RE: Future Tenochtitlan?

Thanksgiving with both eyes on the future and my feet in the present.

– Samuel Collins’ 2012 entry on alternate futures is relevant today because, on the verge of a global catastrophe, we need to keep imagining alternate versions of reality not only in fiction but also in practical issues like Dr. Jonathan Jae-an Crisman’s imminent speculation concept (

On a side note, while I was unable to find for you an electronic version of The Jaguar House, in Shadow referenced in Dr. Collins’ entry, I learned that the same author, Aliette de Bodard won a Nebula award for best novella. Here are some powerful words from her (you can visit her website and blog here:

“The truth, of course, is that writing matters. It is frivolous, it is self-indulgent, but it is also necessary. It is breathing space and act of resistance and escapism on my own terms. Stories shaped me as a child and continue to shape me as an adult. And it is a great and potent reminder of how far this particular one has gone to be accepting this award, now.”

Happy Thanksgiving!


File:Tlatelolco Marketplace.JPG Tlatelolco Marketplace, Wikimedia, Joe Ravi, Creative Commons License CC-BY-SA 3.0

There’s an interesting piece in this year’s Nebula Awards Showcase, a lively short story about an alternative future premised on Aztec culture, “The Jaguar House, in Shadow,” by Aliette de Bodard.  One of the biggest challenges to those of us trying to imagine and evoke alternative futures is precisely what animates de Bodard’s story: can we come up with futures that aren’t already colonized by Western modernity?  As she writes (185):

“Part of the challenge (and what had frustrated me with the earlier attempt) is making sure that “modern” doesn’t end up equating “twentieth-century Western culture”; and equally making sure that the Aztec culture doesn’t turn out to be an ossified version of what the conquistadors saw.”
De Bodard struggles with this premise, ultimately sketching a future Tenochtitlan that is at turns archaeological speculation and Aztec steampunk.  Maglev stations, nanotechnology…

View original post 1,128 more words

Concrete & Destruction @ The Guardian

Concrete – Photo by Shivanshu Gaur on Unsplash

As part of its Concrete Week campaign, The Guardian published an article on March this year titled Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth. The article refers to the U.S., Japan, China, and Brazil as study cases relating the production of concrete with environmental, political, and economic issues we currently face all over the world. The article recognizes human activity as the driving force behind the global impact on landscapes, nature, and the environment.

“Chatham House predicts urbanisation, population growth and economic development will push global cement production from 4 to 5bn tonnes a year. If developing countries expand their infrastructure to current average global levels, the construction sector will emit 470 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.” – The Guardian

For the full article follow this link. I fully recommend reading it since it is full of links to other intereting information:

It is a lengthy article, so if you prefer, The Guardian has also made it available as a podcast as part of its “audio long reads” series:

Downtown Oaxaca

Oaxaca City, Photo by Roman Lopez on Unsplash

During the holidays, I will be visiting the city of Oaxaca de Juárez. In addition to visiting touristic places close to the city such as Hierve el Agua, El Árbol del Tule and the archeological sites of Monte Albán and Mitla, I also plan to systematically document the linguistic landscape of downtown Oaxaca. This is a project that I am most eager to start because one way of understanding the essence of a city is through the linguistic signs displayed on its public domain. Oaxaca City is a place where several cultures interact and this diversity is present in a mirad of cultural artifacts, including the presence of English.

Languages in the state of Oaxaca by SIL International [1]

A previous research paper by Sayer [2] analyzed the potential of harnessing linguistic landscape methodology. In his analysis of the uses of English in public displays around Oaxaca City, he discovered six different ways in which people in Oaxaca City used English to convey messages related to:

  • Advance and sophistication
  • Fashion
  • Being cool
  • Sex(y)(ness)
  • Expressions of love
  • Expressing subversive identities

