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Michael Waldrep

Los Angeles native Michael Waldrep is a documentary filmmaker, multimedia artist and researcher, currently in Mexico City to document the city, its neighborhoods and its 22 million inhabitants through writing, mapping, data visualization, photography and video. He is one of five inaugural Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellows.

On Returning and Continuing On: The End of My Fulbright-National Geographic Grant

I’m writing this from a cafe in San Francisco, sipping on a coffee that I bought for the price of a nice breakfast in Mexico. I ordered the drink in English, a language which at least 75% of the people I’ve overheard talking on the street seem to speak. I can make convincing small talk…

The New Face of Government Housing in Mexico City’s Suburbs

  Though we’re entering into the season where this city seems to get rain every single afternoon, I’ve been running around to many corners of the city for the last several weeks, speaking to more people living in Mexico City’s suburbs, and photographing the surroundings. This post is a follow-up of sorts to my experience…

The Contemporary City at its Limits: Santa Fe, Mexico City

Santa Fe, located about a 12-mile drive (or somewhat risky walk) from the center of Mexico City, is, depending on your perspective, the metropolitan area’s most modern district, or its most soulless. Set in the rolling hills west of the city, along the federal freeway to the nearby city of Toluca, it is tenuously connected…

Explorations in Suburban Mexico City, a Picture Transect

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been present on the blog, but while I’ve been away, I’ve had a great set of excursions into the edges of Mexico City. From semi-rural compounds in the hills of Tlalpan, to a hilltop site of traditional religious ceremonies in Ecatepec, to the former city dump Bordo…

Walking Towards Mexico’s Corporate Edge City

Santa Fe is Mexico City’s Edge City – a rapidly growing office park on the outskirts of an extant metropolitan area. Located along a major highway out of the city, the site (some 12 miles from the center) was once a landfill, and with significant investment from the city and federal governments, it was transformed into the…

Mexico’s Unknown Cities: Naucalpan and Ecatepec

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…

Scenes from Neza: Mexico’s Self-Made City

Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl is the prototypical informal settlement of metropolitan Mexico City. Built just over the line from the Distrito Federal in the Estado de México, Neza—as it is commonly called—looms large in the imagination of the city. From its beginnings as an illegally developed, planned, and built settlement in the late forties, Neza has served…

Twilight in Tlatelolco: Modernist Housing and the Seeds of Suburbia

As I (hope to have) covered in last weeks blog,  the government-funded development at Tlatelolco, opened in 1964, formed by far the most ambitious housing project in Mexican history. In terms of a single site, its scope has never been matched. In 1968, only 4 years later, its Plaza de las Tres Culturas would play host to…

Tlatelolco and the Modernist Dream in Mexico City

Officially the Conjunto Urbano Presidente Adolfo López Mateos de Nonoalco Tlatelolco (*phew*), the district of Tlatelolco is today a fascinating vestige of mid-century Mexico’s modernist past, and—what I like even more—a vision of a future that could have been. As I continue to try to understand the current face of urbanization on Mexico City’s edges,…

Satellite Cities: The Early Suburbs of Mexico City

This week, continuing in my investigation of the geography of growth in Mexico City’s metropolitan area, and following my most recent exploration of the wealthier, more U.S.-styled segments of sprawl in the city, I made a trip out to Ciudad Satélite, one of the oldest, and most famous suburban developments in the region. Thanks to the…

Wealth and Sprawl in Mexico City

As I wrote before I arrived here, I grew up on an edge of Los Angeles—I could ride my bike down the hill to the park and the comic book store in the strip mall, and, with enough energy, I could ride up the nearby canyon and into the undeveloped hills. I hadn’t been reminded of that…

Urban Growth: Mexico City over Time

In the above gif, we can watch forty years of Mexico City’s built area expand, washing up against and around hills, lakebeds, and other obstacles. I’m very much drawn to this type of image in urban planning: evocative and based in fact, without telling the whole story up front. It requires intuition and imagination to…

How Mexico City’s Outer Housing Projects Give Way to Changing Needs

Continuing his quest to document Mexico City, its neighborhoods and its 22 million inhabitants through writing, mapping, data visualization, photography and video, Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow Michael Waldrep shares pictures and observations about the urban center’s Galaxia subdivision, built in an era when the middle class aspiration was to own a certain type of single family house with room for a car. But as times and needs change, so does the city, morphing into a new landscape that reflects modern needs.

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 Valley of Mexico 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.

Cuautitlán: A Journal of Living in the Suburbs of Mexico City

About 18 miles from the Zocalo as the crow flies from the center of Mexico City, is my home for the month. A short, if convoluted ride on three of the city’s metro lines (for about 30 cents) takes you to Buenavista Station. Dating to the 19th century, this was once the main inter-urban train station in…