The Mexico City Barrio Giuliani Couldn’t Tame
Ten years ago Rudy Giuliani rolled through the Tepito barrio in Mexico City with a caravan of 300 security agents and a helicopter soaring above. The hood is internationally known for its dominating presence of informal vendors, known as ambulantes, and the many athletes and pop celebrities who were born there. But despite the well-off, famous people from Tepito, it is still one of Mexico City’s roughest barrios, which is why Giuliani’s specific expertise in urban cleansing was requested. He came to Mexico City in 2003 at the invitation of multibillionaire Carlos Slim and then-mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, with the goal of supporting the “rescue” of the city’s “crime infested” historic center.
It’s not hard to see why Slim and the mayor asked for Giuliani by name. During his time as mayor of New York, his implementation of the broken-windows theory and “quality of life” policing was very successful in pushing “undesirables” to the margins of the outer boroughs of the city. He even turned Times Square, which used tobe like this, into a lit-up carnival of Disneyland wonder by welcoming corporate investment with open arms. Could he do the same in Mexico City?
A decade after his visit and the set of 146 recommendations that came along with it—which cost the private local firm (Slim and others) who had agreed to pick up the tab $4.3 million—his policy advice has borne some fruit. Now you can walk the streets of the Historic Center at night and find trendy bars inhabited byturistas, hipsters, and local chilangos alike. Streets like Moneda are still home to hundreds of vendors who engage in a daily cat-and-mouse game with the cops, but mostly the ambulantes have been pushed out of the capital’s shiny new center. Still, head about a mile northwest of Zocalo, the central square, and you’ll find yourself in the calloused sore thumb of the city’s glorious plans, Tepito.