The Radiant City: Public Housing in Modern Mexico

yee metropole 1
Plans for Multifamiliar Alemán, Mexico.
Architect Mario Pani, 1948

At the end of the 1940s, Mexico City was at a crossroads. Massive waves of migration from the countryside doubled the city’s population in less than ten years.[1] The city’s old tenements (vecindades) began to buckle under the weight of overcrowding and talk of a “housing crisis” became commonplace. The problems surrounding Mexico City’s housing crisis emerged at a time when the post-revolutionary government began to envision a modern social welfare system as a key step towards national progress. Nowhere was this convergence more vividly expressed than in Mexico’s first public housing complex – the Multifamiliar Alemán.[2]

The Multifamiliar Alemán was a collaboration between the government’s civil pension department and architect Mario Pani. Born into a powerful family, Pani returned to Mexico City after studying architecture at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the 1930s. As a student, he attended a lecture on social housing by Swiss architect Le Corbusier and was profoundly influenced by Le Corbusier’s modernist vision of a “radiant city.” Le Corbusier’s call to “build the city vertically” in order to increase both population density and available green space appealed to Pani, offering a viable means to create a more rational, ordered urban landscape. After Pani was commissioned to design the Multifamiliar Alemán in 1947, the young architect was confronted with the challenge of finding a synthesis between the modernist “internationalist style” and Mexico’s postrevolutionary nationalist ethos. At the time, government officials were apprehensive about Pani’s proposal and questioned if it represented the continuation of a dominated society forced to import ideas from Europe due to a lack of national identity.

yee photo 4
Multifamiliar Alemán, 1948. Photo courtesy of the “Centro de Documentacion Sobre la Ciudad”/ UAM

Fortunately for Pani, he was given the freedom to experiment and design the Multifamiliar Alemán far from the confines of the bustling city center. The Department of Civil Pensions acquired a large plot of undeveloped land to the south of the city in an area that would become known as Colonia Del Valle. In a sign of things to come, the Multifamiliar Alemán was not the product of urban renewal but a harbinger of urban sprawl.

Due to a tenuous alliance between historic preservationists, the tourism industry, and Mayor Ernesto Uruchurtu who took a firm stance against urban growth, Mexico City experienced relatively few slum clearance campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s (the Nonoalco-Tlatelolco complex being a notable exception). The first residents of the Multifamiliar Alemán were not drawn from impoverished slum dwellers displaced by the wrecking ball, but the more formally educated migrants who were flooding into the ranks of Mexico’s expanding public employee sector. In midcentury Mexico, housing would serve as a visible marker of social distinction in a growing divergence between Mexico City’s rising middle-class (la gente decente) and the informal masses relegated to the distant shantytowns.

yee metropole photo 2
Aerial photo of Multifamiliar Alemán
Cia Mexicana Aerofoto, S.A, 1949

Before the Multifamiliar Alemán was inaugurated on September 2, 1949, aerial photographers were hired to capture “the grandeur” of the complex from above. The image of six towering buildings rising out of a barren field was quite striking. The six high-rise buildings were laid out in a diagonal “zig-zag” pattern in order to maximize greenspace and sunlight. At the center of the complex was a swimming pool, surrounded by gardens and walls that featured pre-Hispanic symbols. Although a relatively minor feature, the pre-Hispanic symbols can be seen as a precursor to Pani’s next housing project – the Multifamiliar Juárez – where a pre-Hispanic aesthetic was more prominently featured through a collaboration with Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida. The designs reflected Pani’s attempt to synthesize the international and the local, in what can be called a form of mestizo modernism.

yee metropole photo 3
Image from film “La Bienamada” (1951), dir. Emilio Fernández

The government viewed the housing complex as a “grand human experiment.” It was conceived as a “city outside of the city” equipped with its own daycare centers, medical facilities, stores, and laundromat. Social workers visited mothers to instill the values of keeping a clean, hygienic home. One government official proclaimed “tenements were places just to sleep…husbands used to spend their free time in bars and pool halls, now they go to work and return to their collective home, where they have everything.”[3] The success of the government’s state-led socialization campaigns in public housing complexes remains an unresolved question for scholars. Nevertheless, the material benefits and social capital bestowed upon residents living in public housing during the 1950s and 1960s ultimately proved to be key factor in the ruling party’s consolidation of political support among Mexico’s urban middle-class.

yee metropole 5
Photo by Jean Paul Rocafort, 2010

David Yee is a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American History at Stony Brook University. His current research explores the historical ties between housing and inequality in Mexico City.

[1] Mexico City’s population grew from roughly 1.6 million in 1940 to 3.4 million in 1950.

[2] The full name for the building complex is the Conjunto Urbano Presidente Alemán, but it is commonly referred to as the Multifamiliar Alemán. A multifamiliar is broadly defined as a large-scale, mixed-use housing complex where each unit is designated for one family.

[3] Quote is cited from speech by Antonio Acevedo Escobedo in Mario Pani, Los Multifamiliares de Pensiones (Mexico City: Arquitectura, 1952), 45.

Member of the Week: Alexia Yates

Alexia YatesAlexia Yates

Lecturer (Assistant Professor), Department of History, University of Manchester

Also an affiliate at the Manchester Urban Institute and the Center for History and Economics, Harvard University

@alexia_yates

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest? 

I’ve just finished an article that I’ve been working on for some time about the way people in nineteenth-century France – principally lawyers, bankers, legislators, and some ubiquitous anonymous pamphleteers – tried to understand and change the relationship between land and money. My current research is continuing to pursue the intersection of property, politics, and space that influenced my first book but turns to a study of how finance became a routine part of daily life for French people in the first age of global capital. It might not seem urban, but there’s a strong spatial component to the project: tracing how people conceive of national and international financial networks, as well as how local financial districts were constructed. Scale is a crucial element of the exploration – for example, the idea that the police at the Paris Stock Exchange might influence the international economy by regulating the distribution of seats on the exchange floor. Like many others working on the history of economic life, I am attracted to the task of interrogating and reconfiguring our ideas about how the economy works, about how the production, circulation, and redistribution of wealth is effected, and for me the spaces and stuff of economic practice are both crucial technologies and entry points.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship? 

