From the September-October 2019 issue of News & Letters
Mexico City—The huge metropolis of Mexico City is forever being reconstructed, including office buildings, hotels, commercial shopping centers, etc. Construction now means the total destruction of the former pueblos of the original city, some of which had retained characteristics of their history and culture when becoming city neighborhoods.
ORIGINAL PUEBLOS BEING DESTROYED
One such place is Xoco in the south of the city. Destroyed over decades, the most recent blow is the construction of Mítikah, a monstrous multi-multi-storied compound of several towers with offices, residences, and shopping centers. The last straw was the arbitrary decision of the Mitikah owners/builders to cut down 53 large trees in the center of one of Xoco’s streets, to make room for God knows what.
Protests erupted, blocking busy streets. Assemblies of the remaining Xoco residents were called. Below are interviews with Xoco residents.
I came to live in Xoco 55 years ago in my grandmother’s house. The town was mostly land. I saw horses; there were farms and orchards, cows and pigs, too. We lived quietly. People lived in part by what they produced. Some worked as foremen at the Almazán, ranch which has now become the Bancomer Center [A huge banking center].
The city was growing so much that they have continually been taking us out. Many neighbors have gone, selling their land. This situation became extreme in 1975-85, with the construction of the banking center and the building of a national movie theatre complex. People left Xoco very hurt because of the cost of living: increasing property values and taxes, and the cost of water. We began to see more construction. It didn’t seem like a dramatic change to me.
But in 2007-08, a very strong boom began. Even factories in the area disappeared. Suddenly there was not enough water, and we had to use a pump to get the water to the water tank. I went to the Neighborhood Committee and their answer was: “You will not understand, because you are not an architect.”
XOCO NEIGHBORHOOD ORGANIZED
By 2018 fortunately we had the Xoco Assembly. The authorities said they are going to put in a well and that it would draw six million liters of water. But Mítikah was already being constructed and it was going to require eight million. Complaints by the thousands were made. We were organizing and began to see the consequences of the Mitikah project. When this past May 53 trees were cut—something that the city government never gave permission for—Mitikah’s intentions were clear.
—Alvaro, descendant of original Xoco family
It hurts how the streets have become construction sites. With so many cars they have damaged the little pavement we had. With so much traffic we cannot pass, we cannot cross. They have taken away my tranquility, my health, the peace I had. I often used to go outside. We were like a big family, we all knew each other. Now many have left. They had to sell for economic reasons. This year I paid 12,000 pesos of property tax while three years ago I paid about one thousand.
In 1953 Xoco was still a town. But it began to change when Juan Andreu Almazán’s ranch was sold in 1972. But now with the Mitikah tower, what most affects the few of us who remain is the drainage. At least we want to have things done right: water and drainage facilities. Right now we cannot do much because we are so few. Also, the councilor who is negotiating with the Mitikah people might have sold us out.
Our own people are divided: the original owners and the new neighbors. Even so, we are defending ourselves through the Assembly. We are not selling. It is still a fight.
—Zeferino, a native of Xoco