The accelerated growth of urban population in Latin America is a result of the migration patterns which add up to the natural growth the citys population. As urban population increases, also demand for housing increases. Housing delivery was inefficient and insufficient. (Bähr Jürgen (1988), Housing in Latin American cities, Geographischen Instituts der Universität Kiel, p. 99-114.)

Since the 1960’s Latin America is characterized by being leader in inequality - not only in the unequal distribution of income, but also in education, health, housing, public services, employment, police and judicial treatment and political participation. (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2005) Land Tenure, Housing Rights and Gender in Mexico. p. 3)

Most Latin American countries have high levels of land ownership concentration, making the region the world’s worst in terms of fair distribution of the land. This is a key factor responsible for the mar ginalisation of vulnerable segments of the population. (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2005) Land Tenure, Housing Rights and Gender in Mexico. p. 3)


Mexico is the third biggest country in Latin America. It is located in North America, bounded to the north by the United States; on the south and west by the North Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea.

As the only Latin American member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1994, Mexico is firmly established as an upper middle-income country. (List of upper middle income countries by the World Bank)

So far the government has concentrated investment in infrastructure capable of attracting industry. Roads and transport system became central elements for the maintenance of economic growth. Workers were forced to settle in the peripheries, near to the industrial areas because they could not afford plots or rental units in the more central parts of the city. (Souza, Marcelo Lopes. (2003). Mudar a Cidade: uma introdusao critica ao Planejaento e a Gestao Urbanos. Bertrand Brasil, Rio de Janeiro)

Mexico has a strong centralist and hierarchical tradition in which municipalities can be subordinated to the power of state governments, which in turn depend for the most part on decisions taken at federal level. Many obstacles stand in the way of full democracy. The lack of political representation of marginal sectors of society in the electoral process is evident. (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2005) Land Tenure, Housing Rights and Gender in Mexico. p. 2-4)


surface: 1,958,201 km2
1.31% of the World´s Land Coverage

population: 107,000,000
1.55% of the World´s Population

population density: 55 pop/km2
World Average is 48 pop/km2

subdivision: 31 “States”
and one “Federal District”


“The search for modernity led us to discover our antiquity, the hidden face of the nation. I am not sure whether this unexpected historical lesson has been learned by all: that between tradition and modernity there is a bridge. When they are mutually isolated, tradition stagnates and modernity vaporizes; when joined, modernity breathes life into tradition, and tradition responds by providing depth and gravity”. (Octavio Paz, Mexican Writer and Nobel Laureate from In Search of the Present, in: Praxis, journal of writing and building, issue two, volume one. p. 12-13)

Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world. This fact has historical reasons: from the 13th to the 16th century it was the capital of the Aztec Empire (Tenochtitlan). In 1521, the Spanish conquered the Aztecs. A new city was erected upon the ruins of the Aztec city. Today it concentrates almost fifty percent of the economy.

Between 1950 and 2000 the population increased dramatically. The industrialization and the economic development carried up a rapid urbanization, provoked by the demographic explosion and the immigration of people from rural areas.

“Many people ask, “what is the main problem of the city?” Some say water or housing, etc. Each one of those is important but the complex interrelation of these issues is the main problem of the city. The problem of the city is not a problem of architects, it’s not a problem of size. It’s much more complicated” (Roberto Eibenschutz, architect, and Head of the Mexico City Department of Urban Planning, in: Praxis, journal of writing and building, issue two, volume one. p. 12-13)

The “ZMVM” or “Zona Metropolitana del Valle de México holds 18.6% of all Mexicans and has a surface of 150’000 hectares. Its population is approximately 20’000’000 inhabitants.



Thirty percent of the export income is due to oil in the Golf of Mexico. In the North part of the country the industry and activities of the service sector determine the economy. Guadalajara in the northwest and Monterrey in the north, with approximately 5 million people each are two important cities attracting investment. Also the high industirial development of the north part of the country was stimulated by the border with the USA. In the South part agriculture and – arising in the last decades - tourism are the most important economic sources for the country.


First of all the economical and urban growth was extremely concentrated in the capital, In the 80s this growth spread out towards secondary small and medium sized cities (Pachuca, Queretaro, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Cuernavaca y Toluca) that were promoted by national and international programs in order to support decentralization.

Today economic globalization plays an important role. It makes capital, markets and production extremely flexible. Regional centers are attractive to investors: there are abundant labor forces, low taxes, and practically no existence of environmental policy. (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, (UNCHS-Habitat). (2001) Cities in a globalising world: Global Report on Human Settlements. London.)

In Mexico City, the changing politics, traffic chaos, high prices of land, and the strict environmental control make the situation more complicated for the development / growth of industry and service sectors.



"The urban agglomeration of Querétaro holds 0.74% of all Mexicans, it has a surface
of 12’200 hectares and has a population of approximately 840’000 inhabitants."

