May 192016
 

An unclassified DEA Intelligence Report from a year ago has just resurfaced on my desk. Entitled United States: Areas of Influence of Major Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations, it includes two particularly interesting maps.

The report states that “Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) pose the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them. These Mexican poly-drug organizations traffic heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana throughout the United States, using established transportation routes and distribution networks. They control drug trafficking across the Southwest Border and are moving to expand their share, particularly in the heroin and methamphetamine markets.”

As of May 2015, the DEA identified the following cartels that operate cells within the USA: the Sinaloa Cartel, Gulf Cartel, Juarez Cartel, Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios or LCT), Beltran-Leyva Organization (BLO), Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion or CJNG), Los Zetas, and Las Moicas.

The maps reflect “data from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) program to depict the areas of influence in the United States for major Mexican cartels.”

DEA-Mexican cartel influence in USA

DEA-Mexican cartel influence in USA

Figure 1 (click map to enlarge) shows the distribution of DEA Field Offices. The pie chart for each office shows “the percentage of cases attributed to specific Mexican cartels in an individual DEA office area of responsibility”.

“Since 2014, the Arellano-Felix Organization, LCT, and the Michoacán Family (La Familia Michoacán LFM) cartels have been severely disrupted, which subsequently led to the development of splinter groups, such as, “La Empresa Nueva” (New Business) and “Cartel Independiente de Michoacan” (Independent Cartel of Michoacan) representing the remnants of these organizations.”

Figure 2 (below) shows the dominant transnational criminal organization (TCO) in each domestic DEA Field Division, relative to other active TCOs in the same geographic territory. The map includes population density shading which “is intended to depict potential high density drug markets that TCOs will look to exploit through the street-level drug distribution activities of urban organized crime groups/street gangs.”

DEA-Mexican cartel influence in USA

DEA-Mexican cartel influence in USA

“The Sinaloa Cartel maintains the most significant presence in the United States. They are the dominant TCO along the West Coast, through the Midwest, and into the Northeast. While CJNG’s presence appears limited to the West Coast, it is a cartel of significant concern, as it is quickly becoming one of the most powerful organizations in Mexico, and DEA projects its presence to grow in the United States over the next year. In contrast, Mexican cartels such as the Gulf, Juarez, and Los Zetas hold more significant influence closer to the Southwest Border, but as shown on the map, their operational capacity decreases with distance from the border.”

Other, smaller, “splinter groups from the disrupted LCT organization continue to traffic drugs from the Michoacán, Mexico area into the United States. The BLO, former transportation experts for the Sinaloa Cartel, is most active along the East Coast and is also responsible for the majority of heroin in the DEA Denver area of responsibility. Las Moicas is a Michoacán-based organization with former LFM links, but remains a regional supplier in California and operate on a smaller scale relative to other major Mexican TCOs.”

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May 122016
 

The 2016 hurricane season in Mexico for Pacific coast storms starts on 15 May and lasts until 30 November. For Atlantic storms, the hurricane season extends from 1 June to 30 November, though most hurricane activity is concentrated in the months from July to September. Hurricanes are also known as typhoons or tropical cyclones.

The table shows the World Meteorological Organization’s official list of 2016 tropical storm and hurricane names. Note that male and female names alternate. Names are often reused in future years, with the exception of the names of any particularly violent storms, which are officially “retired” from the list for a long time.

2016 Hurricane Names for the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean
AlexGastonLisaRichard
BonnieHermineMatthewShary
ColinIanNicoleTobias
DanielleJuliaOttoVirginia
EarlKarlPaulaWalter
Fiona

2016 Hurricane Names for the Eastern Pacific
AgathaGeorgetteMadelineTina
BlasHowardNewtonVirgil
CeliaIvetteOrleneWinifred
DarbyJavierPaineXavier
EstelleKayRoslynYolanda
FrankLesterSeymourZeke

saffir-simpson-scale

In their early season forecast for this year, Philip Klotzbach and William Gray, researchers at Colorado State University,  expect hurricane activity in the Atlantic to be near-normal (ie close to the 30-year average). They predict that in the 2016 season 13 named storms will form in the Atlantic: 5 tropical storms, 6 moderate hurricanes (1 or 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale), and 2 severe hurricanes (3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale). These forecasts will be updated on 2 June and 31 July.

Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season was slightly below average in activity with 11 named storms: 5 tropical storms, 4 moderate hurricanes and 2 severe hurricanes. On the other hand, the 2015 Pacific hurricane season was the second most active on record, with 26 named storms, including 11 severe hurricanes.

In 2016, for the Pacific coast, Mexico’s National Meteorological Service (Servicio Metrológico Nacional, SMN) is expecting 17 named storms: 8 tropical storms, 5 moderate hurricanes (1 or 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale), and 4 severe hurricanes (3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale).

For the Atlantic coast, SMN) is expecting 13 named storms: 7 tropical storms, 4 moderate hurricanes and 2 severe hurricanes. On both coasts, these predictions indicate a slight increase in storm activity compared to long-term averages. The SNM publishes regular updates on hurricane activity (in Spanish) on its webpage and via its Twitter account: @huracanconagua.

Hurricanes and other climatological phenomena are analyzed in chapters 4 and 7 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Buy your copy today, so you have a handy reference guide available whenever you need it.

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Apr 212016
 

Mexico is by far the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of avocados. Production topped 1.3 million metric tons last year, well ahead of the USA (240,000 tons) and Chile (205,000 tons). Mexico’s avocado exports have risen by a staggering 414% over the past eight years to more than 600,000 metric tons in 2015, worth close to US$2 billion.

logo_brands_avocados-from-mexicoThe state of Michoacán is by far the most important single state in Mexico for avocado farms and accounts for 8 out of very 10 avocados sold in the USA, according to the Association of Avocado Producers, Packers and Exporters of Michoacán (APEAM). APEAM says that more than 50% of all the avocados consumed in the world come from Michoacán. In the town of Tancítaro, one of the main centers for avocado-growing, APEAM estimates that nine out of every 10 pesos can be traced back to avocado production. Mexico’s avocado industry employs more than 300,000 people in total, 100,000 directly and over 200,000 indirectly.

Many avocado farms are quite small. Mexico has more than 12,000 avocado producers with individual farms under five hectares in size. As noted in this previous post, the clearance of land for avocado cultivation can barely keep up with the ever-increasing demand.

Problems with drug cartel activity continue. As we noted a few years ago, narcos insist on their cut of the profitable avocado business and have made life difficult for growers, traders and truck drivers. The Wall Street Journal has reported that this makes Michoacán avocados the equivalent of African blood diamonds. Avocado producers reportedly have to pay cartels up to 1,000 pesos (US$60) a hectare to avoid problems.

Cartels aside, export success looks set to continue for a while longer, since China and South Korea have now opened their markets to receive Michoacán avocados.

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Apr 142016
 

Mexico is the world’s ninth largest coffee producer and second largest producer of organic coffee. However, coffee production in Mexico in recent years has been affected by adverse weather conditions (untimely rainfall, frosts, excess humidity) which have been ideal for the expansion of coffee rust disease (roya del café) in many production areas. The 2015/16 coffee production forecast is for 3.3 million 60/kg bags (sacks), the same as the 2014-15 total production, and much lower than historical production outputs of around 5 million bags.

About 35% of Mexico’s coffee production area is located at elevations of 900 meters or higher above sea level; another 43.5% grows between 600 and 900 meters. Coffee grown at the higher elevations is generally higher quality than that grown at lower elevations.

Mexico's exports: coffee

Coffee, one of Mexico’s most important agricultural exports

Mexico has about 500,000 coffee farmers, looking after 600,000 hectares of coffee trees in twelve states. Plantations in the states of Chiapas, Veracruz, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Puebla account for about 93% of total production. Almost all coffee-growing areas have been affected by outbreaks of coffee rust. The most affected states are Veracruz, with about 70% of the area affected, and Chiapas with about 60% of the area affected. About 40% of the coffee planted area nationwide has been affected somewhat by coffee rust.

