10 Oct

In the current practice of contemporary urban development, certain notions, terms, and ideas; classical or modern as well as others whether preconceived or unconscious rooted both in the collective imagination and in society in general are giving way to postmodern notions, and the case of Naucalpan de Juárez in the State of Mexico is representative of this.  One of them is the notion of "Centrality". In this sense, the new Urban Development Plan 2021 (which, clearly, will have a very ephemeral life) makes a very accurate observation in this regard, stating that the municipality of Naucalpan lacks a legible central area that is recognized in the collective imagination, since the current centrality, which derives from the commercial agglomeration and services, it shows limitations for social integration and is fragmented, at least, between the industrial zone, the commercial zone of the San Bartolo market and a couple of isolated housing areas.  Although it has a defined administrative center in the Municipal Palace and other dependencies, it is scattered and is not clear to people who are not familiar with the municipality. Other points, such as the Satellite Towers and the subdivision of the same name, the town of San Bartolo, or the Plaza Satélite Shopping Center itself is more rooted in the collective unconscious of a foreign society.

These last two cases are representative since they are in the so-called "Tertiary Urban Corridors" or "Urban Corridors of Shops and Services" (a kind of strip malls), which are opposed to the conception of the centralities and their derived peripheries (from which, among others, the satellite cities come from). This urban theory tells us that in these typologies we find a series of concentrations of wholesale trade and services that are distributed along the main transit roads through which capital moves, from which cities are configured and expanded.  The case of Ciudad Satélite gave rise in turn, with the cases of the Periférico Norte and the Gustavo Baz Prada Road, to some of these types of tertiary urban corridors.  However, it is important to note that today underlying elements of centrality prevail, such as San Bartolo itself whose precedent as an open-air trade point dates from the colonial period. It was part of the ancestral commercial exchange system that connected with other markets such as Tacubaya and Cuautitlán Izcalli, together with the historical pilgrimages to the Basilica of Our Lady of Remedies that passed through there, phenomena that persist to this day.  Within the imaginary, we also find the myth of the creation of the municipality from the foundation of satellite subdivisions that revolved around a mother city, with parallel cases in other municipalities of the State of Mexico adjacent to the then Federal District (Mexico City), such as Cuautitlán Izcalli, Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl. In addition, within these pre-existing forms, we have the case of formerly rural communities such as the town of San Bartolo, Tepatlaxco, among others, which also date from a period prior to the foundation of these residential complexes.  This is interesting in the sense that we have the contrast of these two models of structure and urban development superimposed within the same territory.  It is not a question of dualism but of the coexistence of two unequal forms of development.

In contrast to emblematic residential developments such as Ciudad Satélite, Echegaray, and Lomas Verdes, we have large popular sectors of housing, commerce, and services as a result of the process of the natural unfolding of the population from the period of the industrialization of the territory, as well as the fall of the sector. This phenomenon goes hand in hand with the laying of railways and the concentration of industry in the center of the country, a centralist policy that dates back even before the Porfirian period and was a phenomenon that transformed the northern area of Mexico City as a concentrator of the industry to move from there to the rest of the country.   Subsequently and derived from various processes, among which we can mention the supply problems derived from the topography and geographical position, global technological changes in production (JUT systems and Toyotization) and in transportation such as the introduction of trailer type vehicles, environmental policies, and regulations such as the application of the so-called Ecological Balance Law, and with it, the expulsion of presumably polluting companies that migrated to other states such as Querétaro, brought with them this effect of segregation in combination with these great economic processes.

From the first half of the nineteenth century, three events of historical significance transformed the landscape of the municipality of Naucalpan de Juárez: the first was the process of industrialization derived from the model of industrialization that took place from 1930 to 1950; the second derived from the Keynesian project and substitution of imports of  1960 – 1970; and the last stage that covers from 1980 to the present, conformed by the neoliberal period and imperialist globalization (Pradilla, 2009).  During these periods, the population of the municipality went from just under 100,000 inhabitants in 1960, to almost 400,000 in 1970 and more than 700,000 in 1980. By the year 2000, it reached a maximum of 858,711, which marked the beginning of its period of decline, expelling the economically active population to the peripheries in search of accessible land, with an aging population in the case of residential areas and where the population growth is concentrated in the popular and irregular areas of the municipality. During the same period, dramatic events also took place at the global level: the world population went from 3 billion people in 1960 to 6 billion in 2000, and the fall of the Soviet block and the opening of Asian markets brought with them an unprecedented supply of labor that dramatically transformed industries, destroying them in various contexts and moving them into others, thus increasing uneven development in vast regions of the planet. It is also important to note that the fall of the national industry cannot be attributed exclusively to the neoliberal effect, but also to the bad state administration, which was the governing body of the same for a brief period of time derived from inactivity and lack of initiative.  in the sector by the large landowners of the country, more likely to live on the rents and speculation of the territory than to generate productive or innovative industries, a case that until now is in force. It is derived from this phenomenon that, for example, the industrial area of Naucalpan has entered into this logic of real estate speculation for the development of housing, offices, and services from its decline.

For Latin American cities, the application of the neoliberal project has brought with it the expansion and proliferation both in intensity and scale of the hyper-degraded urban areas described by Mike Davis in his book “Planet of Slums,” and the case of Latin America is no different.  The neoliberal project has not fulfilled its promises of sustained economic growth and improvement of the situation at the same time that the Latin American cities are deeply embedded in the process of accumulation of world capital in a situation of dependence and subordination.   As a response (or in search of answers) to this situation, numerous terms and concepts have populated the history of researchers, political agents, authorities, and professionals who apply them without criticism or adaptation of our realities.  Concepts such as Modern City, Nova City, Rights to the City, Create City, sustainability, resilience, clusters, and global city, among others, are part of the daily vocabulary of both citizen demands and projects and hypothetical solutions to the already known problems of water scarcity, environmental impacts, economic development, insecurity, exclusion, and spatial segregation. The most recent municipal diagnosis throws up different alarming problems that are to some extent, general conditions in our cities. 

