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Flowers and iron fists: Ernesto P. Uruchurtu and the contested modernization of Mexico City, 1952-1966

Robert M Jordan, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Under the tenure of Ernesto P. Uruchurtu as regent of Mexico City from 1952-1966, the city underwent a process of modernization and moralization within the context of an economic boom period known as the "Mexican miracle." Known for both his emphasis on the beautification of the public spaces of the city as well as his draconian crackdowns on poor, rural migrants to the capital, Uruchurtu is Mexico City's most famous regent and an icon of the political and social history of the city during this time period. His attempts to modernize Mexico City through innumerable urban renewal and construction projects represented attempts by the state to reshape the built environment as a means of controlling the social behaviors of the population by inscribing new meanings into the places and spaces of the city. In response to the implementation of such modernization and moralization projects on the city and its residents, many members of the population increasingly took action against the power of the state. Significant social confrontations with the physical manifestations of state control took place in the daily, lived experiences of city residents. Through the inscription of their own values, memories, and ideas onto the urban landscape, ordinary citizens sought to culturally reappropriate the city for their own ends. These conflicts between the state and the people situated on the built environment of the city had transformative political and social consequences for the shaping of the history of Mexico City and the nation. Uruchurtu and this period of Mexican history stand apart from the periods which preceded and succeeded it, a time of intense contradictions and transformations for life in Mexico City. His attempted modernization of the capital stands as a pivotal turning point for the nation, the monuments, buildings, and streets of the city carrying with them to this day powerful inscriptions of memory brought about by the struggles for power between the state and the people during Uruchurtu's tenure as regent.

Subject Area

Latin American history|Urban planning

Recommended Citation

Jordan, Robert M, "Flowers and iron fists: Ernesto P. Uruchurtu and the contested modernization of Mexico City, 1952-1966" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI3559161.