When speaking about Querétaro, we may refer to the State of Querétaro, the Municipality of Querétaro and/or the City of Querétaro.

The State and the Municipality of Querétaro are political entities with specific regional boundaries, while the City of Querétaro has been officially classified as an “urban agglomeration” which is constantly growing.

The State of “Querétaro de Arteaga” is located in central México. It neighbours to the north and northeast with San Luis Potosí, to the east with Hidalgo, to the south with Michoacán, to the southeast with the state of Mexico and to the west with Guanajuato. Querétaro is one of the smallest states in our country, ranking at 27th (out of 32) in territorial surface and a surface percentage of 6%.

The municipality of Querétaro is located to the soutwest of Querétaro State, It neighbours to the north and west with the State of Guanajuato, to the south with the Corregidora and Huimilpan municipalities,
and to the east with the “El Marqués” municipality. It´s extension is 760 sq. km., which is a 6.5% of the state´s surface. (SEDESOL, “Hábitat, Estudios en 56 Áreas Urbanas de Concentración
de Pobreza, Querétaro, Barrio: Santa María Magdalena”, 2005: p.10)

Our research and investigation will refer primarily to the solution of a problem in the “Urban Agglomeration” of Querétaro, but we shall often refer to both “Querétaro State” and the “Municipality of Querétaro” as political entities because of the political and thereby legal and organizational consequences which this fact carries.

surface: 11,449 km2
0.58% of the country’s surface
population: 1,800,00
1.4% of the country’s population
population density: 140 pop/km2
Country Average is 55 pop/km2
subdivision: 18 “Municipios”
State Capital: Querétaro




surface: 760 km2
6.63% of the state´s surface
population: 745,000
41.38% of the state’s population
population density: 965 pop/km2
State Average is 140 pop/km2
subdivision: “Delegaciones”


In this chapter we present some facts regarding the more recent evolution and expansion of the population growth and population density of the city of Querétaro.

We furthermore present results found in a study which concerns the present need of housing for both the state and the municipality of Querétaro.

This data has allowed us to compare the situation in the state of Querétaro with that of other states in the country and the situation in the municipality of Querétaro with that of other municipalities in the state of Querétaro.

The demographical aspects analyzed are narrowly related to the growth and the expansion of the city and consequently to the housing needs and housing situation which are at the end affecting the quality of social housing which is the topic of our research.

The information in this chapter helped us gain a broader understanding of the housing problematic at different scales. We hope that by presenting our comparative analysis s we may convey a more precise idea about the weight and magnitude of the problem at hand.


The city of Querétaro is the capital of the state of Querétaro. It is considered one of the most important cities of Mexico due to its historical and cultural heritage, it is also the largest urban, industrial and commercial center of the state. (SEDESU, “Queretaro Economic Yearbook”, 2006 : p.18)

It is located to the southeast of the state’s territory and is also in the southern part of an important region called “el Bajío” which includes the plains south of the Sierra de Guanajuato, as well as the valley of Querétaro and Michoacán. (Enciclopedia de los municipios de México, Querétaro, Querétaro http:// htm, Date of Consultation: Jan 2007.)

“The Bajío region is privileged by it´s closeness to the center of our country and it´s favourable climate, this creates various opportunities for development, and is a competitive advantage which has enabled an increased participation in our national development” (SEDESU, op. cit.: p.17)

Queretaro´s location has positively influenced it´s economic growth but it has also brought an unexpected increase of it’s population and the surface it covers. (Lamy, “Urbanisation et évolution urbaine”, 2000: p.4)

Table 1:
Population growth and urban sprawl (hectares)

in the urban agglomeration of Querétaro 1940-2015.


The urban area of Querétaro City was originally contained by the municipality of Querétaro but it has grown into peripheral municipalities in the last decade. It´s population still lies under a million, which is why today, when referring to the City of Querétaro we should, according to the “S.U.N.” or “Sistema Urbano Nacional” system, refer to an “Urban Agglomeration”.

The “S.U.N.” system classifies mexican urban areas into “ZM´s” or “Zonas Metropolitanas” when referring to an urban area which has sprawled into neighbouring municipalities and has more than a million inhabitants, while “Aglomeraciones Urbanas” are considered to be urban areas which have grown into peripheral municipalities but “still have less than one million inhabitants”. The “S.U.N.” also describes Cities or “Ciudades” as “those which are still contained within one municipality. (CONAFOVI, Hacia un código de edificación de vivienda, May 2005: p.22-23)

If the population in the “urban agglomeration” of Querétaro was to maintain its current annual growth of 23’000 new inhabitants per year, then it would reach a million by the year 2015. Only then it would officially acquire the characteristics of a “Metropolitan Zone” according to the “S.U.N”. (

source: (Gob. Mpal., Plan Mpal. de Desarrollo, 2006: p.62)


The “INEGI” or “Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática”, is the National Institute responsible of gathering, organizing and offering statistical and geographical information about the Mexican territory and it´s population.

