Reverberations: Mexico City's 1985 Earthquake and the Transformation of the Capital

author: Diane E. Davis, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: Feb. 28, 2011,   recorded: March 2002,   views: 3831
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Description

In this lecture, Diane Davis examines the impact of Mexico City's 1985 disastrous earthquake on the social, spatial, and political character of Mexico's capital city.

Davis discusses the earthquake's implications for social movement, the character of land use and property ownership, and the legitimacy of the capital city's political leaders and major construction contractors and argues that sometimes physical disasters such as earthquakes can produce profoundly unanticipated beneficial effects.

In addition to empowering urban citizens to organize on their own behalf to challenge a corrupt and highly bureaucratized local government, (and thereby accelerating the urban democratic transition) Mexico City's earthquake also helped expose the political biases of government authorities and weakened the strong hold of street vendors and the informal sector on the local economy and land use. As a result, Mexico City now is governed by a democratic and more socially responsible government committed to fostering citizen participation, building new low-income housing projects, and "rescuing" Mexico City's historic cultural heritage, all with the aim of recapturing the social and symbolic centrality of the downtown area, where the earthquake produced most damage.

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