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«GATED COMMUNITIES IN CIUDAD DEL CARMEN, CAMPECHE, MEXICO. Armando García Chiang1 Myrna Delfina López Noriega2 Introduction During the three last ...»

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Armando García Chiang1

Myrna Delfina López Noriega2


During the three last decades, Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche has shown

drastic changes in its demographic, political, economic and social environment

as in its environmental conditions. In it, an accelerated and disorderly urban

growth has caused significant impacts on the natural conditions of the Island in

detriment of its ecosystems. The detonator of this process has been the presence in the coasts of the most important oilfields in Mexico.

Ciudad del Carmen is the head-board of Carmen Municipality, which is composed by several islands known in their totality like Isla del Carmen. The main island has a large shape that occupy near of 40 kilometers and its widest part has a little more than 10 kilometers. The urbanization process that has taken place in this city has encouraged, on a hand, the development of closed residential complex for to the middle and upper social classes. On the other hand, that same process has led the installation of housing zone in unhealthy areas and dangerous in many cases, thereby encouraging the social exclusion.

In Mexico the phenomenon of closed communities is related to social and economic asymmetry. Poverty and marginalization, poor settlements, infrastructure and deficient equipment, daily insecurity, point to make an overview of cities where inequalities and the weak quality of life are common. In this environment closed neighborhoods arose as urban islands that remove the social and economic penury to be defined as safe, exclusive, comfortable and chords to a privileged lifestyle.

Profesor investigador, Facultad de Ciencias Económico Administrativas, Universidad Autónoma del Carmen, Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, México.

Profesor investigador, Facultad de Ciencias Económico Administrativas, Universidad Autónoma del Carmen, Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, México.

This paper shows, in first place, the background’s process of actual urbanization. In a second place, this work analyse the social consequences that the residential closed complex creation has brought and poses a central question: Are the gated communities creating a new identity?

The urbanization process in Ciudad del Carmen Ciudad del Carmen is the head-board of Carmen Municipality,3 which is composed by several islands known in their totality like Isla del Carmen. The main island has a large shape that occupy near of 40 kilometers and its widest part has a little more than 10 kilometers.

According to Berlin (1959); Álvarez & Casasola (1985); Ochoa & Espinosa (1987) and Izquierdo (1997), in this territory, we can find evidences of the Mesoamerican cultural development since the Preclasic period: 5,000 b.o.a a.o.a.

The first reference in the urban history of the city is 1716, when it was established in its territory the presidium of Laguna de Terminos. Nine year after, it was begun the urbanization of the Carmen Ville and brought different human groups that will form the civil population of the conglomerate (Rubio 1983).

Many years after, in the presence of more habitants, it is established what today is the neighbourhood of the Guanal. From it, the city starts to conform itself from the widest part of the island and other neighbourhoods are development. La Puntilla, the most ancient neighbourhood of the fishers, was developed in the south of the city. In the downtown, the quarter of Tila or Pueblo Nuevo and Santo Domingo, that signs the limits of the city. (Bolivar, 1996, 1999).

With the capture of the shrimp, since the 50’s appeared new quarters: the Tous, Pallas and Tecolutla. The city was distinguished for narrow and irregular streets yet, where were utilised the space generating protection as the intense solar rays as the strong wits that spank the island.

El municipio del Carmen comprende las comunidad de Sabancuy, la isla del Carmen y península de Atasta.

When the shrimp industry was across a crisis, started the exploration in the Sonda de Campeche by Petroleos Mexicanos and appeared and oil boom who transformed and small fishers village in and chaotic urban entity, in a thirty years period.

The petroleum and the beginning of an exponential urban growth

As a result of a geographical position and the presence of important natural resources, Ciudad del Carmen has been concentrating services for the distribution of capital goods and consumption (Centre of Urban and Architecture Studies, 2005), placing it as a highly attractive site for workforce migrations.

However it is up to the 70’s, as a result of the arrival of Petroleos Mexicanos and its consequent concentration of economic activity, which gives a rapid and radical change in its urban system, where the spoil of the structure and urban image of the city is in clear relation to structural changes in the economy, population growth and changes in patterns of housing, transportation and consumption.

The rapid population growth, from the presence of the immigrated workers who joined to the resident population, caused a lack of hoses, services and infrastructure. The urban structure was exceeded by the large number of settlements in areas of mangroves and estuaries, causing an ecological and non repairable damage. Colonies as La Manigua, La Puntilla, San Miguel and EL Limonar in other, still have deficient or inadequate services for their residents as a result of this rapid and excessive growth.

According to the Centre of Urbanism and Architecture Studies (2005), the presence of activities related to the oil extraction activity in the Island reflects an overview of economic boom, from which not all the Carmelite society participate. The existence of a surplus of immigrant workers in search of employment, is joined to the resident population and generates an overload of demand for services and housing, which press and infringe the capacity of urban city support in the city. That has led to a process of peripheral urbanization based in invasions where even the flooded zones are filled land with debris in order to gain access to land for housing.

In this direction, is possible to argue that the strong impact of oil extraction, has led significant changes in the economic structure of the entity. In fact, the influence of activities linked to oil is such that it can be argued that Ciudad del Carmen corresponds to what the Secretary of Social Development identified as "oil city". In this kind of city, there is a paradoxical situation because they generates 10 percent of national wealth but they have marked mechanisms that provokes poverty, proliferation of informal settlements, weakening of the social relations, lack of attention to social problems and a significant environment’s spoil. About this, it is important to stress that although there are cities like Poza Rica, Veracruz and Tampico, where the influence of the oil industry is reflected in the urbanizations processes, it is possible to argue that Ciudad del Carmen, is the Mexican population where this process is in the best expression (GarcíaChiang, López Noriega, 2009).

