Urbanistas, ambulantes and mendigos: the dispute for urban space in Mexico City, 1890-1930
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Our views of Porfirian Mexico City are heavily influenced by the grandeur of the buildings and avenues and the elegance of colonias built during that period. It is easy to share the nostalgia for los tiempos de don Porfirio, when Mexican society seemed as peaceful and well-organized as the walkways under the shady trees of the Paseo de la Reforma and the Alameda. This essay, however, contends that such images of civilization were only the precarious result of a negotiation between the regime's projects of urban modernization and the everyday practices of the majority of the urban population. As the Porfirian and post-revolutionary elites tried to shape the city according to their desires and economic interests, they turned to the police to punish the lower-class public behaviors which did not mold to those projects. The urban poor, on the other hand, developed a sceptical view of justice and order. They used the city in different ways, walking across the social boundaries between rich and marginal areas, challenging the authority of the police, and even subverting the "official" dictates about Street nomenclature.
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