I’m lucky to work in a place that is so enthusiastic for European history. I’m currently teaching a first-year seminar on nineteenth-century Paris as the capital of modernity, which is a fun introduction to urban studies and European history for new history students. I’m also teaching a masters course on the Landscapes of Modernity, in which I really get to dig deep into urban theory across transnational case studies. (I also got to teach Nature’s Metropolis, which is such a pleasure to introduce to students.) Happily I get to work out the economic history side of things in a second-year survey on Crisis and Prosperity, which tackles twentieth-century European history from the perspective of economic change and inequality in the modern era. I hope to develop my new research with a special third-year seminar on property and wealth in transnational perspective soon.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

The list of new books about money, finance, and property awaiting me this summer is outstanding! I’m excited for Fahad Bishara’s Sea of Debt: Law and Economic Life in the Western Indian Ocean, 1750-1840 (Cambridge, 2017), as well as Noam Maggor’s Brahmin Capitalism (Harvard, 2017). As for those recent ones I’m behind on, I’ve had both Rosemary Wakeman’s Practicing Utopia: An Intellectual History of the New Town Movement (Chicago, 2016) and Jacob Remes’s Disaster Citizenship: Survivors, Solidarity, and Power in the Progressive Era (Urbana, 2016) on my desk for too long, and Charles Maier’s Once within Borders: Territories of Power, Wealth, and Belonging since 1500 (Harvard, 2016) is getting a second read. Once those are out of the way, I’ll be ready for forthcoming works from Andrew Israel Ross, The Pleasures of Paris: Sex and Urban Culture in the Nineteenth Century, Michael Mulvey’s The Moral Moment: Catholics and the Housing Question in Postwar France, Pete Soppelsa’s Fragility of Urban Modernity on Parisian infrastructure, Catherine Clark’s Paris and the Cliché of History, as well as Desmond Fitz-Gibbon’s Particulars of Sale on the property market in nineteenth-century Britain.

What advice do you have for graduate students preparing a dissertation project related to urban history or urban studies?

Be comparative, move across scales, but stay locally embedded and make sure there are people in your story. Every history takes (and makes) place.

What’s your favorite street (or block) in Paris, and why?

Like choosing a favourite child. I’ll cut things short and say either the rue de Belleville or the rue de Ménilmontant – both are meandering, climbing above the city and making excellent routes to chase the sunset up through the streets; both take you through some of the sites of infamy of the Paris Commune (crossing the rue Haxo, in particular); and they end up nearly at the Archives de Paris, still one of my favourite places to work.

Friday’s ICYMI Roundup

This week, many of the emails we have received from UHA members have included sighs of relief–we’ve heard reports that classes are done, final exams have been administered, grading is complete, and the academic year has officially drawn to a close. The editors of The Metropole wish you all a relaxing and productive summer, in equal measure. In case you missed it in the chaos of end-of-semester work, we’ve rounded up recent news and blog posts for you to catch up on:

This week on the blog, recently-minted Ph.D. Barry Goldberg described his fascinating research on Jewish-Puerto Rican relations on the Lower East Side and offered up some newly published books on New York City’s history that he’s excited to read now that his dissertation is done. As part of our Metropolis of the Month coverage of Mexico City, we also posted travelogues that share two first-time visitors’ impressions, through text and especially via photographs, of the Distrito Federal.

Over on the UHA website, several new opportunities have been posted to the “News” section. Notably, Columbia University invites applications for a tenured position to fill the Bernard Hirschhorn Professorship of Urban Studies. We have also recently posted CFP’s for the CityLAB V Summer School, the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius and the Gerda Henkel Foundation Summer School, and the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting.

And on the web this week:

New York Times Magazine‘s Talk Column features UHA President Elect and Pulitzer Prize winner Heather Ann Thompson this week! Thompson concluded the interview with this powerful statement:

Sometimes I hear from people who have served time who say that prison was a place where they could finally get help, and that has been hard for me to process. I realized that one reason that’s the case with a lot of people is because it’s an institution and, for some people, they actually have health care for the first time, or housing for the first time. That’s what’s so powerfully sad about this whole story: It isn’t that we don’t know how to help people, but that we continue to do it through a prison, as opposed to other institutions. It could be so much better.

For the PBS Newshour’s weekly series, Making Sen$e, correspondent Paul Solmon reported from Columbia, SC–the city hosting the 2018 Urban History Association Biennial Conference–on why men are avoiding feminized jobs and industries.

Frontline investigates affordable housing.

And the tweet of the week:

 

Metropole Travelogue Part II: The DF in the Rearview Mirror

img_5418
Outside Parque Espana near Condesa DF; it’s like the movie “Big” but you know actually religious

In 1933, the visionary designer Charles Eames absconded from St. Louis to Mexico, in an effort to “[take] stock of and ultimately [change] his approach and situation in life,” notes his grandson Eames Demetrios. Charles spent about ten months traveling in San Luis Potosi and Monterrey, now and then dipping into more rural areas of the Mexican countryside. He got by doing occasional manual labor and selling sketches and paintings for sustenance. When he returned, in 1934, he brought with him numerous depictions of churches and vistas, which so impressed his fellow Midwesterners that the St. Louis Museum deployed them as an exhibit; much of this art work later appeared in the color rotogravure section of the St. Louis Dispatch. Clearly, as one friend confided, Eames ate up “the visual culture of Mexico, the colors and textures, and all the materials things that one has there to see.” His Mexico trip remains, according to his grandson and biographers, a moment of demarcation in his personal and professional life.[1]

While I would never compare Eames’s apparent Mexican epiphany with my own recent experience in Mexico, a trip to the nation’s capital can surely inspire even the most quotidian of us.

Five days in Mexico City put myself, to quote Raising Arizona, in “the proverbial catbird seat” of life. The food, the neighborhoods, and the history combined to create a vibrant atmosphere. The walking paths that extend down the middle of Mexico City’s numerous boulevards — populated by joggers, dogwalkers, and others — allow for moonlight strolls and morning constitutionals. Numerous parks dot the city as well. The mix of colonial architecture and hyper post modern monstrosities simultaneously emphasize the city’s history and modernity. It might be sinking several inches a year, but its international esteem seems to only treble annually.

img_5379-1

District Federal (Distrito Federal more accurately), or the DF as Mexico City is often referred, remains one of the truly great cities of North America. I know Georgia State’s Alex Sayf Cummings (ASC) recently compared the DF to New York City but I have to respectfuly disagree and suggest Professor Cummings might be guilty of a touch of East Coast bias. Mexico City reminds this former SoCal resident of Los Angeles. Sure, it’s less racially diverse and has existed as an influential metropole for much longer, but the flora, the spatial layout, and the weather all scream Los Angeles. Besides, L.A.’s preponderance of Latin American residents juxtaposes neatly with the DF’s own brimming reserve of Central and South American citizens.

img_5318
Parque Espana, across the street from the notorious Condesa DF

Nor is it all about the now. You can visit pre-Aztec ruins; Teotihuacan is not more than 90 minutes outside the city, where one can climb the intimidatingly tall steps to the top and take in the majesty of what is considered the lesser of ancient ruins located in Mexico. Of course, some of this will depend on your tour guide. Mine believed in numerology and kept trying to convince his skeptical audience that the Mayans and Aztecs predicted Jesus Christ, Hitler, and the atomic bomb.