Coffee rust is a fungal disease that can cause plant defoliation. In moderate cases, leaf defoliation reduces plants’ ability to produce fruit (the seeds of which are the actual coffee bean). In serious cases, the trees will die. The rust has spread northward from Central America, and reached Chiapas 4-5 years ago.

coffee

The Agriculture Secretariat (SAGARPA) has responded by installing about 35 nurseries in states most affected, growing coffee plant varieties resistant to rust. But these trees will need about 4 years to come into production so government officials do not expect coffee production to rebound until 2019. Sagarpa’s objective is to renew at least 250,000 hectares before the end of this administration’s term in 2018.

The SAGARPA program, aiming to increase coffee production and productivity, includes US$83 per producer as incentive, technical assistance packages of up to $140 dollars per hectare, and 500 coffee plants to renovate coffee plantations, as 80% of plants are old and less productive and often rust-prone.

However, coffee organizations complain that resources are not reaching the affected areas fast enough and that program implementation has been too localized instead of having a nation-wide strategy.

Some state governments and international companies are offering support for various types of price-enhancing certifications such as organic, Fair Trade etc. Some indigenous communities are planting their coffee trees among other trees like lime and avocado to diversify production and provide shade that helps coffee quality and enhances eligibility for value-added certifications like Rainforest Alliance and Shade Grown.

As production techniques continue to evolve, some producers have increased plant density from 2600 plants per hectare to 5000 plants per hectare.

Shade grown coffee

Shade grown coffee

Recent figures suggest that about 96% of Mexico’s coffee is of the Arabica variety. The remaining 3-4% is the Robusta variety, used in the production of instant coffee. Mexico is importing large quantities of Robusta variety coffee beans as the large Nestle plant in the city of Toluca has been increasing its output of instant (soluble) coffee. However, Nestle has also increased the use of Arabica coffee in its products. SAGARPA is now supporting the planting of Robusta coffee to decrease coffee bean imports and to support Mexico’s goal of becoming a major producer of soluble coffee.

Mexico is also producing excellent organic coffee, a trend which is increasing among producers. However,  coffee rust has hit areas of organic coffee more than conventional plantings. According to SAGARPA, about 7 to 8% of growers are cultivating organic coffee, mainly for export.

About 40% of Mexican coffee production is marketed for local consumption, according to AMECAFE, and the remaining 60% is for export. The USA continues to be the main international market for Mexican green coffee beans.

Domestic consumption

Coffee consumption in Mexico has been increasing, with estimates of up to 2.6 million 60 kg. bags total usage this year, and consumption (of roasted and soluble coffee) at between 1.3 and 1.5 kg/person.

The importation of coffee is expected to rise in 2016, in order to meet domestic demand.

Increased consumption has been driven by government and retail advertising and by the growing number of specialty coffee shops in Mexico. (Starbucks alone has opened 500 coffee shops in Mexico). Soluble coffee still makes up about 68% of domestic consumption but ground coffee consumption is increasing among the middle class, whilst high-income consumers often want fashionable value-added imported coffee.

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Apr 072016
 

In August 2012, in The value in Mexico of unpaid work in the home, we saw that a study by the National Statistics Institute (INEGI) based on 2010 data had calculated that routine work done in the home (almost 80% of the time-value involved comes from women) was worth about 2.9 trillion pesos to the Mexican economy each year, equivalent to more than 20% of Mexico’s GDP. The INEGI calculations included the costs in time/labor needed to meet the demands of the home, and the net salary that would be paid for someone undertaking similar tasks.

INEGI has just published updated statistics on this topic.  In 2014, unpaid work by women in the home was equivalent to 18% of GDP. This figure means that female contributions in the home continue to make a greater contribution to national GDP than manufacturing (16.7%), commerce (15.5%) or education (4.1%).

