My thesis looks at the economy of remittances between Mexico and the US and their impact on architecture and urbanism in both countries. I specifically look at the Mexican community in Chicago and its hinterlands and how its speculative investments have not only helped to fund building projects in Mexico, but also had social and political consequences on both sides of the border. While the patterns of the financial flows are not always visible, a study into the history and materiality of architecture – first in Chicago itself and then in Mexico – make these processes more legible.
I examine, what could be called “remittance urbanism”, in four instances. Firstly, I look at the first Mexican migrants that moved in the 1960s to the Chicago neighbourhood of Pilsen, itself a place where Czech migrants settled around the turn of the century. Here, I explore the way in which those early migrants invested themselves through architecture and activism in making Chicago their home, while also keeping strong ties with their families and home communities in Mexico. Then, I look at the evolution of this community into an investor class through the emergence of transnational political micro-institutions that since the 1990s sought to govern that newfound capital. In a third instance I examine the urban master plan of the Mexican city of Yuriria and the monuments that were largely sponsored by U.S. Mexican community groups, because they provide evidence of how investee politics changed local governance. Here I look specifically at the figure of Salomon Carmona, a famous actor who became mayor of Yuriria.
Finally, I investigate the entanglement of architectural design, commissions and trade agreements by looking closely at the material politics of cement in this transnational context.
Guillermo Ruiz is an architect and urban researcher whose work focuses on the intersection of space, state, and power. He trained as an architect at the Architectural Association and Universidad Iberoamericana, and received a Master’s in Design Studies from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He is currently based in London where he is Stavros Niarchos PhD Scholar at the Royal College of Art’s School of Architecture. In 2020/21, together with Eleni Hani and Ines Weizman he initiated the research project and public lecture series Architectures of the New Curatorial.