MUCA's 'Ghost Walker' Project Seeks to Uncover Part of Mexico City's Past
Simon Schatzberg - The News
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August 5, 2016

The 600 year history of Mexico City as seen through a Diego Rivera mural in the national palace in Mexico City. (LucidLorax )

“Ghost Walker: una caminata imposible por la historia de la Ciudad de México” (Ghost Walker: an Impossible Walk Through Mexico City’s History), an exhibit forming part of the “Ghost Walker” project, a multimedia project about a historical transportation route in Mexico City that was erased by urbanization, opened Thursday in the University Museum of Science and Art (MUCA) in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. A Modelab project, which describes itself as “an interdisciplinary agora for social and artistic research,” “Ghost Walker” includes a video, a digital book and an exhibition that can be viewed at MUCA until Aug. 14.

The “Ghost Walker” project began with comparisons between 19th-century maps of the western part of the Cuauhtémoc borough, which underwent rapid European-style planned urbanization in the second half of the 19th century, with contemporary maps. Studying two maps — one from 1867 and one from 1893 — Modelab directors Rodrigo Azaola and Claudia Arozqueta noted the presence of a route that was inconsistent with the contemporary planning of the Juárez and Cuauhtémoc neighborhoods.

“In these two maps, we found a discrepancy: there was an established route cutting through street grids, although we know that the Juárez and Cuauhtémoc neighborhoods were already there,” said Azaola.

According to historian Sergio Miranda Pacheco, the route began as an irrigation canal when the area was drained, and remained as the area was reincorporated into the Hacienda de la Teja. As urbanization began in the 19th century, the route became an important walking path for farmers to transport produce between farms, markets and their homes. It was only near the turn of the century, when lots were divided and street plans — that had been in effect since Maximilian’s reign — were fully established, that the Ghost Walker route disappeared, or was made impossible.

“The Ghost Walker route was erased by development,” writes Miranda Pacheco, “but it permanently stamped itself on contemporary cartography.”

The “Ghost Walker” exhibition will be displayed at MUCA, on Tonalá 51, until Aug 14. The bilingual digital book can be downloaded here.

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