According to my quick search on Google Maps, downtown Oaxaca has an extension of approximately 1.6 by 1.4 kms (around 1 x 0.9 miles), and it is comprised by some 180 blocks (15 x 12) for a total length of 24 kms. I am pretty sure that if I walk 5 kilometers per day, I will be able to document the whole downtown area in five days time. However, I need to remember to save some energy for all of the things I want to do in Oaxaca. Here is a small list of places one can visit around the city:

  • Andador Macedonio Alcalá
  • Ex Convento Betlemitas
  • Ex Convento de la Soledad
  • Iglesia de San Agustín
  • Iglesia del Carmen Bajo
  • Instituto de Artes Gráficas
  • Jardín Antonia Labastida
  • Jardín Sócrates
  • Mercado 20 de Noviembre
  • Mercado Benito Juárez
  • Mercado de Artesanías
  • Museo Casa Juárez
  • Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca
  • Museo Regional de Oaxaca
  • Museo Rufino Tamayo
  • Palacio de Gobierno
  • Paseo Juárez
  • Plaza de la Danza
  • Plazuela del Carmen Alto
  • Teatro Macedonio
  • … and so on and so on..

In fact, I found a rather nice guide from Culture Trip on what to do in Oaxaca City which points out several cultural events, foods and places to visit. I fully recommend it if you are interested in the culture of Oaxaca, although I will write a comprehensive guide of my travel to the city later on in January.

The petrified waterfalls of Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca, MX. Photo by analuisa gamboa on Unsplash



  • [1] Eberhard, David M., Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2019. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Twenty-second edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version:
  • [2] Sayer, P. (2009). Using the linguistic landscape as a pedagogical resource. ELT journal64(2), 143-154.

The Fitzroy Diaries

Dear readers, season two of The The Fitzroy Diaries is out! If you haven’t heard this weird (good weird) audio drama about the Fitzroy suburb in Australia, I do suggest you check it out. Maybe during your commute to work or while you do chores at home. The podcast is a great example of what types of audio drama are out there and the sound design is very very good. Even if you have never listened to podcasts or if you have never been to Australia, I am sure you will enjoy the suburban soundscapes this great podcast offers.
Happy listening!


Street sign in Fitzroy. Photo byMatthew KwongonUnsplash

The Fitzroy Diaries is an award-winning 8-chapter fictional podcast about the daily lives of the mid-class residents of Fitzroy, an inner-city suburb located in Melbourne. The podcast reflects the experiences, concerns, and lifestyle of its characters in this Australian suburb. Writer and narrator Lorin Clarke captures the essence of Fitzroy, which even after many waves of gentrification it still shows its past on both its landscape and its people. After listening to the full first season, I cannot wait until October this year when we get to listen to more of this podcast’s beautiful sound design and its unique approach to radio drama.

The Fitzroy Diaries is a podcast by the Australian Broadcast Corporation. It is written and directed by Lorin Clarke and produced by Sophie Townsend.

You can subscribe for free to The Fitzroy Diaries on iTunes

View original post 74 more words

The Use of Bicycles Has Doubled in Santiago de Chile

A recent news report from the Chilean news outlet Meganoticias indicates that the use of bicycles has doubled since the protests started in the middle of October this year. The protests, kindled partly because of the increase on public transportation fares, have resulted in the partial closing of the subway service. This and other factors have had an important impact in urban mobility within Santiago de Chile.

Center for Sustainable Urban Development – CEDEUS tweet (Translated by Google) “Tomás Echiburú [ @tomasechiburu ], researcher CEDEUS, found that at least double the flow of bicycles in Providencia compared to weeks ago. How relevant is the use of the bike to decongest Santiago?”

Tomás Exhiburú, a Chilean architect, measured the number of cyclists on one of the busiest streets in Santiago. On Monday, October 20th, 892 cyclists used the Ricardo Lyon bike route per hour, when two months before the number was 450. Since then, Tomás Exhiburú and his team have verified the architects’ initial research.

Tomás Exhiburú’s Tweet (Translated by Google) – Today in the #SuperLunes This note came out in ElMer about the research we are doing on the effect of the crisis on the use of the bicycle. We continue measuring and the hypothesis is confirmed: the demand has doubled.