First, the conditions of basic services, facilities, and public spaces present considerable deficiencies, so actions are required to improve them, and the neighborhoods that present the greatest problems have similar characteristics, such as their irregular origin, the lack of planning, and the precariousness of the infrastructure, often introduced by the same citizenship.  We are immersed in a vicious cycle, in which, on the one hand, developers socialize the impacts derived from increases in land use, while maximizing the profits derived from it, and civil society is not willing to absorb them, but neither to take responsibility for other problems of which it is part of and promotes, even if it is unconsciously.

As an example, we have that the growth, in essence, takes place within the irregular zones, while part of the population in residential areas is experiencing a process of aging and expulsion of the young population to the peripheries of the municipality (phenomenon experienced by most Mexican cities at this time). This aging population in turn rejects new developments, changes in land use, compatibility of use, and demands in turn greater infrastructure, especially roads, and the rehabilitation of the existing ones but is also not willing to allow new roads for its subdivisions (it is important to note that this logic tends to generate more saturation of the road system and increased use of private cars in the medium and long term). They also demand a greater supply of water for their exclusive use and demand to pay lower taxes for property and water in a country where this type of tax is relatively low compared to the OECD. The growing sectors, which are those of senior adults, can receive discounts of up to 70% of those payments, which impacts the budget for the development of this type of infrastructure.  Water shortage in the Valley of Mexico Zone is a widespread phenomenon, which includes not only Naucalpan, but also all the municipalities immersed in it, including Atizapán de Zaragoza, Huixquilucan, Cuautitlán Izcalli, among others, which, unlike Naucalpan, they have experienced growth, ranging from 6 to more than 17% in the last ten years (Naucalpan grew less than 0.1%,  and still cannot recover the population it had in 2000)," so that Naucalpan has been the only municipality that has not taken advantage of this growth, despite the fact that all municipalities obtain their water through the same system.  It is important to mention that reversing this situation implies, in the end, the progressive change of this centralist model towards another system of urbanization in other regions of the country that have greater water resources, such as Veracruz or Tabasco, whose costs no one is willing to assume so far, while society, in general, continues to enjoy the benefits of urban concentration.

In the field of land tenure, there are groups that also demand the regularization of more than 50,000 families that still do not have legal certainty of their assets.  It is also important to note that, in general, actions that regularize informality tend to stimulate and increase this phenomenon.  In addition, the areas most prone to this type of invasion are also concentrators of irregular open garbage dumps and debris from other municipalities and the CDMX (Mexico City). Both problems do not have a clear surveillance system for the authorities now or in the future. 

In the field of finance, there are levels of public and private indebtedness of the last municipal governments of Naucalpan, where the most recent, that of the current municipal president, Angélica Moya Marín expresses: "The debt that Patricia Durán really left in Naucalpan is more than 3 thousand 174 million pesos, which would be equivalent to 70 percent of the municipality's budget." To put this in context, during the Mexican government's default crisis during the 70s, there was a debt conversation of the order of 90% of GDP. 

Without concrete prospects of growth of any kind, it is difficult to reverse this trend and improve the infrastructure and equipment, as well as the system in general referred to above, putting aside good intentions and politically correct vocabulary with the different fractions that have colonized this context, not only the political discourse but also of civil associations, private initiative, journalists, academics, professionals, who so far we have not been able to offer a solid proposal in this regard.  This is how we find ourselves facing this panorama (or drama) of postmodern urban development: which has led to absurd degrees of the modern project, full of crashed and fragmented forms and perspectives;  that it does not fit a proper definition, where all demands and all "solutions" want to encompass universality, totality, plurality, differences, without ever really defining these concepts and sticking to what they actually imply; all demands are valid, all proposals have the same value, all groups have the same recognition and weight; and, finally, where the idea of development is no longer looking to advance, but at least not to regress.


Pradilla, 2009, The territories of neoliberalism in Latin America Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Xochimilco, Mexico City, Mexico. Chapter VIII.  

Harvey, 2007, Brief history of neoliberalism, Akal Editores, Spain, chap. VI.

About the Author.

Arturo Tovar Goris

He has a Master’s in Urbanism from the UNAM and specializes in urban design and project development, he is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Design Sciences and Arts at the UAM, with a focus on Planning and Territorial Development. He studied architecture at the Tec de Monterrey. 

He has worked in the private sector in several firms dedicated to construction and in the public sector, he has served as department head of the area of construction licenses and announcements for the City Council of Naucalpan de Juárez, where he also serves as General Coordinator of Planning, technical advisor and expert in urban development and urbanism. 

His research has been published nationally and internationally, currently, he belongs to the Mexican Association of Urban Planners and the College of Architects of Mexico City and is a member of the AA Visiting School.  He has been a professor in the master’s degree in Urbanism and the Architecture program at UNAM. He presently collaborates in the multidisciplinary research project Rehabilitation of the Panuco River Basin, overseeing the area of Architecture and Urbanism.  He has collaborated, in conjunction with Lund University, on projects for the production of social housing in the Philippines.  He has also collaborated in the renowned architecture office JSA (Javier Sánchez), particularly in the area of projects.

* No se publicará la dirección de correo electrónico en el sitio web.