Last Thursday I gave a small presentation of the book “Branding New York City: how a city in crisis was sold to the world” to fellow students from NYU’s “Latin American Cities: Media Masses and Myths” class.
I gave a little spin to the topic and instead presented the branding strategies designed to counteract the notion of Mexico City as a city in the verge of collapse.
The idea of Mexico City as a crisis-ridden city is part of a global imaginary. This postapocalyptic city–a name given to it by Carlos Monsivais– is often represented as a smoke and crime-ridden maze. Scenes of the violent and chaotic megalopolis often circulate worldwide.The fact that Mexico City is a media and a cultural power in Latin America makes representations of it circulate globally, through movies like Amores Perros or music videos like Chilanga Banda.Whether it is through news of the swine flu epidemic, the drug war o through action packed kidnapping movies like “Men on Fire” one thing remains the same: Mexico City is a place on the border of collapse.
But there is another discourse trying to fix the meaning of Mexico City, one in which the city is conceived as a global actor , a business and cultural powerhouse. This trend is expressed, among other things through the marketing of the museum and cultural life. But it also takes place in the museums themselves: years ago the Palace of Fine Arts organized the exhibition ABCDF, a Borgeanesque work seeking to provide a graphic dictionary of the city. Compromising everything from T for taxis, to X for Xochimilco, the exhibition created a book in which the experience of the city was unified.
The branding of the city to tourists and consumers is taking place through a variety of strategies. The equivalent of “New York” magazine is now “Chilango’, a publication seeking to promote a cosmopolitan and consumerist sensibility to the city. This has been complemented by new guides that seek to portray the city from the inside while providing information of where to shop or dine. These guides, while helpful in promoting business, often leave out conflict and promote gentrification by providing a hyperaesthetized approach to the city.
The local government’s branding strategies have also become more pronounced and have shifted from local to global in their orientation . Long gone are the days when the government referred to Mexico City as La Ciudad de la Esperanza (City of Hope), a phrase that catered mostly to the longings of its inhabitants–have hope, the chaos will end soon.
Instead of this now we have the Ciudad en Movimiento slogan, in whiich the city is branded as an exciting place to make business and have fun. It showed Mexico City to the outside tourist as a buzzing, exciting place. The video (bellow) was shot by Luis Mandoki and has been made viral through platforms such as Vimeo or Youtube.
The trend towards branding cities is a trend intrinsically tied to globalization. As governments depend more on sectors like global tourism for their economy, there emerges a need to frame the product (the city) in a way that is enticing for a global crowd. Mexico City, the postapocalyptic cosmopolitan developing global city, is thus becoming a brand.
PS. At the end of the class our professor Beatriz Jaguaribe showed us the video used to brand Rio for the Olympic games. (Below) There are some similarities with the Mexico City ones.