The architect and his team are looking for ways to expand and make the use of bicycles safer, as well as to figure out new ways of transportation in these times of crisis. There is a call for people in Santiago to fill out an online survey aimed to gather mobility data and preferences.

Tomás Exhiburú’s Tweet (Translated by Google) – [SURVEY] From @CedeusChile We are studying the crisis in public transport and its effect on mobility patterns in Santiago. I ask you to answer this survey:… It will not take more than 5 min and will provide very valuable information. Thank you. RT

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek believes that acts of social discontent such as the protests in Chile are symptoms of our times and they are not going anywhere. In fact, they seem to be here to stay will continue to spread across countries.


  • The original article by Meganoticias on the doubling of bicycle use can be found here.
  • In case you were wondering, this is Tomás Exhiburú’s Twitter handle: @tomasechiburu He is constantly informing about the latest developments on the protests in Santiago de Chile.

JUCS Issue 6.1 is now available!

Volume 6 Issue 1

Cover Date: 2019


Tricking memory, remaking the city: Trompe l’oeil and the visual transformation of a historic city in China: Chengdu
Authors: Yanshuo Zhang
Page start: 3
View Header/Abstract Purchase PDF

Imagining mid-nineteenth-century Beirut as a ‘City of the World’: Public intellectuals, photography, cartography and historical literature
Authors: Rita Sakr
Page start: 31
View Header/Abstract Purchase PDF

Cartographies of Paris: Everyday mobilities in Michèle Rakotoson’s Elle, au printemps and Alain Mabanckou’s Tais-toi et meurs
Authors: Anna-Leena Toivanen
Page start: 59
View Header/Abstract Purchase PDF

Consumption on the Orient Express: Commodification and gamification of urban mobility in Tokyo Metro campaigns
Authors: Mina Qiao
Page start: 79
View Header/Abstract Purchase PDF

Cultural gentrification: Gourmet and Latinx immigrant food trucks vendors in Los Angeles
Authors: Lorena Munoz
Page start: 95
View Header/Abstract Purchase PDF

Out in the cold: Busking Copenhagen’s Nørreport Station and the urban affects of music
Authors: Michael Amundsen
Page start: 113
View Header/Abstract Purchase PDF

Conviction, Season 1: A Podcast by Gimlet Media

Photo by k u on Unsplash

If you hadn’t heard about it, there is a great podcast from Gimlet Media, a Bronx-based production company recently acquired by Spotify for its great content and potential. Gimlet media produces both fictional stories such as The Horror of Dolores Roach and Homecoming (recently released as an Amazon Prime original starring Julia Roberts), and non-fictional ones such as Crime Town and The Clearing among many others. Among all of these excellent shows, Conviction is not the least interesting and well-produced.

Conviction is a true story that follows the life of Manny Gomez, a previous police officer turned into private investigator who tries to help Pedro Hernandez, a teenager awaiting for trial in Rikers Island and whose mother reports has been harassed by the police several times. This first season aired for the first time on February, 2019 and a second season might be coming up soon. I definitely recommend this podcast if you are interested in urban soundscapes and urban narratives related to social justice.

Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

You can subscribe for free to Conviction on Spotify, Himalaya, or wherever you listen to podcasts. While you are there, remember to check out our own podcast: UCS Podcasts – urbanculturalstudies, by Professor Benjamin Fraser from the University of Arizona.


  • If you want to learn more about the podcast, here is an excellent article by the LA Times.
  • The Rolling Stone magazine also published an article on Conviction, which you can find here.
  • If you want to know more about this real-life story, the NY Times article on Many Gomez here.
  • If you want to learn more about Gimlet Media, you can find all their shows on their website here, and a YouTube interview with one of its co-founders, Alex Blumberg, here.