According to INEGI’s statistics, the rate of nation-wide population growth was 1.8% for the period between 1990 and 2000. The rate has been estimated at approximately 1.4% for the period between 2000 and 2010. By contrast, the rate of population growth for the state of Querétaro has been estimated at 2.2% for that same period. (see table)

The population living in the Querétaro municipality was an approximate 640’000 in the year 2000 and grew to an approximate 750’000 by 2005. Roughly 94% of people living in the Querétaro urban agglomeration, (an estimated 800’000 by 2007) live in the Querétaro municipality.

The annual rate of population growth for the Querétaro municipality was 2.9 % for the period between 2000 and 2005, which was much higher than both the state´s and the nation´s annual rate of population growth in that period.

Such an accelarated population growth is mostly due to the large amount of people who have moved out of the capital (Mexico City) and come settle in Querétaro. The rate is expected to decrease in the following years, but only in a few percentage decimals.

Table 2:
Population by municipality 2000-2005-2010,
Annual Growth Rate by municipality in the 2000-2010 period.

source: (Censo de Población 2000. INEGI. Proyecciones de Población 2000 - 2010. CONAPO. Necesidades de Vivienda 2000 - 2010. CONAFOVI


The population in Querétaro has taken a predominantly urban profile during the last half of the last century.

The increase in the urban share of total population is referred to as a “rate of urbanization” by the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) which is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations.

They calculated average annual rates of urbanisation by states in Mexico for the period between 1950 and 1990. The following map can be found online on their webpage. (see source) The state of Querétaro presents one of the fastest rate of urbanization in the country, only five out of 31 states in the country had an average annual rate of urbanisation larger than 2% for the period between 1950 and 1990.


source: (

This type of behaviour is related to inter-state migrations. By looking at the map we see that states with lower average annual rates of urbanisation (0 to 1) are usually located next to those with higher rates (of 2 to 3), while the states with more medial averages tend to remain contiguous.


The most densely populated states in Mexico are located in the central part of the country, surrounding the “D.F.” (Federal District) and Mexico City. The Federal District has 5,862 inhabitants per sq. km. The state of Mexico and the state of Morelos are the two most densely populated States after the Federal District with 586 and 318 inhabitants per sq. km. respectively. ( capsulas/2004/sociodemograficas/densidad.asp?c=1008)

The following map reflects the population density with increasingly darker tones towards the central part of Mexico.

The state of Querétaro has a population density of 120 inhabitants per sq. km. which is more than double the national average which is 50 inhabitants per ( conteo2005/default.asp?c=6224 date of consultation: 7.18.2007)

The state of Querétaro has 0.6 % of the country´s surface yet, because of it´s population density, accounts for 1.6 % of the country´s population and 1.8 % of the country´s demand for housing.

Population distribution on the state’s surface is not uniform, the majority of people (55%) are living in the urban agglomeration of Querétaro and only 30% of Querétaro’s population lives in towns or communities with less than 2’500 inhabitants.

The municipality of Querétaro has only 6.5% of the state’s surface yet because of it´s population density it accounts for 46% of the state´s population. With a surface of 760 sq. km. and a population of 745’000, its population density reached 965 inhabitants per sq. km. in the year 2005.

The next table compares the municipalitiy and the states’s population, its percentage in relation to the the state´s population and its population density developed rapidly between 1950 and 2005 The last population count (year 2005) showed 1’601’101 inhabitants in the state of Querétaro but in the year 1950 there were only 286, 238 inhabitants and in 1990, 1’051’235. This means the state´s population increased almost 54,000 in the first half of the last century and more than 1,’311’000 added up during the second half.

Table 3:

Population vs. population density. Relationships between the municipality of Querétaro, the state of Querétaro, and the country (Mexico) 1950-2005.

The period with the highest demographic growth was during the 70’s, when the state showed rates surpassing even the highest national record (which happened during the previous decade, in the 60’s and was of 3.3) in that decade, Queretaro grew at an average 4.1% a year.

Such an accelarated population growth should have been followed by an equally accelarated increase in housing availability. Housing availability is a relative concept which ca be difficult to measure, yet the INEGI (see definition on page x), has taken a recent (2005) census on the subject called “Conteo de Población y Vivienda, 2005”.




The following statements are based on results of the 2005 INEGI´s census “II Conteo de Población y Vivienda, 2005” ( The country has102’846’413 occupants living in 24’706’956 housing units, the State of Querétaro has 1’591’968 occupants living in 359’953 housing units and the municipality of Querétaro has 745’189 inhabitants living in 164’344 housing units.

Based on these statements we can determine average amounts of occupants per unit (for the year 2005) as follows, 4.16 for the country, 4.42 for the state and 4.53 for the municipality. Yet the exact amount of occupants per housing unit is variable.

We see the amount of housing units rise quickly towards the more populated range of 9 or more persons while the resting range follows a natural “bell” curve. We may therefore conclude that the formerly mentioned range experiences a housing deficit.