Still, for an American, the nation’s emphasis on its indigenous heritage offers an insight into the United States’ own shameful history of the same. Granted, most North American Native Americans did not construct the kind of awe inspiring cities that their Meso American counterparts did, but the most indigenous peoples in the U.S. get are the occasional Kevin Costner flick or a film like The Last of the Mohicans in which a white guy adopted by Native Americans serves as the film’s protagonist. Sure, you get the once-in-a-blue-moon Smoke Signals (1998), but even 1992’s Thunderheart featured a very white Val Kilmer as the hero. In any case, I’m getting off the subject. Mexico embraces this history, or at least it does to a much greater extent, which is still miles and miles ahead of its neighbor to the north.

img_5370
Teotihuacan, a pre-Aztec Mesoamerican city just outside of the DF

To be fair, this was not always so. When the aforementioned Charles Eames showed up in one Mexican town with a book devoted to pre-Columbian art, the local police locked him up. The book depicted the nation’s “primitive” phase and insulted the general body politic, the police informed him. Though Professor Cummings correctly notes that inequalities remain, to some extent this dynamic has clearly changed over the ensuing decades.

img_5417
Parque Espana at night; Watch out for PDA; it runs rampant in the park after sunset

We checked into the very designer oriented Condesa DF and stayed five nights and four days, using it as a central node for exploration of the city. While it had a great rooftop bar (if you happen to be in the DF, definitely check it out for drinks/eats), the rooms were small and apt to bleed noise. One night the room adjacent to ours had an all out drug-induced shindig (or it at least sounded drug-induced; I have no evidence and need none in the game of conjecture).

Needless to say, sleep was not to be had and much resentment harbored by this writer. The next night they were filming some sort of interview/video and asked that all the floor’s peons hush. That said, very cool layout, solid breakfast and so on. From CDF, we branched out to various sites around the city ranging from Frida Kahlo’s crib to Leon Trotsky’s surprising large abode nearby (judging from the mural pictured below in the photo essay, Trotsky loved big butts on the level of Sir Mix A Lot; note also PRI scrawled into his forehead).

img_5324
One doubts the historical efficacy here

In the hipsteresque neighborhood Roma, we visited the Museo del Objeto del Objeto for a pretty great exhibit dedicated to Mexican wrestling.

img_5348

I could go on, but I’ll spare you the commentary. As an addendum to Cummings’ recent photo essay, the Metropole would like to provide a second opinion on the DF, one that doesn’t stray too widely from ASC’s take but offers some different scenes and commentary from the ancient city.

From the ancient to the colonial to the frighteningly post modern modern 

img_5344
Relics from the Aztecs appropriately enough under the shadow of a colonial cathedral; actually located right in the DF
img_5370
Okay, outside the city proper: Teotihuacan has several temples, most able to be scaled but admittedly not for the weak of heart. Totally dug Teotihuacan despite the bat#$% crazy tour guide
img_5375
More Teotihucan
img_5372
Alright I’ll stop with Teotihucan now, but there’s a reason it’s a UNESCO site
img_5337
Spain’s influence runs deep through the city

img_5341

img_5411
It’s cool but what exactly is it?
img_5322
It’s got boxes

Trotsky before the Stalinist ice pick 

Totally checked out Frida Kahlo’s blue house but regrettably they charge money for photos — not that much but my inner miser pretty much always kicks in during those moments. Still, definitely check out her home, very cool part of the city as well, Colonia de Carmen section of Coyoacan.  Plus, it just so happens a certain Soviet exile lived just around the corner.

img_5325
One forgets Leon Trotsky called Mexico City home while in exile from his beloved Soviet Union; you know who didn’t forget? That @#@hole Stalin.
img_5326
Trotsky’s home has what one might call ephemera; though this is in the museum section not really the home.
img_5328.jpg
One thing you know about Trotsky’s story: it has a sad ending

 

The National Museum of Anthropology is pretty dope 

img_5404
Not much to critique at Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology; I’d be snarky here but it’s just a really great museum that lays out the nation’s history better than most U.S. counterparts

img_5389.jpg

img_5399.jpg
If that’s not the goofiest smile in the pre-Columbian world I’m not sure what is
img_5397.jpg
The museum goes out of its way to recreate architecture of the pre-Columbian period; it’s appreciated
img_5402.jpg
Remnants of the “ball game”; a truly frightening sport played in the ancient world but one that one finds represented at the Museum and at Chichen Itza in Cancun 
img_5403.jpg
The museum runs up to the present day and includes more modern works of art like this example and a second one pictured below

img_5405.jpg

La Lucha Libre in Roma 

Writing in The Mexico City Reader, José Joaquín Blanco described the Roma neighborhood as having “fallen on hard times.” In the 1950s, Roma had an air the aristocratic but by 1979, “despite the persistence of a handful of antique, emblazoned apartment building and mansions”, its famed Avenida Álvaro Obregón proved little more than a “seething track of people and vehicles between hotels, baths, trade academies, gyms, taco holes, and luncheonettes, cantinas, Chinese cafes, and all manner of stores…” Yet, for the most part, today, Roma falls somewhere in between those two poles: it’s aristocratic buildings refurbished, sometimes transformed into small museums or hipster enclaves; the dizzying, incoherent businesses more organized and middle class than Blanco’s depiction of the neighborhood.

Few things demonstrate its quirky, charm than Museo del Objeto del Objeto (MODO). If you’ve ever seen Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, and I’ll spare you the ubiquitous insight about it’s shift from fiction to fact, former porn star and pro-wrestler, Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho serves as commander in chief.  Mexico’s long tradition of wrestling and the possibility of future political leadership rising from such ranks (take the U.S. for example) meant I had to visit MODO’s “La Lucha Libre De Todos Los Dias” exhibit in Roma.

 

img_5363
It kind of explains itself doesn’t it?

img_5350

img_5360
Half wrestler, half porn star, Love Machine! Coming to a U.S. presidential campaign near you!
img_5357
I could totally fit into that … when I was 19
img_5347
The Battle Royale to end all Battle Royales

img_5353

The best of the rest 

img_5331.jpg

img_5334.jpg

img_5343

img_5335

img_5416

img_5408

 

 

Metropole Travelogue Part I; Ciudad de Oro y Plata: Impressions of Mexico City

img_7292

I am not exactly the world’s most cosmopolitan traveler. I never got on a plane until I was twenty years old, and I’ve only really visited a handful of countries.  When my wife and I decided to go to Mexico City for a week this Fall, we went into it with some unwarranted assumptions.  The biggest city in the Western hemisphere, we thought, would likely be a dense, chaotic metropolis akin to Karachi or Bangkok. The stereotype of the overcrowded and congested Third World city loomed large in our minds, and Mexico City seemed like it would fit that pattern.

Evidently, we were not alone in our assumptions. As journalist David Lida recalled in his 2008 book First Stop in the New World: Mexico City, The Capital of the 21st Century:

I was afraid of the capital, influenced by the propaganda dismissing it as a teeming, overpopulated, polluted bedlam, full of horrific testimonies of insuperable poverty. I imagined the armless beggars of Calcutta brandishing their stumps in tourists’ faces, hoping the display would result in a handout.