Parade and Carnival of the Day of the Dead in Iztapalapa

Iztapalapa is one of the 16 zones or boroughs (delegaciones in Spanish) in Mexico City, and the most populated one. On November 1st, Iztapalapa Mayor’s Office held a parade/carnival across its streets. The following video was shot for the cultural center El Transformador. Enjoy!

“Parade and Carnival of the Day of the Dead in the First Iztapalapa Mayor’s Office held on November 1, 2019, with the participation of various cultural organizations and the Iztapalapense citizenship. Video made by the Guerreros Cine Collective of the Film and TV Workshop of the Arts and Crafts Center El Transformador.”

Día de Muertos: the biggest cultural event in Mexico City of 2019

Mexico City is having its biggest event of the year, the Día de Muertos (the Day of the Dead) celebration. It is unclear how much money Mexico City is spending on this event, but the festivities include free concerts at the central plaza (Zócalo) and other locations across the city with famous latin artists such as Yuri, Mijares, Orquesta Guayacán and Sonora Dinamita. The city has also arranged for guest performances from 21 countries, including Bolivia, China, Ukraine, Venezuela, among others.

A poster from the Iztacalco Mayor’s Office in Mexico City promoting events such as a costume contest and concerts by the Orquesta Guayacán and May Gonzáles’ Somora Dinamita.

For the last twenty years, the Día de Muertos celebration had been losing strength, with the younger generations favoring Halloween instead. A clear example of this is how the way children ask for candy in Mexico had been opaqued by Halloween. Very much like in the U.S., children in Mexico usually go around their neighborhood asking for candy. However, the phrase “trick or treat” is not used in Mexico, but rather the phrase ¿me da mi calaverita? (can I have a sugar skull?), where “calaverita” (sugar skull) is a metonym for “candy”. This traditional way of asking for candy had been progressively substituted for the last twenty or so years by ¿me da mi Halloween? More recently, the interest in the Día de Muertos has been rekindled by no others than the James Bond franchise and Walt Disney’s Coco movie. This new-found momentum is being seized by several private and public organizations in Mexico, reaffirming the holiday along with its traditions. Mexico City’s government itself has publicly recognized this as an effort to “reanimate one of the oldest traditions of the country”. Below you can find an official communication from Mexico City’s “Citizen Advice” Tweeter account using the phrase “pedir calaverita” (asking for candy) instead of “pedir Halloween”.

Translated text: Are you one of those who get more excited than your nephews or children when asking for calaverita? 🧟‍♀🧟‍♂🎃 Follow these #SecurityTips to avoid a scare 😱 If you need to report an insecurity situation, call the #SecurityLine or write to #TrustChat at 55 5533-5533📱

Much has been written about the Día de Muertos through the years ever since it was incorporated to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO in 2008. It suffices to say here that this official Mexican holiday is commonly celebrated from November 1st to November 2nd, with the addition of October 31st in some communities within Mexico and in other countries such as in the U.S., where Día de Muertos is commonly referred to as “Día de los Muertos”. During these days, people honor friends and family members who have passed by leaving flowers, food and drinks at an altar. The popular belief is that the souls of these loved ones will come to the altar and feast during the night of the 1st for children and the 2nd for adults. The celebration is brought to life in different ways: from the intimate altars inside people’s homes to the public offerings in city parks, plazas, and schools. However, for the past three years, the celebrations have gained even more visibility, as with the massive 4-mile international parade from the Zócalo to Polanco:

International Day of the Dead Parade 2019 route

Probably the key factor that propelled people’s interest in the tradition was the inclusion of a fictitious Día de Muertos parade on the 2015 James Bond Movie, Spectre, which was shot in the downtown streets of Mexico City. Parades are not really a tradition in Mexico, where processions and peregrinations are much more common and which are more ceremonial in nature.

