Ecatepec as Mexico City’s Peripheral Edge

CLACS Blog 1
Hank Gonzles neighborhood in Ecatepec, Mexico State (Nidia Bautista)

Posted by Nidia Bautista – MA Candidate in Global Journalism and CLACS at NYU

Sitting in a cafe in the heart of Mexico City, my source, a high school teacher and organizer working in Ecatepec, Mexico State (Edomex), describes the most populous municipality in the country as a perfect example of the peripheral edge. Ecatepec is the periphery, he says, abundant in neoliberalism’s human waste and a place especially dangerous for women.

He has been organizing youth in Ecatepec to denounce feminicide through performance and protest for years and after initially talking via telephone we agree to meet in Mexico City’s Centro Histórico. As one of my first interviews upon starting my reporting, I felt safe conducting the interview in a neighborhood I’m very familiar with. I’ve spent over three years studying, working and reporting in Mexico City. Navigating the city comes easy for me and despite reports that the violence that’s plagued the rest of the country for years is now more visible in the capital, I have always felt comfortable traveling the city by myself. I have learned to be a fearless, confident, and street-savvy denizen in Mexico City.

This familiarity however was confined to the borders of the city and before this research trip I had traveled to Mexico State only a handful of times. Among other challenges, I have confronted the fear and uncertainty that comes with learning to navigate an unfamiliar and difficult transit system and asserting myself as a woman journalist in one of the most dangerous places for women in the country.

My research and reporting is on feminicide in Ecatepec. Just north of Mexico City, Ecatepec is a dangerous place for residents, journalists, outsiders and women. In thinking about how unfamiliar it was to me before this summer, I find myself thinking about what created the conditions for violence in Ecatepec. So far, it seems that the history of development, overpopulation, poverty and violence that created Ecatepec also laid the groundwork for extreme violence against women. There are many ways to analyze feminicide in Ecatepec and the ways in which the sociopolitical and economic geographies makes this violence possible. So far, the people who I have interviewed have explained this sense of precariousness in different ways.

Mexico State is Mexico’s most densely populated state and it’s been governed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party for more than eighty years. It’s been called the country’s fastest growing state with about 14% of its population. People who no longer fit in nor afford Mexico City started moving to the state in 1990. The fast and chaotic growth of the state resulted in the creation of poor infrastructure and services for residents as well as the existence of an informal economic market.

Neoliberalism, according to the source I met in the Mexico City coffee shop, created the periphery that hugs Mexico City and the problems that grow in it. Structural inequalities contextualize the violence in Ecatepec. A feminist geographer and teacher at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) also introduced me to the idea of “espacios feminicidas.” Power exists spatially she explained, on a municipal, state and national level in Mexico. From a feminist geography perspective, violence against woman is a cultural, political, social and ideological manifestation where power-gender relations play out in public space. In Ecatepec and in other parts of Edomex, women don’t feel comfortable walking the streets or in neighborhoods dominated by men involved in organized crime.

On a recent trip to Ecatepec, I rode the Mexicable, the cable car that crosses above a 4.8 kilometer stretch of the municipality. I saw Ecatepec from above, a different vision of the rolling hills of concrete homes that welcome me every time I drive in from northern Mexico City.  I peered down into people’s homes, empty lots, and twisted streets. My sources even pointed from above the exact spot where two women were murdered one night.

The nature and scope of my reporting is being shaped by my living and interviewing sources in Mexico City. I am learning that the character of this periphery is determined by the social conditions of its neighborhoods and by Mexico City, the place it exponentially grew out of.

I recently wrote a story about feminicide in Mexico City—it seems that while research about gender violence in Edomex and Juarez continues to grow, less people have been willing to pay attention to how this violence exists in the capital and political heart of the country. Perhaps all of Mexico has been always been an espacio feminicida. Perhaps it’s no longer possible to relegate violence to the periphery.

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