As it turns out, our expectations were very far from the truth.  The small slice of Mexico City that we saw, in any case, was affluent and orderly compared to, say, Karachi.  Undoubtedly much of Mexico is poor and rural, but the capital appeared to lack the evident and inescapable signs of extreme poverty that one finds in other megacities of the developing world. (As Lida points out, the city “has eighty-four hundred people per square kilometer, while Mumbai, Lagos, Karachi, and Seoul have more than double that figure.”) There were beggars and homeless people, of course, but one finds as many or more in American cities like New York or San Francisco.

The foremost financial and cultural center of Latin America was more distinguished by other hallmarks–those of capitalist prosperity and gleaming skyscrapers, gentrification and hip urbanism, tourism and historic preservation.  Indeed, more late model cars clogged its crowded highways than we see at home in Atlanta, a sign of growing affluence, at least, among the population of the urban core, if not the poorer districts that surround the capital.

A few scattered observations of the city:

A mind-bogglingly extensive and accessible public transit system, that stretched over a vast urban landscape encompassing as many as 20 million people.

mapa-metro-ciudad-mexico

img_75521

A remarkable predilection for PDA (public displays of affection), with couples kissing, groping, and practically dry-humping everywhere from escalators to subway cars to Starbucks.

img_7642

Lots of pizza places.

A rich history as a destination for artists, writers, and political radicals, from Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Leon Trotsky.

A large number of bookstores and even a surviving Blockbuster Video.

Bootleg media, albeit seemingly not as prevalent as in many Asian cities.

ninfomana
Piracy is the real reason Von Trier is so depressed

 

A visible legacy of radicalism, embodied in the ubiquitous paintings of Diego Rivera and other artists who contributed leftist depictions of class, race, and historical struggle to the nation’s iconography and mythology–as well as contemporary graffiti denouncing the murder of 43 students at the hands of government authorities and crime syndicates in 2014.

img_7383

The utterly comprehensive embrace of American popular culture–fashion, food, entertainment, and technology–by the urban middle class (if not necessarily everyone else), in a way that surpasses even the zeal for all things American in South Asia.  The affluent shopping mall we visited in Coyoacan/Copilco featured every American brand imaginable, from Skechers to Burger Fi to Quizno’s, with few local or national retailers to speak of.  (“While foreigners here, principally Europeans, complain about the proliferation of Starbucks and Wal-Marts,” Lida notes, “middle-class Mexicans revel in the First World status bestowed by these establishments.”)

And while notions of race, class, and ethnicity clearly function differently in Mexico than the United States, it was impossible to miss a gradation of economic inequality shading from European to indigenous ancestry. In the most lavish new shopping malls, consumers were overwhelmingly fair-skinned and middle-class, sporting designer clothes from America and Europe. In the metro (disdained by some affluent residents as a form of transit), darker faces were numerous–except, of course, in the nicer, newer train line (the one that had air-conditioning) where we noticed (surprise!) whiter ones.

In the end, we found a profoundly beautiful and varied built environment, from the grand Baroque structures of Zocalo, the historic downtown district, to the Spanish colonial architecture of Coyoacan and San Angel to the more contemporary commercial landscape of the city’s younger neighborhoods.  Like New York–the metropolis that Mexico City most reminded me of–a visit of a week is far too brief to get a sense of its vast and heterogenous social geography.  But, as the great urban historian Ken Jackson once said, you don’t have to drink the ocean to know it’s salty.  Here is a brief taste of the sights and textures of the capitol of Latin America, as seen from Copilco looking out.

img_7332

img_7365

img_7385

img_7436

img_7437
FloRida’s Crib

 

img_7419
Cardinal Ratzinger: Let me hear you say HOOOOOOOO!

img_7438

img_7441

img_7445

img_7455

img_7457

img_7459

img_7461
The glorious global ubiquity of the Suzuki Swift/Geo Metro
img_7471
Guerilla marketing for CBS Sunday Morning
img_7472
Not to be taken literally

img_7475

img_7477

img_7478

img_7483

img_7484

img_7492

img_7496

img_7498

img_7501

 

img_7503

img_7505
Kahlo’s body braces, in ethereal light

img_7506

img_7507

img_7512

img_7523

img_7530

img_7532
Kurt on, fittingly, the sign for Insurgentes Metro stop

img_7531

img_7551
The joys of parenting

img_7537

img_7554

img_7556
The appropriately named “Progressive Bar”: Blah Blah

img_7560

img_7561

img_7594
The Illuminati is real

img_7603

img_7634

img_7635

img_7636

img_7637

img_7638

img_7640

img_7644

Alex Sayf Cummings is an associate professor of History at Georgia State University.  His work deals with media, law, and the political culture of the modern United States.  He has previously received a Consortium for Faculty Diversity fellowship, an ACLS-Mellon postdoctoral fellowship, and the American Baptist Historical Society’s Torbet Prize, among other awards. His work has appeared in Salon, the Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of American HistoryTechnology and Culture, HNN, Pop Matters, OUP Blog, Al Jazeera Americaand the edited volume Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction from the University of Pennsylvania Press. His first book, Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013.  He is the Senior Editor of the blog Tropics of Meta.

Member of the Week: Barry Goldberg

BG PicBarry Goldberg, Ph.D. (2017)

Department of History, CUNY Graduate Center

@bpg269

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest?

My project examines Jewish politics on the Lower East Side since the 1960s. I utilize congressional and municipal papers, court records, articles from the ethnic press, and quantitative voting data to examine how an influential network of Jewish elected leaders, civic institutions, and voters – residing on Grand Street and largely Orthodox — shaped the trajectory of civil rights activism, new education and antipoverty policy, and urban renewal on the Lower East Side during the last third of the twentieth century. In all, I make three central claims: first, that the Lower East Side remained an important site for the development of, and ideological fissures within, American Jewish politics after World War II; second, that Jewish-Puerto Rican relations became a central feature of both local and citywide politics at this time; and third, that Orthodox Jews helped shape American conservatism in the postwar period.

I am broadly interested in questions of race, political power, and neighborhood change. I became interested in my specific topic after researching a longtime Jewish congressional representative on the Lower East Side. Though he was not the original subject of my research, he provided a gateway into looking at the neighborhood’s larger Jewish community. I was surprised to learn that no one had written a postwar history of this community, or Lower East Side politics more generally, despite several factors that set it apart from other urban neighborhoods. Recent high-profile stories on the neighborhood have also spurred my research, and, as the descendant of a Lower East Sider, I feel a certain emotional connection to the area.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?

I teach the second half of the U.S. history survey at Queens College. My research has led me to cover more local (primarily New York City) history in the survey. Earlier in the semester, my students learned about redlining by perusing the Mapping Inequality online database. We also talked about the 1964 Harlem Riots and debates over police brutality (I blogged briefly on this here).