The latest INEGI figures show that for every 10 hours that women work (paid or unpaid), men work only 8.3 hours. According to INEGI, the average value of unpaid work by women in the home in rural areas amounted to  51,808 pesos a year (about US$4300 at the then rate of exchange). The value for women married or living with a partner was 61,456 pesos, compared to 26,082 pesos for single women. The average in households which included children under 6 years of age was 60,628 pesos.

Of 29 million Mexicans in employment (in 5.7 million economic units), women account for 43.8% (graph):

% of women in different sectors of the workforce

% of women in different sectors of the workforce, 2014

The figures do reveal a slight decrease in gender inequality since the employment of women is rising slightly faster than that of men, by about 2.0%/year compared to the overall figure of 1.4%/year. In 2014, about 50% of service workers, 34.5% of manufacturing workers, and 11.0% of construction workers were female.

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Mar 072016
 

Tourism accounts for about 9% of Mexico’s GNI and provides almost 4 million direct jobs. In 2015, Mexico welcomed a record 32.1 million international tourists, making it the 10th most popular international destination in the world. They spent a combined $17.5 billion in the country. Almost 50% of these overseas visitors arrived by air; they accounted for 80% of total foreign tourist expenditures.

Mexico_Tourism

This year, tourism officials are predicting that 35 million international foreign visitors will holiday in Mexico, with total spending of 19 billion dollars. Officials believe, probably optimistically, that Mexico can attract 40 million tourists in 2018 and 50 million by 2030. They stress the need for policies that will result in more hotels, additional air routes, new attractions, and packages designed for niche markets including health, religion, and seniors-based tourism.

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New era for Federal Electricity Commission as it is split into four divisions

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on New era for Federal Electricity Commission as it is split into four divisions
Feb 112016
 

Mexico’s state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (Comisión Federal de Electricidad, CFE) has remained the dominant electric utility in Mexico for almost eighty years, even though most Latin American countries ended state monopolies in the 1990s. Now, Mexico’s on-going energy reforms are revamping the CFE behemoth by splitting it into four distinct entities focusing, respectively, on electricity generation, transmission, distribution and commercialization.cfe-619x348

  • Generation: CFE’s total installed capacity is 55,118 MW, coming from 628 generating units in 185 power stations.
  • Transmission: Mexico has 115,400 km of high voltage transmission line.
  • Distribution: CFE currently has 820,602 km of mid- and low-voltage lines, 1910 substations and 1.38 million distribution transformers. Distribution to domestic users is organized via 16 regional units: Baja California, Bajío, Centro Occidente, Centro Oriente, Centro Sur, Centro Norte, Golfo Norte, Jalisco, Noroeste, Norte, Oriente, Peninsular, Sureste, Valle de México Sur, Valle de México Centro and Valle de México Norte.
  • Commercialization: Includes the sales and billing to more than 38 million end-users, as well as the operations of two CFE subsidiaries (CFE Internacional and CFE Energía) involved in international trading.

In related news, Mexico’s energy regulatory body, the Centro Nacional de Control de Energía (CENACE) is introducing a market framework. Long-term energy and capacity Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) can now extend 15 years, with guaranteed commercialization of all power produced by each generation unit. This should provide a welcome boost to many renewable energy projects.

Mexico is committed to generating 35% of its energy from renewable sources by 2024. Hydro-electric and geothermal power plants have been important for a long time, and significant solar and wind-energy plants have been added in recent decades. A market system involving tradable Clean Energy Certificates (Certificados de Energías Limpias, CELs) is an integral part of the reforms.

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Does Quintana Roo share a border with Guatemala? Not any longer.

 Maps, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Does Quintana Roo share a border with Guatemala? Not any longer.
Jan 072016
 

The state of Quintana Roo is Mexico’s youngest state (together with Baja California Sur), though this is set to change when Mexico City is formally declared a state, probably later this year. Quintana Roo, established in 1974, is well known to tourists because its largest city is the tourist mega-resort of Cancún, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

The northern part of Quintana Roo has a shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico. To the west of Quintana Roo lie the states of Yucatán and Campeche. But what about the southern limit of the state? Does it, or does it not, share a border with Guatemala?