Spectre – Opening scene

I was in Mexico City at the time when they were rolling Spectre. I distinctly remember looking over the barricade next to the Palacio de Correos de México and thinking something like “This is horrible… The skeletons are all wrong, nobody dresses like that on the streets and this pretended parade is not even a Mexican tradition. People who watch it will think that we actually do this here!” The next year, the first Día de Muertos parade was taking place in Mexico City and, to this day, the parade is seen by some as emblematic. Some others see it, however, as a strange form of cultural appropriation seeded in the very streets of Mexico City. Looking back to that moment, it is a strange phenomenon indeed the creation of a fictional cinematic space that was later brought to life in the very streets where it was shot.

Screen shot from the tourist guide website MXcity . mx with an article claiming that “The Day of the Dead Parade is Part of Our Culture”. The huge skull with the hair dress is very much the same style as the one seen in the movie Spectre.

A second success factor in bringing back the Día de Muertos is Walt Disney’s movie Coco, which popularized the celebration among the younger generations not only in Mexico, but across the world. As in the case of Spectre, Coco was not exempt from controversy when Disney tried to patent the “Día de los Muertos”, as the movie’s first title.

Another controversy related to Coco is the inclusion of the word “los” when referring to the Día de Muertos, which happens across the movie. While it is accepted to call the celebration “Día de los Muertos” in the United States, especially by second and third generation speakers, this is considered culturally inappropriate in most places in Mexico, and as yet another form of cultural appropriation coming from the United States. The issue is mainly the fact that the movie is explicitly situated in a fictitious town in Mexico, not in the U.S. Had the movie been situated in a community of Mexican heritage in the U.S., using “Día de los Muertos” would have been culturally appropriate

A third layer of controversy generated by this movie is the use of “alebrijes“, manticoresque sculptures not traditionally associated with Día de Muertos, as part of the altars and the general concept of Día de Muertos in the movie. The alebrijes in Coco are represented as spirit animals that acquire the role of guides or companions in the afterworld. Alebrijes are not a traditional element of Mexican altars, unlike other elements which are included in this he movie such as the flor de cempasúchil, maíz, water and fruit. The fact that alebrijes are seamlessly integrated in the visual elements and narrative of Coco makes people think that they must be part of the Día de Muertos, especially those younger generations who may not know otherwise. The use of alebrijes in Coco and in the international Day of the Dead Parade in Mexico City has been condemned by some as much as the Día de Muertos Parade itself.

In spite of all these misrepresentations, the celebration has gained more and more audience nationally and internationally. This year, the celebrations started on October 15th with an artistic intervention called Celebrating Eternity, with light shows and offerings aimed to recreate flower fields and cemeteries honoring both national heroes and people’s loved ones.

Celebrating Eternity – Diartec & Czar

From October 19 to the 22 the city celebrated a festival of coffee, chocolate and the traditional pan de muerto bread, as well as an alebrije parade.

Coffee, chocolate and pan de muerto festival, 2019. – Buzzfeed

Later, on October 24th, the Mexico City’s Secretariat of Culture announced the official start of the festivities at the emblematic Monumento a la Revolución. The video below shows some of these images.

Monumento a la Revolución and other images – Mexico City’s YouTube channel

On October 26th, the city organized a Mega Procesión de Catrinas. Catrinas are one of the most iconic representations of death in Mexican culture which were created by the late artist José Guadalupe Posada and now adopted all around the world. The catrinas are represented and re-imagined using face paint and different decorations.

Catrina makeup – Image by

The “Mega Procession” of the catrinas started at the Angel de la Independencia and finished at el Zócalo. Everyone was allowed to join this procession and people showed their creativity by dressing up in different costumes and designing their own make up. There were also official face-paint artists along the route in case people wanted an expert to work on their Día de Muertos look.

Catrina´s parade in México City with the iconic Angel de la Independencia on the background. Photo by Salvador Altamirano on Unsplash.

After the procession, on October 27th, Mexico City hosted the third International Day of the Dead Parade; a mile-long parade covering a 4-mile route, which according to official communication “had to be epic”. More than 800 groups participated in the parade. The parade was divided into two sections with different motifs and included dancers, alebrijes, giant puppets, carts and several national and international performances.

