Mexico’s Unknown Cities: Naucalpan and Ecatepec

Real del Valle, Tepexpan — photo by author, click to enlarge

Mexico City’s Distrito Federal is the nation’s largest urban administrative unit. Of the 22 million residents of the metro area, 8.8 million live in the D.F. If you were to ask most Mexicans what the country’s “second city,” the runner-up in terms of population, most would likely venture Monterrey, perhaps Puebla, or Guadalajara. While Guadalajara is in fact the second largest metro area in Mexico, the country’s second largest municipality is Ecatepec—a growing, multi-faceted district of greater Mexico City. More than 1.6 million people live in Ecatepec; in adjacent Tecámac, there are another 350,000. Naucalpan, another city that clings to D.F. is home to some 800,000 residents (including the previously-mentioned Ciudad Satélite).

There’s no particular message in to tying together these images as a set. More than anything, they’re all taken in the Estado de México, in Mexico City’s rapidly growing hinterland, and I made them in the last 7 days. What’s most crucial to me is that, in these different municipalities around DF, there is a huge amount of diversity in architectural and neighborhood form. Even within a given sector, such as government sponsored housing, homes evolve at different rates, and that change is evident. A typical street might appear struggling, until you pass to the next neighborhood to find it with rough dirt roads, shadowed by a tangle of DIY electrical wiring. Some of the newest homes are handsome, with manicured plantings and modern amenities. Given that Ecatepec alone is more populous than all but the four largest cities in the U.S., we should expect a palpable multiplicity of styles, lives and experiences.

Thanks to Brenda Bernaldez at the Biblioteca Benjamín Franklin, a project of the State Department here in Mexico City, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a number of teachers —> Read More