Jun 302011

Which are more diverse: Mexico’s rural areas, or its cities?

At first glance, Mexico’s rural areas are all quite similar in that they lack the characteristics of Mexico’s large cities such as tall buildings, traffic congestion, modern shopping malls, bustling streets, heavy industry and the like. While rural areas are all similar in that they lack urban characteristics, Mexico’s rural areas are actually quite diverse. But is there really more diversity among Mexico’s rural communities than its cities?

The physical form and architecture of cities are essentially independent from their surrounding natural environments. On the other hand, rural settlements tend to be integrated more closely with the natural environment. For example, villages in the arid central plateau tend to be constructed of locally available adobe, which keeps residents relatively cool during the hot afternoons and warm during the colder nights. In the tropical parts of Mexico, rural settlements tend to be built with locally available tropical materials which keep the rain out, but let air breezes through to mediate the hot tropical climate.

Rural settlements all tend to rely heavily on farming as the basic economic activity. The surrounding natural environment essentially dictates the type of farming that is practiced. Obviously, farmers in the central plateau cannot successfully grow bananas, sugarcane and other tropical products requiring lots of water. However, varieties of corn are grown virtually everywhere in Mexico.

The social characteristics of Mexico’s rural areas are also very diverse compared to the cities. In general Mexican cities are quite similar from a social perspective. Social customs and mores, as well as social classes, are relatively constant from one city to the next. Spanish is the overwhelmingly dominant language in the cities. Rural communities in various parts of the country often have different social mores and customs. Communication in some rural areas is largely, if not almost exclusively, in local indigenous languages:

The diversity of Mexico’s almost 200,000 rural localities should not be confused with the relative homogeneity within any given rural community.

In conclusion, while diversity between rural areas may be greater than that between cities, there is usually far more diversity within a Mexican city than within any given rural community.

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