It has almost become a truism that economic globalization is an increasingly hegemonic process drawing ever more world cities into its orbit, fundamentally changing the nature of the built environment. Such transformations have been particularly dramatic in the global south, where, in order to lure new sources of muchneeded global capital, urban authorities have become increasingly preoccupied with building a global city profile. This can take the form of offering incentives to private developers to invest in modernizing the built environment, or directly undertaking major infrastructure and urban development projects that signal an openness to capital and a willingness to fundamentally recast the face and form of the city in accordance with the aims of landrent capital accumulation. Either way, the end product is usually a transformed urban landscape, frequently built around a renovated city core in which a newly valorized property market eliminates low-density land-uses, displaces longstanding residents and traditional activities, and incentivizes higher-density upscale development.
This article suggests that both the origins and responses to urban violence in Latin America have involved some sort of state ordering of territory, ranging from modernist urban planning practices on the one hand to police control over urban spaces on the other. To the extent that efforts to impose social and spatial order in Latin American cities have both derived from and reinforced a history of squatter occupation, ambiguous property rights, and uneven distribution of services, thus producing a stark distinction between the so-called formal and the informal city, they have laid the foundations for urban violence. In what follows, we see how and why government efforts to create spatial and social order have produced this unfortunate state of affairs. The claim is that the assumptions and ideas underlying the imposition of 'modernist' planning in urban Latin America have inadvertently contributed to a set of inter-related spatial, social, economic, and political problems that have driven the cycle of urban violence.
This publication presents a range of essays and research projects developed during Spring 2014 at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Under the guidance of professors Diane Davis and Jose Castillo, 12 students explored housing complexities, challenges and opportunities in Mexico. The interdisciplinary studio focused on two sites: Celaya and Tlalnepantla. Both served as a basis for exploring and rethinking social housing production from an urban, social, economic and political perspective. The work presented in this publication was supported by INFONAVIT, the National Workers’ Housing Authority in Mexico.
Different cities hosted very different types of protests, depending on the nature of the spaces under occupation. By building a movement that focused on actual public space, the Occupy movements did indeed evolve a new form of articulating citizenship by strategically deploying public spaces in the construction of a larger movement for democratic citizenship. But the ambiguous role that the commitment to physically occupying space played within the different urban factions of the larger movement, and the failure of these simultaneously-enacted, city-based protests to link larger citizenship concerns to social or legal rights to permanently occupy physical spaces, also limited the power of the movement both locally and nationally, further reflecting divisions within the movement about its larger political purpose. Although increased mobility in space can enable acts of protest, just as public spaces can serve as symbolic sites for enacting citizenship, the question of whether these and other built environmental factors will motivate political dissatisfaction remains an open question. When physical space for protest becomes a rare commodity, a city’s democratic and civic spheres are also under threat.
Using a focus on a failed airport project for Mexico City, this article explores the conditions that enable and constrain urban mega‐project development in countries facing simultaneous political and economic transition. The article argues that the Mexico City airport project faced three major obstacles, each inspired by citizen efforts to influence planning decisions: divisions within and between the political class and citizens, driven by democratization, decentralization, and globalization; conflicts between local and national authorities over the relevance of citizen participation in project development; and a strong coalition of local, national, and international allies using cultural identity, historical allegiances, and geographic location to build and expand struggle against the airport. In theoretical terms, this article suggests that the historical and institutional legacies of urban and national development in Mexico have created bureaucratic ambiguities and tensions over who is most responsible for major urban mega‐project development. It also concludes that planning authorities have not yet developed institutional structures and processes that can enhance government legitimacy and allow the successful implementation of mega‐projects in the face of forceful opposition.
Rising criminality and violence in key neighborhoods surrounding Mexico City’s historic center have limited easy access to downtown public spaces that used to host much of the city’s social, commercial, and political life. In 2002 a group of powerful local businessmen hired the international security consultant Rudolph Giuliani to design security measures that might remedy the city’s crime problems. The Giuliani plan not only called for restrictions on free movement and intense scrutiny of public behavior associated with the strategy of “zero tolerance” but also suggested the criminalization of certain behaviors and made recommendations for police reform that called into question the distinction between public and private police. One of the principal consequences of its implementation was to circumscribe public access to downtown space. Stated simply, the widening of downtown’s public sphere brought a narrowing of access to it along class lines. An examination of the context in which the plan was pursued traces the Giuliani invitation to the dynamics of downtown real estate development and land-use collusion between elected officials and private developers in the name of security policy.