The Many Layers of Mexico City

Mexico City is spatially segregated; as in many cities, one can make assumptions about a stranger’s affluence by simply asking whereabouts they live. In the West lie the swanky neighborhoods of Polanco and Las Lomas, the hipster and gentrified La Roma and to the South, the formerly hippy, turned affluent and trendy, Coyoacán. To the East, traditionally live the poorer, marginalized, working-class, as is the case of Iztapalapa*.

While these social and economic divisions are evident in the spatial layout of the city, and where one lays their head down to sleep at night, during the day this dynamic is shaken and often several worlds meet in one space. This is especially true in the Historic Center. Take Anillo de Circunvalación, a boulevard on the edge of the Historic Center, with its mix of street vendors, clothing stores – and sex workers. While I often walked on this street, passing through, other young women, standing several meters apart, lingered, waiting. While for me Circunvalación was a weekend destination, a place to shop for inexpensive clothing, for these women it is a place of work, work they may not have chosen. A few streets over, Calle San Pablo sees young women interspersed between bike shops. While I used San Pablo to get to the metro, or to buy accessories for my bike, it is the workplace of these many women and street vendors.

The many layers of the city spread beyond the city center, to the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where one can observe students sitting, talking and sipping coffees on the vast campus as an older woman throws aside old coffee cups, sifting through the dumpsters for something valuable.


The National Autonomous University of Mexico

The layered city continues in its palpably exclusionary establishments and pricing. For example, while some gyms cost only 500 pesos per month ($35), others cost upwards of 2500 ($171), with steep joining fees. These excessive prices are effective exclusionary measures, assuring that only a certain economic and social class can access the services, keeping the poor or middle-class outside, whilst living in the same, but oh so different, Mexico City.

* This is, of course, a generalization.