In the early 1990s, the answer to this question was certainly “yes”, but things have changed since then, and the correct answer today is “not any longer”.

Boundary disputes in Yucatan Peninsula

  • Source: INEGI Map of the Disputed Areas

The state officially claims an area of 44,705 square kilometers (17,261 sq mi), but since 1996-97 there has  been a boundary dispute with the states of Yucatán and Campeche over an area of approximately 10,200 square kilometers (3,900 sq mi).

The contentious boundary issue arose when Campeche delimited a new municipality, Calakmul, in the south-east part of the state, and in doing so “annexed” a piece of Quintana Roo. This shifted the boundary between the two states towards the east, with a knock-on effect that the state of Yucatán also lost a small amount of territory to Campeche. However, Yucatán State simultaneously gained ground from Quintana Roo (see map). Confused? Well, that is really only the beginning, since the states of Yucatán and Campeche also dispute their shared boundary further north.

Confused administrative boundaries are never an easy thing to fix, and land boundary disputes are rife in Mexico at every level, so getting municipal, state and federal authorities to agree on a resolution takes time. The major Campeche-Quintana Roo dispute arose in the late 1990s, but was only finally settled, somewhat arbitrarily by federal court, in 2013. The court sided with Campeche, and Quintana Roo lost its border with Guatemala.

Oh dear… our Geo-Mexico map of Quintana Roo is now out of date!

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Dec 212015
 

The National Statistics Institute (INEGI) has released the results of its inter-census study carried out in March 2015 which involved visits to more than 7 million households across the country.

Children in Zitácuaro, Michoacán. Photo: Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

Children in Zitácuaro, Michoacán. Photo: Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

As of March 2015, Mexico’s total population was 119,530,753 (48.6% male, 51.4% female), up from 111,954,660 million in 2010, a growth rate averaging 1.4% a year. This is the first time for 45 years that the rate of growth has not fallen. Analysts had expected a 1.2% growth rate over the period, but attribute the 1.4% figure to a slightly higher fertility rate than anticipated, together with an unexpected fall in the number of young people emigrating from Mexico. [Note that the total population figure is slightly lower than the figure released in July from Mexico’s National Population Council (Conapo) of 121,783,280.]

Since 2010 the proportion of seniors (over age 65) has risen from 6.2% to 7.2% of the total, and the proportion of households headed by a female is up from 25% to 29%. The median age in Mexico is now 27 years. The youngest median age is in Chiapas (23), the oldest in the Federal District (33). Overall, Mexico’s dependency ratio is falling, continuing a period of “demographic dividend“.

INEGI found that the number of households in Mexico is rising 2.4% a year and now totals about 32 million, giving an average number of 3.7 occupants/household. 98.7% of homes have electricity, 74.1% have piped water inside the building, a further 20.4% outside the building but on the property; 75.6% connected to drainage.

Mexico’s most populated states remain the State of Mexico, the Federal District (Mexico City) and Veracruz, while the smallest states in terms of population are Baja California, Campeche and Colima. The most populated municipality is Iztapalapa (1.8 million), followed by Ecatepec (1.7 million) and Tijuana (1.6 million). The most rapidly growing municipality in the entire country is Pesquería, in Nuevo León, which has grown a startling 35.2% a year since 2010, mainly because of the new Kia vehicle factory opening there.

The item of inter-census news that attracted most press attention was INEGI’s so-called discovery that there were 1.4 million black Mexicans. This was hardly news to most demographers, but the inter-census survey was the first time INEGI had included a question aimed at identifying Afro-Mexicans, as a pilot question for the full 2020 census: “Based on your culture, history and traditions, do you consider yourself black, meaning Afro-Mexican or Afro-descendant?”

INEGI did indeed find that about 1.4 million citizens (1.2% of the population) self-identified as “Afro-Mexican” or “Afro-descendant”, with significantly more women opting for the category than men (755,000 women; 677,000 men).

