Informal Metropolis


Informal Metropolis

Life on the Edge of Mexico City, 1940–1976

David Yee

Confluencias Series

300 pages
7 photographs, 1 illustration, 1 map, 1 table, index


November 2024


$99.00 Pre-order

November 2024


$30.00 Pre-order

About the Book

In the 1940s, as Mexican families trekked north to the United States in search of a better life, tens of millions also left their towns and villages for Mexico’s major cities. In Mexico City migrant families excluded from new housing programs began to settle on a dried-out lake bed near the airport, eventually transforming its dusty plains into an informal city of more than one million people.

In Informal Metropolis David Yee uncovers how this former lake bed grew into the world’s largest shantytown—Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl—and rethinks the relationship between urban space and inequality in twentieth-century Mexico. By chronicling the residents’ struggles to build their own homes and gain land rights in the face of extreme adversity, Yee presents a hidden history of land fraud, political corruption, and legal impunity underlying the rise of Mexico City’s informal settlements. When urban social movements erupted across Mexico in the 1970s, Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl’s residents organized to demand land, water, and humane living conditions. Though guided by demands for basic needs, these movements would ultimately achieve a more lasting significance as a precursor to a new urban citizenry in Mexico.

In the first comprehensive history of modern housing in Mexico City, Yee challenges widely held assumptions about urban inequality and politics in Mexico.


Author Bio

David Yee is an assistant professor of history at Metropolitan State University of Denver.


“A rich and compelling history of impunity and economic inequality during the long decade of the 1960s [in Mexico]. . . . Informal Metropolis is a remarkable work of historical scholarship and a must-read for all historians of Latin America interested in democracy, urbanization, labor, discrimination, corruption, state repression, and economic development that in its complex historical study of civil society successfully integrates local, national, and international levels of analysis.”—Jaime M. Pensado, author of Love and Despair: How Catholic Activism Shaped Politics and the Counterculture in Modern Mexico 
“Extraordinary in its contribution to the important and largely unexplored historical treatment of the dynamics of informal human settlements. The writing is accessible and engaging and will appeal to specialists in Mexico and Latin American studies as well as comparative urban historians, sociologists, economists, and urban planners.”—Christina M. Jiménez, author of Making an Urban Public: Popular Claims to the City in Mexico, 1879–1923

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Part I: Modernist Metropolis
Chapter 1: Mexico City at a Crossroads
Chapter 2: Mass Housing in the Mexican Metropolis
Part II: The Origins of Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl
Chapter 3: Land Politics on the Periphery
Chapter 4: Auto-Construcción in Ciudad Neza
Part III: The Echeverría Years
Chapter 5: Mortgaging the Revolution: The Early Years of Infonavit
Chapter 6: Strike: The Democratic Opening on the Urban Frontier
Chapter 7: Fineza and Land Regularization
Chapter 8: Serve the People: Liberation Theology in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl

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