The “CONAFOVI” or “Comisión Nacional de Fomento a la Vivienda”, is the federal government’s commision responsible for the political instrumentation, coordination and promotion of the housing policy and the national housing program of México.

The “Necesidades de Vivienda 2000-2010” is a publication which summarizes the results found in a study lead by the CONAFOVI in which they calculated housing needs by state and municipality in Mexico for the period between 2000 and 2010.

The goal of the study was to help organisations which are active in the Housing Sector, such as planning and financing organisations, in their take of decisions for the 2000-2010 period.

The Federal Government used these results to set their goals which are primarily related to the financing of housing units: their current goals were set in the “Programa Sectorial de Vivienda 2001-2010”;

“It has been estimated by the CONAFOVI that our country will have 45 million homes by 2030. The former represents a need for building 766 thousand units a year. The Federal government accordingly set their goal to finance 750 thousand new housing units in the last year (2006) and to keep that figure steady in the following years.”

In the case of the state of Querétaro we find the highest need of (new) housing units concentrated in the municipality of Querétaro. It represents a XX% of the state’s need of (new) housing units. Altogether, the states need of new housing units is 1.8% in relation to the need of (new) housing units at national level.

Table 5:
Population and need of new housing units by municipality in the state of Querétaro with their percenteage in relation to the state, and the state’s percenteage in relation to the national total.

Source: (Censo de Población 2000. INEGI. Proyecciones de Población 2000 - 2010. CONAPO. Necesidades de Vivienda 2000 - 2010. CONAFOVI)




Remains clearly show that both the state of Querétaro and the Bajío region had human settlements with cultural activity as early as 200 AD. (http://www.e-local.gob.mx14, Date of Consultation: feb 2007)The ruins known today as “El Pueblito” or “El Cerrito” used to serve as ceremonial centers for the surrounding residential area which was largely extended.

This region had been occupied by “Otomis” or “Nhäñhú”, an indigenous group which still exists today, they built their homes out of adobe, mixing water, earth and organic fibers. There was also the presence of other tribes, including “Chichimecas”, “Purépechas” and “Aztecas”, which did conquer the region, the last of these had even placed checkpoints here to control the tributes on goods and merchandise. (,-Quer%E9taro)

The first height in the prehispanic history of this area occurred at around 600 AD, when the societies living in the Querétaro valley were already taking profit from its excellent agricultural conditions.

The “Mexico Municipality Encyclopedia” (available online at mentions a few of these settlements by their common name “Santa Bárbara, La Negreta, El Recodo, El Shindó, El Molinito” and “La Cueva”.

The people living in these settlements produced all their domestic needs and had political and spiritual leaders. The end of this period comes at the same time of Teotihuacan´s disintegration at around 600AD During 300 years the small complex at “El Pueblito” stopped being used.

“El Cerrito” or “El Pueblito” is an archaeological site which is under restoration. The urban sprawl of the Querétaro agglomeration surrounds the site to the south.

Photo Source:
user: “khawkins33”
tags: ElCerrito


In the following centuries, the widespread population in the surroundings of “El Cerrito” kept growing and by 950 AD newer settlements developed in the area; “Puerta de Tepozán, San Bartolo, La Joya, Tlacote y La Magdalena” by then, the pyramid at “El Pueblito” was again being used as spiritual and political center by the surrounding population.

The effect these settlements still have on the urban sprawl of the city is visible. The Querétaro agglomeration has been extending slowly in these directions; reaching to the north towards Tlacote and La Joya which were mentioned earlier, whereas the archeological site of “El Pueblito”, in the southwest, is allready partially surrounded by the urban sprawl of the Querétaro agglomeration.

The red marks represent the location of the “El Pueblito” Archaeological site as well as two of the above mentioned communities: “Tlacote” and “La Joya”. Two city contours are represented; the one in black represents the city’s contour in 1900, the white one represents 2007.


This previous picture was taken from the pyramid at “El Cerrito” looking towards the city.
The biggest hill on the background is the “Cerro del Cimatario”.

The city sprawl has yet to reach communities such as Tlacote el Bajo which are of indigenous origin. In the picture (above) we see the northern suburbs of the Querétaro agglomeration (located to the bottom right of the pictue) reaching towards “Tlacote el Bajo” (in the upper-left corner of the same picture)

The intricacy of the streets in this type of settlement is noteworthy. They follow the site’s topography, the structure is similar to that of the indigenous part of the colonial city of Querétaro which is mentioned in the following pages.

We may also notice the relationship existing between these communities and the resources that are found in the area. Tlacote has a well known water spring which is the reason why we see a good amount of vegetation in the area including some larger trees.

These are the natural conditions which probably gave birth to the Tlacote settlement more than a thousand years ago.


