The edge of a megalopolis, where the city stops and space starts is a strange place. It is a playground of spontaneous decay and creation, a zone of garbage dumps, housing units, informal neighborhoods, prisons and gangs, corporate edge city’s and gated communities.
In 2009 Feike de Jong walked approximately 700 kilometers along the edge of one of the largest city’s in the history of mankind, the urban agglomeration around Mexico City. Since then he has specialized on the edge of the megalopolis, revisiting regularly. He started from the village of San Francisco Tecoxpa in Milpa Alta long one of the last vestiges of an indigenous culture going back to before the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. Staying in hotels and houses along the route he interviewed inhabitants seeking an understanding of their personal dynamics and interaction with their urban environment.
Some of the neighborhoods he traversed are famous in the urban history of Mexico City, Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl and Valle de Chalco with their origins in massive squatters’ movements, industrial villages swallowed by the city such as Ecatepec and Cuautitlan, traditional villages struggling to maintain their identity such as Milpa Alta and Xochimilco and the elite corporate edge city of Santa Fé.
Other places on the edge of the city have been integrated almost without notice into the urban fabric, such as the scattering of villages around an urban core of Nicholas Romero and the informal settlements high up along the skirts of the Sierra de Guadalupe.
The pictures accompanying the texts show the still spectacular landscape of the valley of Mexico with its volcanoes, dwindling lakes and mountain ranges. The uncanny space where the city stops and the countryside starts forms the backdrop of traditional festivals and commerce, lush woods and mountains, post-apocalyptic urban deserts and shopping malls.
Though a kaleidoscope of clashing impulses, poverty and wealth, modernity and tradition, rural and urban the edge of Mexico City can also be surprisingly transparent. People who have never been asked their opinion can be more forthright, urban processes are clearer in recently urbanized areas and the sharpness of contrast between different urban cultures the city’s periphery brings not only the city but also our contemporary, global, culture into greater relief.