Life in La ciudad de esperanza

Jennifer Waldschmidt

Mexico City's Past

Before The City of Hope ever came into existence, the Valley of Mexico was home to the Aztecs. In 1325 they built and founded the glorious city of Tenochtitlan. But in 1519, the Spanish arrived and saw the basin as an opportunity for settlement. By 1521 the Spaniards had conquered the empire and began to build Mexico City directly on top of it. Then in 1821, Mexico finally won its independence from Spain and determined Mexico City as the capital.

Living in the heart of Mexico

During my time in Mexico City there was one thing that could be seen everywhere you went. And that would be drastic spatial inequality. Barely 20 miles from a gated, guarded and well-built suburb was a community built from nothing but cardboard and recycled materials. This is because of the recent and rapid incline in urbanization. Before the city ever gained its metropolitan population of 18 million people there were only about 8 million people in 1970. Since many of the small farms faced rural decline, they could no longer afford to remain operational and support families. Those families were forced to move closer to the city. But when many arrived they barely had any money and no job. Soon enough plenty of new city dwellers became the working poor and lived in communities like Magdalena Contreras (8). This neighborhood only has about 30 feet of greenspace per person, an attendance of around 55-65% of children who go beyond primary school, and only 50-75% of homes have running water. Yet in neighborhoods such as Benito Juarez (14) that are more developed, 85% or more of the homes are built with good materials, there are between 1,000 and 1,500 police officers and around 30,000 people per square mile. It was a real eye opener for me to see the different standards of living in places so close to each other.

The effects of urbanization

Not only has the rural decline and urbanization hurt its people, it has also taken a toll on the environment. As I walked down many different sidewalks, I noticed that in the valley there was almost always a blanket of fog-like smoke and pollution hovering just above the city. It becomes especially hard to dispose of gaseous waste since the valley is surrounded by mountains that practically trap the gases. Because of all the newcomers moving here, the traffic, amount of waste and overcrowding rates have all increased. This endangers the health of the wildlife and the people who live in or around Mexico City.

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Overall Experience

Mexico City was lovely to stay in and explore, even though the spatial inequality was shockingly severe. Everywhere the people were kind and caring, but the city is somehow divided and different economically and socially. With enough work and patience, La Ciudad de Esperanza can truly improve, as many communities already have. It was also just as lovely to go to Alaia and have some authentic Mexican cuisine!