A shout out to Marcia Ambler for sharing, via email, her memories of Mexico City in the 1950s. Among other things, she recalled how she lived as a child with her family, “in a suburb of Mexico City, where there was a deep barranca with people who lived as cliff dwellers in the barranca walls. There was also a cave nearby with a deep drop which I went in with my friends.”
Her email brought back some fond personal memories of Mexico City from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Shortly after I moved to the city, Time Life published The Great Cities: Mexico City, by John Cottrell. I found this book fascinating at the time, and a quick re-read earlier this week confirms that it still well worth looking for (inexpensive copies available via Abebooks) if you are interested in what makes one of the world’s largest cities tick.
Like most Time Life books, it is lavishly illustrated, which brings me back to the caves and cave dwellers, since one of the photos (above), by Harold Sund shows the area that Marcia remembers, and which was also my first introduction to the curious world of relatively modern-day troglodytes in Mexico City.
Sund’s photo shows the Belén de las Flores community, relatively close to western end of Chapultepec Park, though there may well have been, and almost certainly were, several similar settlements elsewhere. This short newspaper article, from the Bangor Daily News in 1978, describes the “year-round comfort” that can be enjoyed in such caves.
I haven’t had the opportunity to revisit this area of Mexico City for more than thirty years, so I’m anxious to know what it looks like now.
Sincere thanks, Marcia, for your message which certainly took me on a trip down memory lane!
Source of photo:
- John Cottrell. 1979. The Great Cities: Mexico City (Time Life Books, 1979). Photography by Harold Sund.
- The geography of Mexico City: index page
- Santa Fe, a case study of a real estate development on Mexico City’s periphery
- A case study of low-income housing on the urban periphery
- Vecindades, Mexico City’s inner-city slums (Jul 2010)
- Nezahualcoyotl, an irregular settlement which grew into a monster (Jul 2010)
- Informal settlements or “colonias populares” in Mexico’s cities