Great part of the state’s cultural richness originates from the indigenous societies who were inhabiting the region before colonial times. (SEDESOL, Gob. del Edo., Economic Yearbook 2006, pg. 77) In the pictures to the right we see only a few of the common activities which are still practiced in their rural communities.

Also today, most of Queretaro’s Indigenous people are otomies or ñhä-ñhö, which account for 81% of all indigenous language speakers aged five and over in the state. In spite of their rich cultural background, most indigenous people have remained economically poor. It should come not as a surprise, since their most basic human rights (life, freedom, equality before the law) have been repeatedly interjected throughout history and by different interests.

According to the 2006 Economic Yearbook, issued by the state’s government, “the majority of Indigenous people in the state of Querétaro are living in poverty in terms of their employment, income, housing, health and education” it further states “Illiteracy percent is 27.4% for the indigenous, which is above the national and state average” this situation has persisted despite numbered efforts on the government side to help them integrate. (an exact description of these efforts can be found on page 87 of the Economic Yearbook) Their needs and aspiration have forced them to emigrate in search of wage-earning work, in order to support their families. For many years they had migrated to the capital, Mexico City. Where men would tipically work as bricklayers and women as domestic servants. ( More lately, the city of Querétaro attracts an increasing number of Indigenous people coming not only from the State but also from other parts in the country searching for employment.



The spanish conquerors built vast networks of cities which helped them take control over their new territories. This is why most of the urban settlements in Latin America existing today were founded during the 16th century. ( Date of Consultation: Jan 27, 2007)

The town of Querétaro was founded on July 25th of the year 1531 when Spanish conqueror Fernando de Tapia joined by a local Otomí leader named “Conín” agreed to a peaceful and symbolic battle in which the local conquest was won by Spain. (
municipios: 14, Date of Consultation: Apr 4 2007)

The Otomi tribes were glad to join the spanish conquerors since it represented their opportunity to free themselves from the rule of the Aztec empire. (
Those who did not wish to comply fled to the mountains.

At that time, cities were less physical objects but more an instrument on which the process of colonization was supported, under political, theological and economical basis.

“The area (Querétaro Valley) had been recognized as being of strategic importance since it connected rich mining regions of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas with Mexico City.”(

“Expeditions that aimed to conquer the north of the country and to convert local people to the Catholic faith left from the city of Querétaro. This is the main reason why the downtown area boasts so many religious buildings dating from this era.” Junípero Serra (catholic missionary) departed from Querétaro towards Alta California, where he was responsible for the founding of what became major California cities like San Francisco. (

According to Authors Mesías Gonzalez and Suárez Pareyón, The “New World” served as experimetal grounds where “the reproduction of the European Ideals of Urban Design was possible; sometimes respecting the existing structures of the autoctonous cultures, many times destroying them.” (, date of consultiation: Jan 27 2007)

“After numerous rehearsings, they had developed a system of written procedures, by which their cities were buing built.” Their experiences in ‘colonial urbanism’ are summarized in the “Ordenanzas de Felipe II” which were issued in the year 1576 as an attempt to provide guidelines by which the new cities should be built, giving them a certain uniformity.

The guidelines which Felipe II ordered have been sumarized by Jimmie L. King (, as follows:

“The land chosen shall be fertile and shall provide wood and water for everyone.The size of the mayor plaza will be determined by the number of neighbours, and will be located to the center of each town. The plaza will measure at least 60 x 90 (m) but it should not measure more than 90 x 240 (m) The plaza will be surrounded on 4 sides by streets, the buildings in these streets will have “portales”. The streets should be narrow in cities with warm conditions. Streets in which horses will circulate may be wider.”

“According to their growth, each town shall build smaller plazas where temples will be built. These temples shall not be built in the plazas, but to a distance at it´s side, so that it may be seen from all sides. The temple shall be adorned and whenever possible should be built at a higher level than that of the street. So that the entrance has steps.”

“The orientation of houses shall be so that they receive the wind at midday. And the rooms shalll be located so that they form a defense. It shall be procured that all building in town are built in the same manner, in order to keep them ornate. Houses shall be built in such manner that they impress the indians, causing admiration so they know that we are there to stay, and not just going through.” (Domingo García Ramos, Iniciación al Urbanismo, p. 73 – 82.)

“The old colonial town of Querétaro is unusual in having retained the geometric street plan of the Spanish conquerors side by side with the twisting alleys of the Indian quarters. The Otomi, the Tarasco, the Chichimeca and the Spanish lived together peacefully in the town, which is notable for the many ornate civil and religious Baroque monuments from its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries.” (

Downtown Querétaro does not completely follow the colonial chessboard pattern, the areas surrounding the Convent of the Holy Cross follows a clearly irregular pattern, which is typical of the original native’s settlements. While the lower flatland suggests the idea of following the rigid but by that time “typical” chessboard pattern.

The possible reasons for this are numerous. These might have been topographic, programmatic (spaces being already used), or pre-existing obstructions or obstacles which are no longer evident.


Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez
(September 8, 1768 – March 2,1829)
better known as “La Corregidora.”
Her portrait has appeared on Coins and Bills.

Querétaro plays an important role during the Independence in 1810, some of the royal palaces in the city were being secretly used (by their owners) to arrange meetings when the conspiracy was being planned.

“La Corregidora” is a well known heroine, who lived in Querétaro and was married to the Spanish “Corregidor” or local magistrate, she got involved in the meetings and hosted a number of them in her house. Other important Independence heroes like Allende and Hidalgo came frequently to Querétaro to participate in the meetings. The conspirators were betrayed by an insider who Informed the viceroyal authorities about the planned rebellion. On September the 13th, the “Corregidor” became orders from Spain to have homes searched for artillery (in Querétaro) but before following orders he had to lock his wife (The Corregidora) in a room of the house since he knew she would let the rebels know about the news. She did manage, though, to deliver the message in time for a successful Independence on September 16th, 1810.

In 1824, the new Constitution included Querétaro as a State instead of a “corregimiento de letras” which was a special administrative region. The robust economy of Querétaro, and its capacity to generate enough revenues, was what made this possible. ( date of consultation: July 2007 The interventions made by Dr. Felix Osores y Soto Mayor were of vital importance in this event.

In 1847, the American troops invaded Mexico. On May 30th, 1848, the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in Querétaro, by which Mexico ceded half of its territory to the United States. ( date of consultation: July 2007)

“During the 18th Century, cities like Querétaro made possible the formation of local societies which would in turn produce the ideas which inspired the changes happened in the 19th century.” ( date of consultation: July 2007)

“During the 19th Century, Mexico turns independent, but finds itself obligated to open to newer world economy and even military powers”. ( date of consultation: July 2007)


Towards the end of the 19th century Mexico opened it´s doors to global commerce. People were attracted by the labor opportunities which were increasingly available in larger cities.

Those cities were transformed as consequence of the migration processes.

The city centers changed their function, families with higher economical levels moved to newer, more secluded “subdivisions” in rural areas with good locations.

Some colonial city centers (the one in Mexico City for example) began experiencing a more intense use of their surface; especially through densification in the homes of the wealthier which were no longer being used by their owners. This densification often took place through improvised divisions, giving way to mixed use buildings which offered space for housing, commerce and services. Bigger cities made substantial modifications to their colonial centers, inspired by contemporary european examples of urban (re)-arrangement, such as Hausmann’s Paris or Cerda´s Barcelona.

Smaller cities like Querétaro remained basically unchanged, conserving their ideological expressions of the colonization culture from that period; their grid and block’s definition, the location and use of public spaces or “plazas” and “jardines” and many of their religious and civic buildings.

Street near “La Cruz” in Querétaro, June 1867


In this chapter we refer to many of the older, larger homes in the colonial city centers which began to be used collectively by several families sharing facilities. Different names are used in reference to this phenomenon, “mesones”, “conventillos” or “ciudadelas”. For our study we will refer to this concept as the collective use of “casonas” or “patio houses”.

As mentioned earlier, wealthier families began to move out of their colonial houses in the city centers. The city centers had begun increasing their intensity of use, resulting noisy and polluted. The homes of the richer were originally conceived to house extended families which often lived together with their servants. The actual size of each house was variable, according to the economic level of the owners. The homes of the wealthier were divided on two levels.

The layout and construction of these houses is what eventually allowed them to be easily subdivided and collectively used. The entrance to most patio houses was through large wooden doors which would allow a horse pulled carriage to enter. These doors were usually provided with a smaller entrance for pedestrians.

The homes would consist of one, two or more rooms which connected. The kitchen, the bath and the laundry were of common use. Even a room alone would serve as an independent home; just one large space where a whole family would live. The height of most rooms allowed a division to the interior which was built of wood and could serve as a sleeping room.

(Los Centros Vivos, Rosendo Mesías Gonzalez / Alejandro Suárez Pareyón date of consultation: 1/27/2007)

Behind the entrance we find usually a large covered space which is referred to as “zaguán” which usually connected the first patio and the street outside. To one or both sides of the “zaguán” we often find “accesorías” which are rooms with doors facing the street. These rooms had high ceilings, they often had no connection to the house inside and stood completely independent.

Accesorías would ocassionally serve as a home, their advantage is the street front being their high ceilings. Different sorts of businesses were installed in the aforementioned “accesorías” which faced the street, this happened both during their use as family houses, and after, when they served as collective housing. Most of the other Rooms could be combined into different arrangements, forming small medium and even large homes which could have 7 or 8 rooms.

A very distinctive characteristic in all of these houses are their patios, which often served as workshops. The rooms would be typically arranged around a first, main patio and were usually provided with an outdoor corridor which served primarily as circulation. Most rooms had a high ceiling which helped them stay cool during hot summers. This trait eventually allowed another type of horizontal subdivision usually made of lighter construction (typically wood) to the interior of the rooms. Many combinations were possible, the rooms could be easily connected or left to serve independently.

