Contrary to popular belief in the US, not all working class barrios in Mexico are squalid and poverty-stricken. Those conditions do exist, and they tend to be further out from the city, or in illegal settlements that crop up on the fringes of the working class barrios closer to the center.
The barrio we are staying in, is a great example. Its bustling, a bit dirty, with a mix of working-class and middle class residents, most of whom work in Mexico City or Santa Fe. It also has a fabulous street market, one or two coffee shops, and a variety of buses that run constantly to the nearest Metro station about 15 minutes away.
In the barrios “popular” spreading out from CDMX, wood stud construction is rare. Buildings are low and square, with concrete skeletons and brick infill. The complexity of the electrical wiring providing service to the houses is mind boggling.
When budget permits, the walls are covered with plaster skin. if not, the structures with exposed walls are called “obra negra”.
Las casas squat solidly on the earth in the flatlands or dig into hillsides in terraced rows. You never see a house all by itself, population density precludes it, plus there is strength in numbers, especially in quasi-legal settlements.
The mindset of la gente de Mexico City accommodates two conflicting biases, perhaps inherited from their Spanish and Indigenous cultural mix - they are very distrustful of their neighbors, but a desire to live apart is unthinkable and highly suspect.
As the years pass, people add DIY rooms and second levels, brick by brick progress measured in paydays and sacks of Cemex.
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