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Investigaciones geográficas

versão On-line ISSN 2448-7279versão impressa ISSN 0188-4611


SALAS BENITEZ, César Mauricio  e  LOPEZ LOPEZ, Álvaro. Spatial effects of cultural thematization for recreation and tourism in the pedestrian cultural corridors in Mexico City’s Historic Center. Invest. Geog [online]. 2019, n.98, 00008. ISSN 2448-7279.

This article examines the spatial effects derived from the rehabilitation and pedestrianization of the two most important cultural corridors of Mexico City’s Historical Center (CHCM): Regina-San Jerónimo and Madero-Gante-Condesa. In a bid to attract a greater number of visitors and investors to the city, now promoted as “Cultural Capital”, the local and federal governments have invested heavily on the recreation and tourism sectors of the city center’s economy.

Endowed with a substantial monumental patrimony, these two cultural corridors have a great potential for tourism and cultural consumption, and the diverse cultural amenities they offer have been packaged for promotion in the national and international markets by local administrations and businessmen alike.

The effects of the spatial processes involved in the rehabilitation and pedestrianization of these two corridors (namely, cultural thematization, land use changes towards leisure activities, space refunctionalization for recreational and tourism activities, the abandonment by lower-income residents, and the consequent arrival of the middle classes, among others) are positively and negatively perceived by different actors, according to their own perspective.

For the study of urban space in relation to leisure and recreational activities in a capitalist consumer society, in this article a theoretical-conceptual approach has been employed. This has allowed to confirm both the use of territory as a commodity and as an economic resource in a selective and differentiated manner, and the fact that space plays an important role as factor of production, as well as a social projection, through the materialization of certain tendencies. This is the case of the pedestrian cultural corridors, whose aim is to confer meaning to places for their usufruct.

The article explains how historical-cultural thematization has a tendency to build spaces on preexisting narratives, sometimes exacerbating their historical content, in order to generate spaces for consumption in a territory homogenized by cultural themes derived from policies and/or market demands. An incipient elitization or gentrification of space, manifest in the consequent occupation by high-income social strata following the abandonment by the lower-income population, is also identified.

Once the methodology has been expounded, the article proceeds to address the territorial configuration of the CHCM, placing special emphasis on its recreational and tourism organization and infrastructure. A review of the existing cultural patrimony projects by federal and local governments, as well as private entrepreneurs and sectors of civil society (including land use changes), reveals the specific weight accorded to these activities, a fact that is confirmed in the field by interviews to key actors.

The role of government offices, tourism agencies, and entrepreneurs in promoting the meaning and historical content associated to the thematization of these spaces in the media (printed magazines, tourist guides and electronic sources) is examined. In order to build an attractive product for visitors, consumers and tourists, in a landscape reminiscent of the pre-Hispanic and Colonial periods, the media presents an image of the CHCM as a cultural thematic space endowed with originality: simultaneously the seat of the ancient cultures that founded the City of Tenochtitlan, and a repository of an architectural heritage of the Colonial period.

Finally, the socio-spatial effects of land use changes from traditional neighborhood shops to recreation and tourism establishments are explored in both cultural corridors. The use of space by certain social strata is conditioned by the presence of certain actors, a circumstance that has led to the loss of social cohesion and local daily practices, the rise in the price of land rent, the abandonment of the area by lower income population, and the arrival of middle-class residents.

Palavras-chave : Tourism; heritage; theming; pedestrianization; rehabilitation.

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