Mexico City, the Mother City

Mexico City 2006. Ernesto ValeroThomas (EVTh)

The Valley of Mexico has hosted three different metropolises for nearly 700 years. It was Tenochtitlan (1325-1521), the capital city of the Aztec Empire; after the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica it became the capital city of the viceroyalty of New Spain (1521-1810). Nowadays Mexico City is the capital city of the contemporary national state of Mexico (1810-present).

This city has been the cultural, political and economic centre of the nation for centuries and it has influenced the landscapes of the entire country. In terms of international standards it is considered a Megacity -urban agglomerations of more than 10 million inhabitants.

According to Jose Castillo, for 25 years Mexico City has captured worldwide interest as the ever-present, ever-growing, ever-developing megacity. For him, this eternal condition of megacityness, of being on the edge of either disaster or survival, has historically configured the local mindsets, its
collective consciousness, its urban policies and its political agendas. It has shaped an attitude within the city’s decision-making bodies and the planning processes that is reactive at best -ingrained with pessimism and suspicion over any effort to engage with the city in a productive or appreciative way.

Until the 1970´s Mexico City was a big paternal figure to the rest of the country (or the mother-city of all Mexican cities, in words of Heriberto Yepez). It has been the cultural, political and economic centre of the nation. There used to be a popular saying: “Mexico City is Mexico”; but this statement is no longer a reality.

Mexico City 2006. Ernesto Valero Thomas (EVTh)

Deyan Sudjic has stated that Mexico is the city that was always spoken of as if it was one day going to be the biggest settlement on the planet. It was probably the first of the twentieth century’s monster cities to make an impression on the wider world, portrayed as an unstoppable eruption of
humanity swamping the landscape to touch the horizon in all directions. He demonstrated that in the 1970´s, predictions were made that it was well on the way to becoming a megalopolis of 30 million people or more. As it turned out, that has not happened.

“The first aspect to take to task is the way in which demographics operate in the context of cities. The growth rates seen in Mexico City during the twentieth century -with a population that doubled in size every 10 years- were quite remarkable. One of the central tenets of “megacityness” is indeed constructed around population size. The 1980´s census showed Mexico City as the largest agglomeration in the world and the forecast by the United Nations for its population size at the turn of the century was 26 million, while the city’s own estimates were 36 million. The birth rate in 1970
was 4.26 per cent. Nowadays, with a population of 19 million and a birth rate of 2.06 per cent, we can conclude that Malthusian demographics are not the best basis for the formulation of urban policies. Even now, discussion on the city’s growth is not about size itself but the ways in which more
sustainable growth can be accommodated.”

Since the 1980´s decade the proportion of the urban population in relationship with Mexico City has decreased in 10%. Around 67 million urban dwellers from Mexico live outside Mexico City. For the last 30 years the “urban Mexico” has been disseminated throughout the territory. Nowadays 118 human territories in Mexico have a population within a spectrum that goes from 100,000 to 5 million people.

The information provided by periodical national census and metropolitan studies show that Mexico has mutated from a centralized urban dynamic to multiple urban areas. Today, a solid tendency demonstrates that in Mexico the “monopoly of the urban” by Mexico City is declining while the population growth rate in other human settlements is increasing. In terms of sustainable urban development this tendency offers the opportunity to emphasize the attention towards the emerging landscapes of Mexico.


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