In 2012, I conducted a five-month fieldwork in Mexico City’s Historic Centre. This research was part of my MSc programme in Social Anthropology at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS-DF). Drawing on this research, I wrote Vivir en el cambio: vida vecinal, prácticas espaciales y espacio público en la plaza San Juan y su entorno, Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México, which can be translated as “Changing times: Community Life, Spatial Practices, and Public Space in San Juan Square and Surroundings, Historic Centre of Mexico City.” It is available on the CIESAS repository.

In this work, I examine the socio-spatial transformations experienced by low-income residents in the southwest neighbourhoods of Mexico City’s Historic Centre. It traces how large infrastructural and urban regeneration projects have been changing the economic, social and spatial composition of this portion of the so-called Perimeter B. The piece explores how top-down projects implemented in the San Juan neighbourhood have disrupted and transformed the resident’s local identity and practices.

The projects include 1) the demolition of the local market and the construction of four specialised public markets in the 1950s; 2) the construction of telecommunications and metro infrastructure in the 1960s; 3) the provision of social housing (apartment blocks) after the 1985 earthquake; 4) the regeneration of the San Juan square and surroundings in 2008 and 2009; 5) the construction of a rapid bus transit line in 2011; and 6) the implementation of Mexico City’s Historic Centre regeneration programme since the early 2010s.

Telecommunications and metro infrastructure. Photo: LFTC, 2012.

Through interviews, focus groups and participant observation, this study provides insights into the residents’ perceptions and affects concerning these spatial transformations. Among the issues analysed are the changing representations of neighbourliness, the emergence and stigmatisation of spatial practices, and the politics of belonging and placemaking. On the one hand, this work provides a detailed description of the multifaceted actors and practices affected by infrastructural and regeneration projects in Mexico City. On the other hand, it reveals the multi-scalar instances through which low-income residents shape these projects while adapting to them in highly contentious circumstances.

Plaza San Juan. Photo: LFTC, 2012.

As part of this project, I co-organised a photographic exhibition, “Nuestro Barrio” (Our Neihgbourhood) with local residents. This activity contributed to making visible to neighbours and passers-by the long history of spatial transformations in the San Juan area and the residents’ remarkable adaptability and resilience.

Photographic exhibition “Nuestro Barrio” (Our Neighbourhood), Plaza San Juan. Photo: LFTC, 2012.

This project was supported by the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT, Mexico), Grant number 262842.