At the same time, my dissertation has also made me more attuned to congressional history. In my dissertation, I examine Lower East Side redistricting and judicial debates over enforcing the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). As a result, I devote more time to discussing the VRA in class.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

Three in particular: Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics by Kim Phillips-Fein; In the Heat of the Summer: The New York Riots of 1964 and the War on Crime by Michael Flamm; Radical Imagination, Radical Humanity: Puerto Rican Political Activism in New York by Rose Muzio

What advice do you have for graduate students preparing a dissertation project related to urban history or urban studies?

I have two connected suggestions. First, keep an open mind. I had broad interests at the start of graduate school and did not expect to research the Lower East Side, or urban history more broadly. But here I am. Trial and error is OK. Be patient, and keep working. My second suggestion is to prioritize archival research. Obviously, you need to know what others have said about your topic (or potential topic), but the archives will lead you in new and exciting directions.

Describe your most exciting archival find!

One of my favorite archival finds was the Board of Election reports and assembly district maps from the New York Public Library. Using these in combination allowed me to trace how people voted in different sections of the Lower East Side and break those sections down by a number of social factors. This quantitative data allowed me to show how political divisions, primarily around race and ethnicity, unfolded on the ground in the neighborhood and provided a needed element of social history to my work.

Crime in Mexico City

15597r
[Dia contra la reacción; police break up a communist protest in front of the U.S. Embassy], Tina Modotti, May 1929, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In City of Suspects, published in 2001, I tried to understand crime as an urban phenomenon, a product of the interactions between actors and institutions suddenly brought together by the rapid expansion of Mexico City in the late nineteenth century. The most important sources for that project were the judicial records kept by the city’s judicial power in the basement of one of its main penitentiaries, which I consulted around 1995.

In the years since, those trial records were moved to the Archivo General de la Nación and, paradoxically, became harder to consult, at least for the decades following those covered by the first book. When I decided to return to the history of crime, starting the project that resulted in A History of Infamy, I tried to understand the urban setting of crime in different way.

While in the first book I looked at the spatial and demographic expansion that produced the capital’s colonias, neighborhoods often built during the late 1920s and 1930s on expropriated urban land for workers, the new book focused on the debates about crime and justice that took place in courtrooms, newspapers and crime fiction. These were also essentially urban settings, but they reflected the realities of crime and punishment in different ways. Judicial records demonstrated, for example, that the lack of interest of the Porfirian state in the welfare of urban working classes forced urban communities to deal in their own terms with the problems of theft and interpersonal violence. Thus, neighbors and relatives could intervene to negotiate the return of stolen property, or fights could be arranged in order to solve long-standing disputes—all of this without the disruptive intervention of the police.

51E26zEUcsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

By the mid twentieth century, however, the tabloid newspapers centered on crime (the publications were known in Mexico as the nota roja) became a record of the critical views of urban dwellers toward the police and the judiciary. While crime rates declined, reflecting the diminishing frequency of people’s use of violence to solve conflicts, the pressure of public opinion became the most important driver in the pursuit of justice. Newspapers reflected, and shaped, the emergence of the urban publics that demanded investigations and the solution of the most egregious crimes.

Newspapers became the main, although not the only, source for what I call criminal literacy–the knowledge that any inhabitant of the city had to possess in order to navigate the dangers of modern life. This knowledge included a map of the dangerous areas of the city, the colonias where it was better not to walk at night, the practices of thieves and con men, and the risky attractions of night life. At the heart of criminal literacy were the stories of famous criminals, like Goyo Cárdenas, the man who killed four women and buried them in the backyard of his house, in a new working class neighborhood north of the city.

04479r
[Los sangrientos sucesos en la ciudad de Puebla, la muerte del jefe de policía Miguel Cabrera; A Mexico City newspaper reports the killing of the city of Puebla’s Chief of Police], Jose Guadalupe Posada, 1910, Caroline and Erwin Swann collection of caricature and cartoon, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
One piece of criminal literacy of particular importance required to understand the transformation of the city between the turn of the twentieth century and the 1950s was the emergence of the pistolero. This was the name given to the gunmen who worked for politicians, usually under the guise of bodyguards, and were charged with intimidating, beating and in some cases eliminating adversaries.

Pistoleros became a highly visible component of post-revolutionary politics with their violent interventions in strikes, agrarian conflicts, and elections. People knew about them and their threat, but they also knew that they were protected by powerful interests and seldom faced punishment. Impunity also allowed pistoleros to maintain other profitable activities on the side: they could extort prostitutes, protect drug traffickers, engage in robberies and, in some cases, murder for money. For the inhabitants of Mexico City, pistoleros embodied the corruption of post-revolutionary politics but also the legacy of the revolution itself. They were perceived as a byproduct of the violent rural politics that in the second decade of the century exploded with the civil war and invaded the city after the end of the conflict. With their brutality and ostentatious impunity, pistoleros seemed to represent the occupation of the respectable spaces of the capital by strong men from the countryside. Yet pistoleros also evoked the dizzying pace of modernization: with their tailored suits, Texan hats, shiny cars, and general similarity to U.S. movie gangsters, they were only appropriating the goods that all city dwellers aspired to have.

978-0-8223-2747-9_pr

Looking beyond the judicial and police records, in other words, allowed me to appreciate how crime and justice, or the lack thereof, became central aspects of urban life in modern Mexico. Newspapers and crime fiction reflected on impunity, a key shortcoming of the state that emerged out of the revolution. Public debates involving actors from all social backgrounds proved that the concern about violence and corruption was a constant of everyday life for city dwellers, even as violence was, in general terms, becoming less frequent. The city that I had initially explored as a space for social practices was also, I realized, the virtual space of a public sphere where crime and justice were central themes.

Pablo Piccato (B.A. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1989; Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin, 1997) is professor at the Department of History, Columbia University. His research and teaching focus on modern Mexico, particularly on crime, politics, and culture. His books include City of Suspects: Crime in Mexico City, 1900-1931 (2001) and The Tyranny of Opinion: Honor in the Construction of the Mexican Public Sphere (2010).

piccato300

A History of Infamy: Crime, Truth, and Justice in Mexico (University of California Press, 2017) explores the broken nexus between crime, justice, and the truth in mid-twentieth century Mexico. Facing the violence and impunity that defined politics, policing, and the judicial system in post-revolutionary times, Mexicans sought truth and justice outside state institutions. During this time, the criminal news beat and crime fiction flourished. Civil society’s search for truth and justice lead, paradoxically, to the normalization of extrajudicial violence and neglect for the rights of victims. Ordinary people in Mexico have made crime and punishment central concerns of the public sphere during the last century, and in doing so have shaped how crime and violence took form over time.

