From National Capital to Global Capital: Urban Change in Mexico City
The critical study of modern cities, such as Paris, Vienna, and Berlin, has contributed greatly to the project to rethink modernity. If it is agreed that a definitive component of globalization is the global city, a similar focus on the city should serve the study of globalization equally well. Some scholars have begun to set out the criteria of what qualifies global cities as such ( Borja and Castells 1997, Hannerz 1996, Sassen 1991). Mexico City would seem to meet these requirements, combining as it does the strong presence of international enterprise with a multicultural (national and foreign) population, a high concentration of artistic and scientific elite, and a large volume of international tourism. My concern in this essay is to explore what dynamics of globalization are illuminated by a consideration of the urban transformations that have distinguished Mexico City, as well as other cities in Latin America, as a global city.
During its colonial period, Mexico City was traversed by economic and cultural movements that stretched well beyond what we today call the country of Mexico. Like Buenos Aires, Lima, and other colonial cities of Latin America, it functioned as a regional capital and as an articulator of links with Spain. Latin capitals of the day were characterized by these supranational functions, which persisted through the transformations of independence and the formation of the modern Latin nation-states. Until well into the middle of the twentieth century, however, urban structures and life worlds in these cities were primarily conditioned by their roles as national centers of economics, politics, and culture.
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This work is part of the study “Ciudad de México: Lo público y lo privado en una ciudad multicultural,” which is being carried out in the Urban Culture Studies Program of the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, with support from the Consejo Nacional para la Investigación Científica y Tecnológica de Mexico (CONACYT).