Mexico City: Urban Leviathan
I. History and Government since the Revolution
A. Between 1920 and 1928, had an elected Government
B. But in 1928, the PRN (to become the PRI) transferred control to federal government
C. Became the Federal District - government appointed by President
D. Remained tightly controlled by PRI
E. Change came from 1985 earthquake, which killed 30,000 people.
1. Many citizens felt de la Madrid government cared more about stopping looting than helping victims
2. Banded together to do own rescues
3. This led to grassroots organizing
4. One of the more unusual examples of neighborhood activism is "Super Barrio," who protests government failure to help poor.
4. Pressure forced government to create Assembly (1988) and allow election of mayor (1997) -- more properly titled as "Head of Government"
F. Cuatemhoc Cardenas elected first Head of Government in 1997
1. Since then, Cardenas's left-wing PRD party has held the mayor's position
2. PRD mayors have focused primarily on reducing crime, corruption in the police department, and dealing with the extreme traffic congestion.
3. The office has served as a launching platform for PRD politicians to run for president, as both Cardenas and his successor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have run.
II. Population Growth
A. In 1921 Mexico City had 900,000 people
B. Migrants from country side doubled population from 1921 to 1940
D. Much colonial architecture was lost, as was residential neighborhoods as commercial districts expanded
E. In first half of century, city surrounded by countryside and rural communities, but by 1970 had absorbed neighboring districts, villages to become a megalopolis.
F. But recent population shifts have slowed growth, though Mexico City remains the overwhelmingly dominant city.
G. Current the Federal District has a population of 8.7 million while the metropolitan area has about 20 million total.
A. Crime rates doubled from 1996 to 1999, and after dipping some have begun to return to high rates of late 1990s
B. A 2009 poll showed that 40% of residents indicated that a member of there household had been a victim of crime
C. 15.5 million assaults/year
D. Sales of armored cars, at more than $50,000 each, increased 400% 1996-1999
E. Defensive driving (i.e. anti-kidnapping) classes increasingly common
G. Taxi-jacking so common many will not take one at night
3. Since then, shift from being a manufacturing center to a city more focused on finance and professional services, has greatly restricted job opportunities for low-skilled workers
3. Breakdown of one-party rule
4. Powerful drug cartels
I. Corrupt cops may be biggest problem
1. 91,000 cops - bigger than Canadian army
2. But large numbers are corrupt, commit crimes themselves
IV. Environmental Issues
1. Biggest problem - Mexico City is built on a filled lake bed
2. Latest was on April 11, 2012
1. Because it's so high, expensive to pump water in
2. 75% of water comes from ground water
3. In last 100 years, central city has fallen 7.5 meters
4. Serious pollution problems - sewer system overwhelmed, pollutants leak into aquifer.
6. Some success with conservation
D. Air Pollution
1. Mexico City historically has had some of the worst air pollution in the entire world - today's report.
2. High elevation, and being in a mountain basin, make it impossible for pollutants to escape, creating terrible smog.
3. Main polluters are taxis, diesel trucks (which may be source ultimately of ozone, the biggest problem), and older vehicles
4. Traffic congestion is severe
5. Thousands of deaths a year resulted from pollution
6. In more recent years the Government has had some significant success fighting it
7. No smog alerts since mid-1999, but number of cars continues to expand
V. Street Vendors
A. Began to grow in 1960s with permit system
B. Most buy their goods from major suppliers
C. Government tried to co-opt them by putting them in unions allied to PRI
D. Informal economy may represent as many as half the jobs in the city, with 35,000 street vendors in the historic center
E. Effort to move them into markets in 1992 mostly failed because of bad design, poor traffic flow, corruption
F. Street vendors increasingly radicalized, willing to defend themselves
G. Government has repeatedly used police to clear them out of the downtown, and mayors have consistently promised to solve the problem.
H. However, lack of sufficient number of low skill jobs in the formal economy essentially guarantees they will continue to be a major part of city life
VI. Miscellaneous Images