It was no surprise to find that most Afro-Mexicans live in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Veracruz. The survey showed that Mexico’s self-identified black population is not currently disadvantaged in terms of access to education and health services or work opportunities, putting it well ahead of Mexico’s indigenous population in that regard.

Afro-Mexican activists welcomed the inter-census question and results, but called for Mexico’s history books to reflect their contribution. Benigno Gallardo, an Afro-Mexican activist in Guerrero, pointed out that, “In school they teach our children about Europeans and indigenous natives, but the history books practically don’t recognize our history.”

Certainly more awareness of the long history of Afro-Mexicans is badly needed. For example, how many people realize that Blacks outnumbered Spaniards in Mexico until after 1810 or that Vasconcelas’ “Cosmic Race” (La “Raza Cósmica”) excluded Mexico’s African heritage?

Want to learn more? A good place to start is Bobby Vaughn’s website Afro-Mexico or his Black Mexico Home Page, Afro-Mexicans of the Costa Chica, on MexConnect, which provide links to several of his articles including Blacks in Mexico. A Brief Overview.

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Nov 292015
 

Line 12 of Mexico City’s Metro (subway) system was originally opened in October 2012. The new line, also known as the Golden Line, extended the city’s metro system into several lower income areas in the south-eastern part of the city, including Tlahuac, Milpa Alta, Xochimilco and Iztapalapa.

However, in March 2014, the elevated (above ground) 14-kilometer-long (9 mi) southern section of this line between Tlahuac and Atlalilco stations was closed for emergency repairs. A replacement bus system was established between those stations. According to a report in the Mexico City daily Reforma (citing a study by ILF Consulting Engineers), the design of tracks in that section had resulted in damage to the wheels of several metro trains. It also resulted in the failure of an electric cable and caused cracks and fractures in the track supports. Authorities have blamed some former city officials, together with the line’s builders, a consortium comprised of France’s Alstom and the Mexican companies ICA and Carso.

Metro Line 12 was finally fully reopened 20 months later, on 29 November, 2015. Line 12 is the longest line in the city’s metro network,extending 25 km (15.5 miles), with 20 stations, including four transfer points. In terms of network connectivity, it added an important east-west link connecting four lines that serve the southern section of the metro area. Line 12 runs from Mixcoac (Line 7) to Tlahuac in the southeast of Mexico City, intersecting with line 3 at Zapata, line 2 at Ermita and line 8 at Atlalilco.

Mexico-City-Metro-MapOfficials estimate that the line, which has both underground and overground sections, eliminates 860 buses from the city’s congested streets, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 22,000 metric tons a year. It cost about $1.8 billion to construct.

Mexico City metroBetween 400,000 and 450,000 passengers are now expected to use Line 12 daily. It is expected to cut the average daily commuting time from those parts of the city it serves by more than an hour a day, from 150 minutes to 78 minutes. The line is only accessible by using the new metropolitan smart transport card “Tarjeta DF”.

The complete network of 12 lines comprising Mexico City’s metro system, used by more than 5 million passengers a day, now has 195 stations and a total length of about 227 km (141 miles).

Will the line eventually be extended?

In January 2013, officials of Mexico City’s Metro system (Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, STC)  announced that they were considering extending Line 12 westwards into the Álvaro Obregón district of the city. This is still being talked about. STC’s Managing Director Joel Ortega Cuevas also said that an analysis was needed of the viability of extending the Metro network to reach several major commuting routes in the State of México (see map), including Ecatepec-Coacalco-Zumpango; Chalco-Ixtapaluca; Naucalpan-Tlalnepantla-Cuautitlán; Atizapan-Naucalpan and Chimalhuacan-Nezahualcóyotl.

Spatial growth of Mexico City Metropolitan Area (based on Geo-Mexico Fig 22.2; all rights reserved)

Spatial growth of Mexico City Metropolitan Area (based on Geo-Mexico Fig 22.2; all rights reserved)

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