 

 

Disciplining the City: Policing and Incarceration in Urban Space

matt-1-400x400
Photographed by Tiziana Matarazzo

The Metropole is excited to debut a new series on urban policing, edited by Matthew Guariglia, a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Connecticut.

“The basic mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force and severity of legal punishment.” With this statement, British politician Robert Peel began his “Principals of Law Enforcement,” often considered the foundational text of modern policing. The nine points, published in 1829, create the framework for a system of coercive governance that relied on “persuasion, advice, and warning,” and sometimes the state’s monopoly on violence, to protect the developing liberal capitalist state. “The police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public,” Peel writes, “that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police.”[1] In a society that declared civil liberties sacred, police were to be a constant reminder of what the consequences could be when an individual failed to maintain “public respect.”

3c17653r
[Squad of Chicago Mounted Police], Geo. R. Lawrence Co., 1907, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
The history of urban policing, however, is plagued by a continuity of brutality. The recent highly publicized killings of urban residents of color by police and the international Movement for Black Lives that arose in response have made more people around the world aware of a problem many people of color have always known. Almost as quickly as Peel wrote that police should operate by “offering individual service and friendship to all members of society without regard to their race or social standing,” police across the Atlantic world and its colonies were deployed to create and enforce legal and extralegal regimes of control in the name of public safety and with the full support of less vulnerable members of society.

This continuity also obscures a long history of change and experimentation as police departments across the world developed and shared new tactics to control urban spaces and new rationales to justify that control. Technology changed, the racial and gendered makeup of police departments became more diverse, crimes were invented or disappeared from enforcement, and a fearful public continually renegotiated its relationship to policing in exchange for the promise of protection and safe streets. “The institution of the police,” said Michel Foucault, “which is so recent and so oppressive, is only justified by that fear. If we accept the presence in our midst of these uniformed men, who have the exclusive right to carry arms, who demand our papers, who come to prowl on our doorsteps, how would any of this be possible if there were no criminals?”[2]

3c06935r
[Detroit, Michigan. Police officers removing sit down strikers from Yale and Towne manufacturing plant], March 1937, Farm Security Administration Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Disciplining the City: Policing and Incarceration in Urban Space is open to historians from all fields and time periods, and will explore the multifaceted and complex history of policing, crime, and incarceration in urban and suburban spaces. We are soliciting submissions to the series concerned with a number of topics, including: analysis of both change over time and continuity in the history of policing; the relationship between policing and racial and gender formation and sexuality; the classed, ethnic, racial, and gendered make up of the police force; policing as labor; the act and challenges of policing specific spaces and populations within the urban landscape; the technology and material culture of policing; urban incarceration; medicine and criminality; crime and the law; methods of preserving law and order in slave and colonial regimes; activism, police reform, and prison abolition; and, finally, the history of policing cities through an international or global lens.

02051r
[Mexico City, Mounted Police], Harris and Ewing, 1913, Harris & Ewing Collection, Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress
Studying the history of policing in urban spaces is a complicated endeavour filled with ambiguous and often purposely-obscured archives. The series is therefore interested not just in publishing original research, but also posts that involve archive stories and close readings of specific primary sources central to one’s research. Historiographies and bibliographies of topics related to the history of policing, crime, and incarceration, book reviews, and author interviews are also encouraged in order to help readers follow the emerging field of carceral studies.

Submissions should follow The Metropole’s submission guidelines and should be sent to Matthew Guariglia.

[1] Emphasis in the original

[2] Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977, New York: Vintage Books, 1980, 47.

Member of the Week: Timothy Lombardo

Profile PicTimothy J. Lombardo, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department of History, University of South Alabama

Twitter: @TimLombard0

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest?

I am currently finishing my first book. It is a study of post-World War II Philadelphia and the blue-collar supporters of 1960s police commissioner turned 1970s mayor, Frank Rizzo. The book examines white, blue-collar Philadelphians’ engagement with the politics of law enforcement, education, employment, and housing and traces the establishment of an urban, class-conscious variant of populist conservatism. I came to the project for a number of reasons. The first is because I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I had long known of Rizzo’s reputation, but never really thought about it in a broader context until graduate school. I didn’t initially set out to write a dissertation on my home town, but I took a seminar on Conservatism in the Modern United States that piqued my interest. I also thought I recognized a gap in the literature. The majority of the urban history books we read in that seminar covered the Sunbelt or Suburban communities in the South and West (think Lisa McGirr, Becky Nicolaides, Matthew Lassiter, Kevin Kruse, Robert Self, etc.). These were all great books, but they didn’t seem to account for the kinds of urban conservative politics I was familiar with at home. I quickly decided to change my dissertation topic and spent the next few years chasing resources from the white, working- and middle-class neighborhoods that provided Frank Rizzo with his most enthusiastic support. Years later, the book is now under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press under the title Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and the Politics of the Urban Crisis.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?

I just finished my second year at the University of South Alabama. In addition to my modern US survey courses, this past year I also taught a writing seminar on post-World War II US history and a research seminar on 20th century US History. In the next academic year I will offer an honors class on American urban history called “The Urban Crucible: Cities and Suburbs in Modern America” and another course on America in the Sixties. All of these classes relate to my scholarship in a number of ways. My post-1945 US, urban history, and Sixties classes all take up the intersecting themes of race, class, and American political development that I write about in my book. I also try to integrate bits of my research into every class I teach, from surveys to research seminars.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

Since you’ve already given me the space to make a shameless plug about my own book, I will say that I’m most looking forward to (finally) reading Ansley Erickson’s Making the Unequal Metropolis. It’s been on my to-read list for a while, but the recent controversy over the book’s treatment by the American Historical Review has reinvigorated my interest. I had actually chosen the book as one of my course readings in my upcoming urban history class well before the AHR review came out, so now I’m really looking forward to figuring out how I’m going to incorporate it into the class.

What advice do you have for young scholars preparing themselves for a career related to urban history or urban studies?

Be flexible. Be flexible with your research, with your reading, with your writing, and with your career path. Urban history/studies is a growing field with a lot of possibilities, but young scholars shouldn’t let it also be a limitation. I think the flexibility to read across specialties and disciplines, to publish in different forums, and to research beyond what we usually consider urban history are important parts of scholarly development and maturation. I didn’t start out doing urban history; my research took me in that direction. It also helps to be flexible in where young scholars think they can do urban history. I’m pretty sure there was never a point when I was growing up in Philly, or at any point thereafter, that I told myself that I wanted to end up in Mobile, Alabama. But I remained open to different possibilities and followed them when they opened up. Now I’m lucky to be forging a career at a good university, with great students, and excellent colleagues.

What museum or historical site would you recommend to urban historians visiting Mobile, Alabama?