Today, on November 1st, the city will inaugurate a mega offering in el Zócalo, which will feature four main altars, one for each cardinal point. Each of these altars will represent a different tradition. For this project, Mexico City’s Secretariat of Culture organized a public consultation for the creation of the offering. The consultation was open to everyone and resulted with Vladimir Maislin Topete’s winning design called Altar de Altares (Altar of Altars), which will commemorate several traditions.

The Zócalo is not the only place in Mexico City that will host a mega offering. Other places such as the Autonomous University of Mexico will also have it’s own mega offering where the altars will enter a contest which will be open until November 3rd.

Mega offering in el Zócalo in 2014 – Fotos públicas . com

Other cities as well across Mexico are having their own festivities, as is the case of the very well-known celebrations in the city of Oaxaca and others such as the one in Aguascalientes. However, none has as as much drive as the ones going on in Mexico City, where the government started a project called “Mexico City: Cultural Capital of America” [America as in the continent]. This self-proclaimed title emerges from a public agenda that aims to turn Mexico City in one of the three most visited cities around the world. Mexico City is expecting on this second-half of 2019 over 7 million tourists and an economic impact of more than 1.5 billion dollars, which is 2% more than 2018. Because of the private and public interests associated with this agenda, many people are asking whether the incorporation of new tendencies (parades, alebrijes, the inclusion of international communities) and over-the-top events (massive altars and overflow of food offerings, “Mega” processions, etc…) is really a re-appropriation of the very cultural appropriation that started them in the first place or a mere touristic devise.

An even more pressing question to ask is weather these changes will affect the narratives ande meanings associated traditionally with the celebration which has at its core the intimate nature of the ancient belief that people’s loved visit the living in spirit once a year? It is possible that this new wave of festivities might have just endangered the meaning of the Día de Muertos for Mexican nationals. Will the future generations place altars at their homes and commemorate their ancestors, or will they see that as an old tradition with little or no meaning? Will the traditional calaveritas be turned into a purely commercial icon just like the Christmas tree is for many?

Outside Mexico

In other cities outside Mexico, the syncretism between hispanic/latino and their own particular context and people has given birth to a plethora of celebrations akin to the Día de Muertos. For example, in the city of Tucson, Arizona, this tradition is constantly re-inventing itself. This year, the acclaimed Mexican musician, Lila Downs, presented her performance: Día de Muertos: al Chile at the University of Arizona where tickets were sold out and she was welcomed by an audience full of excitement.

Lila Downs’ interpretation of the folk Mexican song La Llorona. Different versions of La Llorona are commonly used during Día de Muertos.

At the University of Arizona, several departments and divisions have also put up altars and have organized presentations on the meaning of the Día de Muertos and other similar celebrations that happen across Latin America. Thousands of people are also preparing for the All Souls Procession, an event where most of Tucson comes together to honor those who have passed to their after life.

Dear reader, If you are one of those who celebrates the Día de Muertos, I hope that whatever you do, you enjoy it and have a good time. ¡Felíz día de Muertos! Here is a fun papel picado animation for you!

Image by World Widlife Fund (WWF). Follow them on Twitter @WWF_Mexico


  • Checkout the official YouTube channel of Mexico City here and Twitter here.
  • Click on the following links for videos that talk more about the Catrina, the coloitzcuintlis and the flor de cempasúchil.
  • f you know Spanish would like to read more about the Día de Muertos, you can go to the UNESCO site, which summarizes the Día de Muertos as it is conceived in 2019.
Image of traditional Mexican papel picado on Giphy.

Richard Sennett on Sennett’s Trilogy

The following conversation between Carles Muro & Richard Sennett tackles Sennett’s Homo Faber trilogy on human nature and urban design. The conversation takes place at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània in Barcelona as part of the biennial Kosmopolis festival and celebrates Sennet’s latest book Building and Dwelling. Ethics for the City (2018).

In this talk, Sennet talks about the importance that he has placed on physicality and the relation between bodies and cities, the ethics of urban spaces and the challenges that global capitalism poses to urban design.