aqui (3) : extinct/endangered
it all started with a night on the town. i led the group. we drove up eje central, and somehow missed el 33. we reached plaza garibaldi, u-turned for another try. nothing. we stopped the car. i crossed the street and realized when i reached the corner that the rubble in front of me was the 33, its remains, anyway. it had been demolished. bye bye. no more. nothing left. no one cares. i was shocked. i wanted to puke. i called miss m and gave her the tragic news. she thought i was joking. we never took pictures. a few weeks later we returned and a fugly "social housing" apartment block was being built. it was raining. a few months later, the hotel bamer, one of the last refuges in the centro (that kept its original progressive accretion of interior styles from 50's cool to 70's beaurocratic barroque) was closed for "refurbishment." i took pictures of the empty insides from the window. everything was gone or faded: the grand fiberglass greek sculptures and grand piano in the lobby, the mirrored walls and fake pink marble tables and coral-colored polyester roses of the bamerette (the cafeteria). i thought it was the end. i was desperate. the wasteland of crooked empty building skeletons that towered over the alameda as a testimony to the 1985 earthquake were cleansed and replaced with sparkling generic business class hotels.
the drive behind my work and involvement with the centro has been profoundly emotional. downtown mexico city is an area I’ve been fixed on making my own since i was a teenager. the more I scouted the centro, the more it became a place both exotic and intimate, a site of complexities: awful, decadent, vibrant, rude, stunning, nerve-racking, revealing. it stood as a total compression and concentration of what the city is, has been, could be. then the “rescate” (rescue) came. buildings have been demolished or revamped. empty lots turned into mixed-use developments with rooftop swimming pools. part of the centro has been permanently erased. nonetheless, instead of an attempt at saving hints of what’s left and retracing old places, i have tried to dissect the sites and processes of the gentrification scheme, hoping to build alternatives for reactivation instead of renewal.