According to Davies (2000) the distopian “‘cold’ frozen geometries” of US cities are being countered by Latino populations offering “a ‘hotter’, more exuberant urbanism” that is “tropicalizing” the city with colors, smells and new public spaces. Complimentary hopes, with fewer romantic and ethnic overtones, are being expressed for a resurgent civics as Latinos recast the discursive content of the public sphere (Valle & Torres, 2000). Yet, in Mexico, debates about public space draw deeply pessimistic observations of a growing commodification and ‘globalization’ diluting the representation of national, religious and indigenous spatial identities, and concerns around crime prompting gated communities and private security measures. In the public sphere, many consider that deeper institutional democracy has afforded less space to social movements and nongovernmental organizations, and an apathy to an active civics.
This paper takes a different perspective. I draw from the “Megaproject” of Santa Fe in Mexico City the largest urban development projects in Latin America during the 1990s and widely decried as insertion of a global urbanism imposed by undemocratic means for the benefit of transnational capital. The paper follows Fabian (1998) that there are many differentiated global spaces and a Lefebvrian perspective of everyday practice to show how urban spaces have been renegotiated and reframed, partly in response to unrealized economic growth, social polarization and urban violence, as well as an incipient social and cultural resistance. Although partially privatized, appropriation through everyday practices opens spaces to the possibility of transformation and subversion of their intended use. I follow the emergence of middle-income ‘street vendors’ providing food to office workers from the backs of cars, the use of the few public spaces for recreation, of proto social movements and the ‘mall youth’. Everyday contestation reveals “the local production of the global”.