Harvard University’s graduate school has made Mérida a class project. An entire course this semester has been devoted to studying contemporary Mérida and devising ideas for maintaining its citizens’ quality of life.
Now, with the semester winding down, the mayor is visiting Harvard today to review and discuss the students’ findings.
The university’s graduate school of design describes their focus as placing “students in the center of the debate about social housing design and affordability in Mexico.”
Mayor Mauricio Vila Dosal and the director of the Municipal Planning Institute (Implan), Edgardo Bolio Arceo, will be special guests of the university to respond to the results of the yet-unpublished study “Housing in Mérida, Urban and Territorial.”
All travel expenses and lodging in Boston are being covered by Harvard.
In February, Harvard researcher Diane E. Davis and a group of 30 students visited Mérida. They interviewed several architects, officials and real estate developers.
Davis is chairwoman of the Department of Urban Planning and Design and the author of Urban Leviathan: Mexico City in the Twentieth Century.
Social change has been constant since the henequen-based economy collapsed with the invention of nylon in 1938. In the last 30 years, the metropolitan area has grown from 444,000 to over a million inhabitants, while also multiplying in developed land area almost five times.
“This has strained local infrastructure, established the territorial conditions for environmental unsustainability, and relegated poorer residents to the periphery in ways that have reinforced social exclusion, exacerbated income segregation, and threatened the cultural and natural habitats of the city and its surrounding towns,” according to the course description.
These are among the dilemmas the students will address in their final report.
This is the fifth overseas trip for the mayor, and the third just this year. His official travels took him to New York in March, and have also taken him to Chile, Germany and Canada.