CDMX_URLab, UNAM November 2018

Exercises in urban reconnaissance Mexico City
UNAM, November 7/8 2018

*Report in progress *

The workshop of Urban Reconnaissance at UNAM developed during two days, divided in two sessions of two hours each. Participants had mostly post-graduate level, including some professors, coming from a wide range of disciplines and interests. Given the limited time and the great number of participants, the laboratory was mostly dedicated to introduce the methodology and develop a collective reflection on the general metropolitan (or rather megapolitan) identity of Mexico City. Consequently, we did not plan any collective walk, but left each participant free to identify a territory, a place or an itinerary to apply a simple reflection based on one or more exercises.

Day one was divided in two moments: first we introduced the UR methodology and navigated into the exercises’ wheel; secondly, we asked the participant to shortly present themselves and their main focus, suggesting them some possible reconnaissance exercises to adopt in relation to their interest or disciplinary competence. The result of this round was quite animated, as the many different backgrounds of the participants provided a multiplicity of perspectives to observe and reflect on Mexico City. Finally we invited the participants to choose one exercise, or a combination of more, to produce in the following 24 hours a short contribution based or their knowledge of the city; this could be one or more pictures, a short text, a quote, a map, a bibliography, an audio, a movie etc.


Day two. We started the session with the exercise chosen by me and Manuela as our entry point to explore Mexico City, which is quite typically exercise no. 1 Liquid City, showing some pictures we captured during our first two weeks in CDMX. From there we started to jump to other definitions looking for connections with the exercises adopted by the other participants to the workshop. The resulting discussion was a bit fuzzy and chaotic, but also very interesting and perfectly able to represent the chaotic complexity of elements that produce the identity and character of Mexico City. In the following we report the discussion integrating voices and written contributions of the participants. We are dividing the report in four sections corresponding to the four quadrants forming the wheel: formation, transformation, appropriation, representation; surprisingly, with few exceptions, the discussion around the table went through the four stages quite consequentially...


First we presented a slide show resuming our impressions on the theme of water, a key which easily disclosed the multiple dimensions related with this foundational element of urban life: naturalistic, environmental, technical, political, aestethic, cultural.

Successively Max Emiliano Negrete Gonzalez took the floor, whose starting point has been the exercise City of Culture. Max first point was that to understand the identity of the Mexican metropolis is necessary to shift the attention from solely the centre, and focus on the margins were the traditional rural communities have been absorbed, incorporated in the extension of concrete and tarmac of the city. He brought in particular the case of San Gregorio Atlapulco, a pueblo in the area of Xochimilco.

The element of Culture was chosen as well by Noe Mendoza to propose his exercise. Noe brought in the case of another “urban town”, that of Magdalena Contreras. He noted how each town have a solid organization; composed by the neighbors, they elect their celebration commission who will organize the main event: the patronal feast. In this case he presents photos of the San Francisco party, with its traditional procession and a very partícular actor in every celebration: the “chinelo”.

The cultural aspects have been considered by the contributors in a a strict relation with religious practices. It is a trait-d'union that is common also to the contributions proposed by Alexander Santiago Harvie Peña
( be continued...)