Return Trip: On Leaving Cuautitlán and the Tren Suburbano


Infrastructure gives shape to the city, the same way a trellis gives shape to a vine. Along with natural and topographical features—primarily the hills and mountains that encircle the Valle de México and the traces of the now-desiccated lakes—it’s infrastructure that gives shape to the grey blob of urbanity that is Mexico City as photographed from a satellite. You can tell a lot about a city’s development simply from looking at an unlabeled “photographic” view like that of Google Maps, as well as you can staring out the window of the Tren Suburbano as you ride home from a day in the city.

Satellite view of the Valle de México. The lighter gray shades mark urban growth, while darker shades capture vegetation—much of it the steepest hillsides, least suited for building. Imagery from NASA’s LANDSAT, click to enlarge.

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