This provided lots of flexibility since each room could be eventually turned into an independent housing unit with an individual entrance from the patio. Some houses had their own well and a fountain in the main patio, their brick and stone walls, were all stuccoed and many of them were beautifully hand painted. The combination of flexibility, mixed use and space layout which these homes have to offer is a lesson in history which served as an inspiration for some of the models that follow. (



By the end of the 19th Century many colonial city centers experienced the appearance of housing models specifically built for low-income families. They are better known today as “vecindades”.

This first form of social housing was inspired in the collective use of patio houses which we formerly mentioned. Patios and “Accesorías” were the two elements which were kept in the conception of “vecindades”, which at that time were still being built inside the city center.

The typology was purposely built for the working class and consisted in the grouping of small units, usually arranged along a private alley. The sharing of facilities remained their trait.

Many of these “Vecindades” still exist today in Querétaro, and they are still one of the most accesible types of housing which actually offer tenants a comparatively high life-quality level, because of their privileged location in the city center.

The same can be said about patio-houses which can still be found today, being used collectively.



"Monumento a la Revolución"

The political and military situation in the years after the independence were not totally at rest. Both internal and external struggles kept arising.There was a “peaceful” period in wich Porfirio Diaz took presidency, embarking on a program of “modernisation” but “rural peasants suffered the most under under his rule”.

The regime confiscated large sections of land and gave ownership of more than 27.5 million hectares to foreign companies. By 1894, one out of every five acres of Mexican land was owned by foreign interest. Also wealthy families possessed large lands.

Porfirio´s “Dictatorship” ended in 1910 with an emerging revolution. The movement finished seven years later with amendments to our Constitution adressing foreign ownership of resources, labour codes and the role of the Roman Catholic Church in education and land reform. Mexico also recovered its “free” municipalities, “The Republic will be integrated by states and the states will be integrated by municipalities.” (Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México, Querétaro, 2005: 15)

“The municipality is suposed to be “the closest form of government to citizens”, or “the first of many links in a large chain which exist between mexican people and the state” (Gob. Mpal. , Plan Mpal. de Desarrollo, 2006: 11)

La integración social obtenida como fruto de la Revolución Mexicana de 1910, devolvió a México sus Ayuntamientos libres y este es mérito propio de D. Venustiano Carranza, pues de él partieron todas las realizaciones sociales al encarnar la voluntad y la decisión de la Patria frente a su generación y a las generaciones futuras. (Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México, Querétaro, 2005: 14)



During the 50’s, the government sought ways to re-activate the economy which had been slowing and the construction industry was thus incentivated.

The collaboration between the private sector and the government in the production of social housing in mexico goes back to the 50´s when several housing projects were built through the government’s social security institution. (García Peralta Beatriz, Privatisierte Wohnbauförderung, das Verhältnis von Staat und Privaten bei der Beschaffung von Wohnraum in Mexiko Stadt, tec21, 36/2003:16)

Architect Mario Pani was one of the architects building government-financed projects which included the “multifamiliares” which are inspired in LeCorbusier model of 1000hab./ha.

The architect proposed one of his projects in a lot of 40’000 m2, in which the government had allready estimated the possibility of building 200 housing units o the base of a fixed budget.
On that project he well respected the budget for 200 homes, but instead built 1080 housing units with several different layouts, in 12 buildings.

"The first model of high density housing in the Country"

Multifamiliar Miguel Alemán Mario Pani 1947

The concept was to create a “City in the City”... Mixed use provided housing with public, recreational spaces and businesses on the ground levels.

“If Mexico City were completely built with this model, it would be five times smaller, yet 80% of it´s surface would be open, green spaces...” arq074_03.asp
Some of Mario Pani’s buildings did not survive the earthquake in 1985, after which many of the constructive norms have turned stricter.

Some of his models still serve today as an example of the achievements of a modern movement, yet the solution to the problem of social housing had not yet been found...


In the year 1963 the government forced private banks to make part of their capital available to the public for housing financing, this meant an end to leased-housing projects being built on behalf of the government. Instead, a few private firms were established and built with this money housing.
This ‘laissez faire’ attitude was supposed to promote a free market and competition but in reality homes were not being built for the lower-class, they were all too expensive for the poor to buy. The state gave control of the housing construction and administration to the private sector and the private sector dismissed the lower income class.

These were the grounds on which people began to solve their needs in building illegally. Today, 60 % of built homes in Mexico City are located in so-called “Colonias Populares” they are illegally built on both private and public lands and mostly through self-help building.

Another 20 % of built homes in Mexico City are “casas de interés social”, those are the ones being built by the big enterprises and which are sold to their owners through banking funds which the government administers.

By adding these two percentages, we may accept that 80 % of the population living today in Mexico City, live either in «Colonias Populares» or “Casas de Interés Social.


