Boomtown Modernism: Urban Planning and Crisis Management in Tijuana, Mexico. 1960-1982.
This paper explores the federal government’s attempts to build a modern urban center in Tijuana and how these urban renewal efforts were embedded in a broader response to national emergencies. By examining this case study, I posit that modernist urban planning was flexible and could accommodate the state’s attempts to bolster its legitimacy. The time period studied is between 1960 and 1982. This interlude included the orchestration of a student massacre, a political crisis, a populist response to quell unrest, and finally a devastating economic crisis. In order to craft my argument I have examined blueprints, government memos, property deeds, memoirs, and mortgage information. This paper ultimately argues that national political crises made Tijuana’s urban renewal possible. Mexican modernist planning, unlike in other countries, served primarily to defuse national political problems. Contrary to the dominant narrative, this study suggests that the regime’s unraveling did not start with the 1968 student massacre. Instead, the traumatic 1982 economic crisis was central to the system’s decline. The economic crash halted the efforts to redevelop Tijuana and limited the government’s ability to obtain the population’s consent through government spending.