First of all, more urban historians need to visit Mobile, Alabama, where I’d be happy to show them around when they get here! We have a really good museum in the History Museum of Mobile. For those interested in the city’s architecture, I would direct them to some of Mobile’s historic neighborhoods like the Oakleigh Garden District, De Tonti Square, and Church Street East Historic District. I would suggest they visit Africatown, which is the community built by the last group of African slaves captured and brought to the United States, illegally smuggled in through Mobile Bay in 1860. And, finally, I wouldn’t want an urban scholar to leave without touring Mobile’s lively and growing downtown entertainment district. Like a lot of cities, Mobile’s downtown suffered from disinvestment and decline in the late 20th century, but a concentrated effort in the last decade or so began rejuvenating the area. Current planning documents call for future redevelopment that should allow for more walkability, bikeability, and green spaces. All in all, downtown Mobile offers urban scholars and students an excellent opportunity to see urban renewal in action.

All Roads Lead to the DF: A Modest Bibliography of Mexico City

default-7
[Map of Mexico City Region], G.T. Beauregard, 1847, Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress
“The city has become a monster, an urban disaster, a planner’s nightmare,” wrote Ruben Gallo.[1] “Glorious Mexico City, once known as the city of palaces, is now gasping for breath in a sea of people, poverty, and pollution,” Diane Davis bemoaned in the opening to her deeply influential history of the city, Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century.[2] Indeed, over the course of the twentieth century, countless scholars offered similar assessments of the Mexican capital; Octavio Paz assailed Mexico’s leaders for their technocratic modernizing efforts which failed to solve the overcrowding and rampant expansion that had “converted Mexico City into a monstrous inflated head, crushing the frail body that holds it up.”

For some, even revisiting the city’s establishment and place at the center of the Aztec empire provoked deep ambivalence. Jorge Ibargüengoitia characterized the city’s founding as a mistake, only “one of the most belligerent tribes in history” would think to build a city “in the middle of the lake,” he opined. Once the lake “dried up” and the surrounding tribes and Aztecs came into close proximity, local hostilities abated. “What remained was mud, unstable ground, and dust clouds. So our first conclusion can be that the city is here because it was put here, although there’s no good reason for its continued presence on this spot.”[3]

“And yet not everything in Mexico City is all that bad,” Gallo later admitted. The city’s history as the magnet of MesoAmerican Empire in the pre-Columbian period, a colonial metropole, and later a capital of Latin America—culturally, economically, and politically—undoubtedly bestows upon Distrito Federal no small measure of gravitas. The DF can claim “influential publishing houses”, “a booming film industry, a lively music scene”, “spectacular museums … And above all it is one of the most vibrant urban spaces in the world.” Gallo paraphrases Juan Villoro, “we have fallen in love with the bearded lady.”[4] It might be a mess, but no other city matches its chaotic charm.

Consider its centuries of importance; an echo over the North American landscape that shaped not only policy in Latin America and Mexico, but brought dollars, culture, and politics to the Yankees up North. The city witnessed Aztec conquest, the unimaginable wealth and exploitation of Colonial Spain, the dizzying liberation of independence, the struggle of revolution, and the burgeoning modernism of the 20th century. Trotsky, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo called it home for periods; the Menshevik communist famously died at the hand of Stalinist assassin in the DF.

15590r
[Communist youth, Mexico City 1929], Tina Modotti, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Anyone who has ever visited the city marvels at the architecture, a compelling mash up of colonial, modernist, and post-modernist styles. Its people hail from across the Americas, Europe, and even on occasion Asia; indigenous faces and culture are sewn into is fabric. Like many cities, the DF struggles with inequality, poverty, and corruption, but to focus only on its problems misses the point.

As with every Metropolis of the Month, The Metropole has compiled a bibliography for anyone interested in reading more about the history of Mexico City. Our list leans heavily toward the modern and the English language, a weakness that can undoubtedly be ascribed to our own specialization in the twentieth century history and our sadly inadequate language skills. As always, we hope readers can improve upon our start here by providing further suggestions in the comments.

Over the course of May, several scholars will publish posts with The Metropole on various aspects of the city’s history. First up will be Columbia University’s Pablo Piccato, who provides some perspective on crime and justice in the DF while also giving readers a taste of his new work, A History of Infamy: Crime, Truth, and Justice in Mexico. Several other posts will follow including travelogues by non-specialists such as Georgia State Professor and Tropics of Meta Senior Editor, Alex Sayf Cummings on his 2016 visit to the city.

Thanks to Matthew Vitz, Michael Lettieri, Jorge Nicolás Leal, Megan C. Strom, James Shrader, Sharon Glasco, and Toni Loftin Salazar for their help with the bibliography.

 

3c19671r
[Cargo of Vegetables, Viga Canal, City of Mexico], Keystone Viewing Company, circa 1900, Prints and Photographs Division Library of Congress
General

John Kandell, LA Capital: The Biography of Mexico City, (New York: Random House, 1988) – L.A. Times review

Eds. Linda A. Newson and John King, Mexico City Through History and Culture, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) – H-Net review

Travelogue

 David Lida, First Stop in the New World: Mexico City and the Capital of the 21st Century, (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008) – NYT review

4a27184r
[The Aztec Calendar Stone, located at the base of the bell tower of the Cathedral, Mexico City, Mexico], William Henry Jackson, before 1885, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Pre-Columbian Era

Edward E. Calnek, “Patterns of Empire Formation in the Valley of Mexico, Late Post Classical Period 1200-1521”, in Inca and Aztec States, 1400-1800: Anthropology and History, Eds. George A. Collier, Renato I. Rosaldo, John D. Wirth, (New York: Academic Press, 1982), 43-62.

Christopher P. Garraty, “Aztec TeotihuacaÌn: Political Processes at a Postclassic and Early Colonial City-State in the Basin of Mexico,” Latin America Antiquity 17.4 (December 2006): 363-387.

Inga Clendinnen, Aztecs: An Interpretation, (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Barbara E. Mundy, The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015) – CAA review

3c07955r
[Tomb of President Benito Juarez, Mexico City – covered with wreathes from the Mexican states], Underwood and Underwood, circa 1901, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Eighteenth – Nineteenth Century

Anna Rose Alexander, City on Fire: Technology, Social Change and the Hazards of Progress in Mexico City, 1860 – 1910, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016)

Claudia Agostoni, Monuments of Progress: Modernization and Public Health in Mexico City, 1876-1910, (Mexico City: UNAM, 2003) – Bulletin of the History of Modern Medicine review (via project muse)

Linda Arnold, Bureaucracy and Bureaucrats in Mexico City, 1742-1835, (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1988)

Silvia Maria Arrom, Containing the Poor: The Mexico City Poor House, 1774 – 1871, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000) – Social History review (via Jstor)

Jurgen Buchenau, Tools of Progress: A German Merchant Family in Mexico City, 1865 – Present, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004) – EH.net review

Vera S. Candiani, Dreaming of Dry Land: Environmental Transformation in Colonial Mexico City, (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2014) – H-Net review

