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Building the City through Culture: Puebla's Cultural Urban Assemblage (1987-2017)

Alberto López Cuenca, “Building the City through Culture: Puebla's Cultural Urban Assemblage (1987-2017)”,Social & Cultural Geography, 2019, (en coautoría con Emilia Ismael, Anne Kurjenoja y Leandro Rodríguez), DOI:

This article analyses the creation of a cultural urban assemblage in Puebla, Mexico, between 1987 and 2017. For three decades, Puebla city officials have relied on different understandings of culture to justify and implement public policies aimed at stimulating economic development and urban reorganization. New museums, parks, bike paths, multimedia projections and web applications have been created to encourage tourism and attract investment. We propose the concept ‘cultural urban assemblage’ to highlight the role of culture as a fluid notion that legitimizes public policies and urban interventions at the same time that it gives rise to actions of resistance and criticism from local actors. Antagonism, from artists whose works have been ignored, to citizens whose property has been expropriated has challenged the government’s strategies. We describe the creation of Puebla’s cultural urban assemblage through three distinctive episodes, each of which exemplifies shifts in the practices and discourses of culture: the patrimonialization of culture as a takeover (1987–1999); cultural heritage in transition: protection as an economic venture (1999–2011); and culture as a resource for urban capital appreciation (2011–2017). These three episodes will help us illustrate the heterogeneous, stabilizing and antagonistic aspects at work in Puebla’s cultural urban assemblage.

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