I had been told that the Mexico City metro system was great, but I didn’t fully believe these statements until I actually moved here and became a user of “el metro.”
Some of the reasons why I love the metro system:
The Mexico City metro by the numbers:
The Mexico City metro system has, in fact, come up in the course of my research. First, the construction of the metro required immense amounts of labor power. The first phase of the construction began in 1967 and ended in 1972, during which Lines 1, 2, and 3 were finished. The second phase of construction did not begin until 1977. Many of the individuals who worked on the first phase of construction came from elsewhere in Mexico, usually from rural areas in state with little work opportunities. The construction of the metro was also paired with several other massive construction projects in preparation for the 1968 Olympic Games, like the Olympic Village and the Aztec Stadium. The massive influx of laborers with scarce economic resources (which diminished as the construction projects were completed and unemployment rose) contributed to an already booming population with an insatiable appetite for land and housing. Thus the late 60s and 70s saw a blossoming of urban land invasions and colonias paracaidístas–literally “parachute neighborhoods.”
Secondly, the metro system was designed in the late 1960s and so gives a good snapshot of city limits at that time. Much of what now encompasses the metropolitan area is not served by the metro (for those from Chicago, think about the limited reach of the El into the southern part of the city). The neighborhood of Santo Domingo, a focus of my research, was a community on the urban fringe when it was founded as a colonia paracaidista in 1971. This is illustrated by the fact that it is served by the metro station Universidad–the southern terminal station on line 3 (the pea green line). Today, Santo Domingo is squarely within the urban center of the city. (This, of course, has prompted a whole new set of problems as the land value increases and residents who came in 1971 are themselves subdividing lots and renting to new waves of migrants from the Mexican interior.) The rapid expansion of the city’s urban reach can be read in the history of land disputes between these new-comers (invasadores, or invaders) and the campesinos, comuneros (individuals pertaining to commonly held land parcel), and ejidatarios (individuals pertaining to different type of communal land tenure specific to Mexico) who lived a rural, agriculturally-based lifestyle. Before the invasion of 1971, for example, Santo Domingo was communal land and recognized as such by the Federal Government. In that case, the comuneros and the invasadores were engaged in conflict over ownership of land for many years after the invasion. The conflict was often violent, with comuneros burning down the makeshift houses erected by the invasadores, and both sides organizing themselves into armed militias.
Sarah Farr is PhD student in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The views expressed in this blog and on this website are my own.