Donald B. Cooper, Epidemic Disease in Colonial Mexico City, 1761-1813: An Administrative, Social, and Medical Study, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014)

R. Douglas Cope, The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994) – Scholar Commons University of South Carolina review

Linda A. Curcio, The Great Festivals of Colonial Mexico City: Performing Power and Identity (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004) – Journal of Social History review

M.E. Francois, A Culture of Everyday Credit: Housekeeping, Pawnbroking, and Governance in Mexico City, 1750 – 1920, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007) – AHR review

Sharon Glasco, Constructing Mexico City: Colonial Conflicts Over Culture, Space, and Authority, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) – H-Net review

Gabriel Haslip-Viera, Crime and Punishment in Late Colonial Mexico City, 1692-1810, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999) – The Americas review (via project muse)

3b45717r
[Seller of Water Bottles, Mexico City, Mexico], circa 1910-1915, George Grantham Bain Collection, Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress
Twentieth Century

Katherine Elaine Bliss, Compromised Positions: Prostitution, Public Health, and Gender Politics in Revolutionary Mexico City, (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001) – Hispanic American Historical Review (via project muse)

Ann Shelby Blum, Domestic Economies: Family, Work, and Welfare in Mexico City, 1884-1943, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009) – H-Net review

Luis Castañeda, Spectacular Mexico: Design, Propaganda, and the 1968 Olympics, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014) – H-War review

Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez, Mexico City between Geometry and Geography, (Brooklyn: Applied Research and Design Publishing, 2015) – Archdaily review

John C. Cross, Informal Politics: Street Vendors and the State in Mexico City, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998) – H-Urban review

Diane E. Davis, Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994) – Review by SDSU’s Lawrence Herzog (though the review is incorrectly linked on his page)

George F. Flaherty, Hotel Mexico: Dwelling on the ‘68 Movement, (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2016)

David William Foster, Mexico City in Contemporary Mexican Cinema, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002) – Review Arizona Journal of Hispanic Studies via project Muse

Ed. Ruben Gallo The Mexico City Reader, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004)

Mathew C. Guttman, The Romance of Democracy: Compliance and Defiance in Contemporary Mexico, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002) –

San Diego History Center review

Matthew C. Gutmann, The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City, (University of California Press, 1996, 2006) – H-Net review

3b26836r
[Mexico City, Mexico – National Palace], circa 1910-1915, George Grantham Bain Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Daniel Hernandez, Down and Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty First Century, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011) – Kirkus review

Michael Johns, The City of Mexico in the Age of Díaz(Austin: University of Texas, 1997) – H-Net review

John Lear, Workers, Neighbors, and Citizens: The Revolution in Mexico City, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001) – Hispanic American Historical Review (project muse)

Larissa Lomnitz, Networks and Marginality: Life in a Mexican Shantytown, (New York: Academic Press, 1977)

3b37532r
[Mexico City, Mexico – Soldier Guarding Palace], February 10, 1913, George Grantham Bain Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Carol McMichael Reese, “The Urban Development of Mexico City” in Planning Latin American Capital Cities, 1850-1950, edited by Arturo Almondoz Marte, 139-169. London: Routledge, 2002.

Julio Moreno, Yankee Don’t Go Home! Mexican Nationalism, American Business Culture and the Shaping of Modern Mexico, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003) – EH.net and H-LatAm review

Patrice Olsen, Artifacts of Revolution: Architecture, Society and Politics in Mexico City, 1920-1940, (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008) – Review by University of Tulsa’s Andrew Grant Wood

Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writings, (Mexico City: Grove Press, 1950)

06703r
[Teatro National under construction], circa 1920, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Kathryn E. O’Rourke, Modern Architecture in Mexico City: History, Representation and the Shaping of the Capital, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017)

Jaime M. Pensado, Rebel Mexico: Student Unrest and Authoritarian Political Culture During the Long Sixties, (Stanford: Stanford University, 2014) – Journal of Latin American Studies review

Keith Pezzoli, Human Settlements and Planning for Ecological Sustainability: The Case of Mexico City, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998) – Review by UCSD’s Mark Spalding

Pablo Piccato, A History of Infamy: Crime, Truth, and Justice in Mexico, (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2017)

Pablo Piccato, City of Suspects: Crime in Mexico City, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001) – Review by Professor Carlos Aguirre (University of Oregon)

Jeffery Pilcher, The Sausage Rebellion: Public Health, Private Enterprise, and Meat in Mexico City, 1890-1917, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico press, 2006) – Latino America blog and AHR review

Elena Poniatowska, Massacre in Mexico, (Missoula: University of Missouri Press, 1975). – short review at blogcritics.org

Ageeth Sluis, Deco Body, Deco City: Female Spectacle and Modernity in Mexico City, 1900-1930, (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2016)

Tovar de Teresa, The City of Palaces: Chronicles of a Lost Heritage, (Mexico: Vuelta, 1990)

Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, I Speak of the City: Mexico City at the Turn of the Century, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012) – AHR review

Germán Vergara, 2015,“Fueling Change: The Valley of Mexico and the Quest for Energy,” 1850-1930.” Ph.D. diss., UC-Berkeley.

3c21395r
[Making cigarettes in the great factory, “El Buen Tono”, Mexico city Mexico], Underwood and Underwood, circa 1903, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Matthew Vitz, ““To Save the Forests”: Power, Narrative, and Environment in Mexico City’s Cooking Fuel Transition,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos. Vol. 31, No. 1 (Winter 2015): 125-155.

Matthew Vitz, “’The Lands with Which We Shall Struggle’: Land Reclamation, Revolution, and Redevelopment in Mexico’s Lake Texcoco, 1910-1950,” Hispanic American Historical Review, 97.1 (February 2017).

15592r
[Visiting Soviet delegation with international communists, Mexico City, Mexico], Toni Modetti, circa 1927, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Notable works of fiction on Mexico City

Jessica Abel, La Perdida, (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006) – Kirkus review.

Robert Bolano, The Savage Detectives, (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007) – Slate and NYT review (note the book was originally published in Spanish in 1998 but not in English until 2007)

Carlos Fuentes, Where the Air is Clear, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1958).

Subcomandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo II, The Uncomfortable Dead, (London: Serpent’s Tail, 2006) – Guardian and NYT review (hint one liked it much more than the other)

Michael Nava, The City of Palaces: A Novel, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014) – LaBloga review

Juan Pablo Villalobos, I’ll Sell You a Dog, (High Wycombe, England: And Other Stories Publishing, 2016) – NPR review

[1] Ruben Gallo, “Introduction”, The Mexico City Reader, Ed. Ruben Gallo, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), 5.

[2] Diane Davis, Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 1.

[3] Jorge Ibarguengoitia, “Call the Doctor” in The Mexico City Reader, Ed. Ruben Gallo, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), 196.

[4] Gallo, The Mexico City Reader, 5-6.

The Official Blog of the Urban History Association