atlas of the Territorial Processes of Yucatan (1999)

[11] The General Ecologic Ordinance of the Territory (2012)

[12] The Natural Heritage of Mexico 100 Case Studies (2010)

[13] Towards a Synthesis of the Mexican Biogeography (2005)

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