The aspects that have been developed up this point, presents a situation that shows an urban planning that has failed in its objectives. However, it should be noted that in the case of Ciudad del Carmen, two plans have tried to shape the urban view.. The first one was the Urban Program Director of Carmen established in 1986.In it was proposed an urban design based on rings, which proved ineffective and had to be modified six years later, choosing an orthogonal structure that was trying to incorporate the areas of palm and establish nature reserves. The update of that program, realized in 1992 formed the basis for the Programme Manager Urban 1993, which aimed to achieve a development that should be balanced and inclusive of the urban activities, fishing, tourism and support the exploration and exploitation of oil.

According to the Urban Program Director, action programmes with highly impact


• The constitution of land stocks in the east of Ciudad del Carmen and in the area of Puerto Rico-Zacatal, by the west of the city, to regulate the land and housing market, incorporating the areas of growth in a tidy form, through the realization of partial programmes for development.

• The setting standards of zoning and land use to regulate the facilities, uses and destinations in urban areas, and avoid incompatibility between the ability of the developed urban area and infrastructure systems, roads, transport, equipment and public services.

To achieve these goals, it was proposed to curb the growth of urban areas on the streams, delineate areas that can be evicted and offer alternatives for relocating their occupants. Also, was projected to avoid settlements in flood areas destining them for recreational uses.

The plan was searching to improve the structure of two great urban areas:

Ciudad del Carmen, in short term, and the Atasta Peninsula, in medium term. It was retained in general, the location of businesses, with some adjustments derivative of the occupation of land reserves. However, the outline was not respected in some ways and areas to the centres, urban sub-centres and industry.

On other hand, it must be emphasized the importance of the Habitat program, which was created to serve the urban population in poverty. This program sought to improve the environment with infrastructure and services in order to create the material conditions to raise the life’s quality of the residents through social programs of community development. In Ciudad del Carmen had two concrete expressions. The first one is the neighbourhood Ca of Caleta North and the second is the Caracol. (Habitat, 2004).

The plans mentioned above, had a partial success by avoiding more settlements in flooded areas. However, one of its most interesting aspects, as was the proposal for an urban growth to the west of the city in the area of Puerto Rico-Zacatal, didn’t have follow-up. According that, it is worth noting that that area corresponds to the Atasta Peninsula, is linked to the city by a bridge with more than three kilometres-long and exist substantial reserves of land where people can build. Nevertheless, the bridge Zacatal-Carmen seems to work more as a mental border than a real one.

Urban evolution in the XX century

–  –  –

Residential neighborhoods and peripheral urbanization The rapid and anarchic urbanization process that has taken place in Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, has been complicated by a segmented urban growth caused by gated communities. In this regard, it should be noted that in the paper entitled "Closed Urbanizations, covenants and problems," Callies (2002) makes the translation of "gated community" as "locked urbanization", defining "community" as a sociological term, while the term "gated" has a physical-urban sense.

In Mexico the phenomenon of closed communities is related to social and economic asymmetry. Poverty and marginalization, poor settlements, infrastructure and deficient equipment, daily insecurity, point to make an overview of cities where inequalities and the weak quality of life are common. In this context is where closed neighborhoods arose as urban islands that remove the social and economic penury to be defined as safe, exclusive, comfortable and chords to a privileged lifestyle.

Life in gated communities is the most generic expression of the quality of the residential space and has been in recent years materially outlined by physical limits of elementary explanation: self-segregation, how it has been pointed "advocates the legalization of itself space through real mechanisms, physical and symbolic presences of beauty "(Mendez, 2002), referring periodic that mainly surround a conclusive evidence regarding to the feeling of the difference.

Houses of communities occupied by small groups of the population who currently lead the reins of the privileged lifestyles, define the constructed space where the social elite area is arranged. Its high levels of power in society have always made possible to establish relationships and social hierarchies that maintain direct relationships with organizations and figures of territory and are reduced into a spatial placement that we interpret as manifestations of social segregation in space, limits of separation with the rest of the city in all realms of social life that have established “space lines between social groups" (Mendez, 2002), an interrupted flow for relations between the city habitants that has been a constant in the territorial history formulation, a trait sustained in the history of land possession.

Thinking about the type of architecture and urbanism localized in the border towns space Mendez (2007) takes up the early experiences of enclosure observed in Mexico to reach the gated community as we know it today with the walls, the interior ostentatious that stress with the poverty of the surrounding environments and the community sense of an artificial social construction as wealthy classes.

The spatial reordering linked to these new forms of production and

appropriation of the city must be understood in a context marked by two trends:

the global integration and segregation at the local level.

The characteristics of the process of forming gated communities as it was described above are applicable to the urbanization process in Ciudad del Carmen. With the characteristic that in the formation and development of such gated communities the decisive factor has been the point of the social status and not a security consideration.

In that direction, a first aspect is to address the Housing Law, housing units, condominiums and use of properties in the State of Campeche, through which is pretended to regulate the urbanization process in Ciudad del Carmen. This law distinguishes five types of : I.-Residential neighborhood, II.- Popular neighborhood; III.- Country Club ;.- Industrial IV and V. farms.

In the fifteen articles that address the issue of Housing Law, there are impediments to develop a closed urbanization according to the characteristics described before, so, as the Residential and popular neighborhoods, must have shopping areas. This fact, hamper formally the own functionality of closed complexes which we deal, in exception to the Country Club housing units.

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