In the beggining of the 20th Century 80% of mexico’s population lived in “rural” areas but by the turn of the Century, the situation had reversed completely, with almost of it´s population living in urban areas.

The working class had established its presence in both large and extended areas of the cities, though with a lack of services and quality conditions which the previously existing centers allready offered...”the city was being transformed into a city of masses”. ( date of consultation: 27-Jan-2007)

“...there a division between groups of people, those who can buy a house with their own capital,
those who do not have enough capital to buy their own home but have access to financing
through public or private programs, those who become support from INFONAVIT, or ISSTE (the working class) and finally, those who cannot afford legal access to housing and that’s were we find the mayority.” ( Viviane Brachet-Márquez -YR- El Estado benefactor mexicano: nacimiento, auge y declive)


Through self-help thousands of houses in Mexico City are built every year. Many of the ecological, social and economical consequences which these neighborhoods bring have not yet been studied.
Prof. Eckhardt Ribbeck from the Technical University in Stuttgart explains:

The failures of the system around social housing are fought back through the private, illegal construction of houses. As an opposite model, they suit the individual needs and possibilities of eachfamily, both through their form and phased building which makes each house unique.

“Die defizite des staatlichen vorgehens werden durch unkoordinierte Privataktionen und illegale Bauten ausgeglichen; als Gegenmodell entsprechen sie in Wohnform und Wohnökonomie den individuellen Vorstellungen und Möglichkeiten” (


“Das Erfolgsrezept der irregulären Bodenhändler ist denkbar einfach: ein schematisch vorgegebenes Siedlungsraster einerseits und individuelle Baufreiheit andererseits. Eine räumliche Ordnung, die sukzessive nachgebessert werden kann, und die Freiheit zu bauen, wann und wie man will – das sind die elementaren Zutaten einer ‘modernen Spontansiedlung’.” (


During the 90’s, production of social housing for workers has been carried out with the active participation of private investment companies. (Esquivel, Maya Cervantes, 2005 pg.1,9)

Even as the state tries exerting an influence on the production of social housing, a clientelistic promotion system has made the market dependent on large financial and construction firms.

A few real estate firms monopolize the market and the funds. They build huge housing complexes outside the city with the money from employees contributions which are taken automatically from their salary. (Peralta, 2003 pg 16-17)

But the houses these companies build are missing all types of infrastructure and they are too expensive for the lower income class which do not meet financing criteria.

The land where such settlements are being built is usually found outside the city, travel times to work of three or more hours are becoming the norm. (Peralta, 2003 pg 16-17)

“the state´s housing policy had prioritized economic objectives. In the last 20 years there has been a progressive abandonment of the social dimension in the production of housing and of the state´s actions, which is now immersed in the dynamics of a market based on purely economic reasons” (Villavicencio and Santiago, 2001, pg. 442)

Construction companies are now buying the land, building the houses, promoting them and selling them and as of lately they even are offering the financing mechanisms with the official support of the government.


Towards the mid 20th Century, many centers of the Colonial/ Historical cities began to experience deterioration, of which many still have to recuperate. In the case of Querétaro there is both; some parts of downtown are fully recuperated, while others remain in stagnation.

“The urban dynamics which follow a city’s development tend to intensify with time, affecting negatively their central origins, people start moving to the suburbs, leaving empty and unused spaces. This can be the first sign of the path leading to economic, social and environmental deterioration, as well as stagnation and loss of the cultural value of the historical center.” Granados Bottello, “Analisis Y Antecedentes De Unidades Basicas De Vivienda Rural”, 2005:7

Suburban areas began to be seen as the alternative way to achieve house ownership, attracting the masses. This is why many of the cities, including Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, experienced huge suburban growths in the second half of the 20th Century.

The revitalization of historical city centers as an urban development policy has been only recently adopted in some of the cities.


The collective use of casonas or patio houses were the response of the peoples housing needs under the new conditions of that time, those homes allowed many combinations and even if the shared use of sanitary services by many users was a problem, many such homes are still being used in this manner today.

All of these homes retain some the finest qualities which many of the newer social housing typologies do not possess; their most valuable asset is their location in the city centers, this provides them with quick access to many of the services which are concentrated in the area.

Today, people think that the clearest expressions of social housing are found on the peripherical growths of the city, yet because of the transformations occured in the city centers, it is there were we find the most examples of mixed use, flexibility and transformations in relationship to the expressions of social housing in history.

“Actualmente se piensa que las más claras expresiones de la producción social del espacio habitable se encuentran en los crecimientos periféricos; sin embargo, la suma de las distintas transformaciones tipológicas que han ocurrido en los edificios que podemos clasificar como palacetes y casas señoriales de nuestros centros históricos ya habían producido, en un pasado no muy lejano, lo queconocemos en los distintos países latinoamericanos como conventillos, vecindades, mesones, ciudadelas, etcétera, edificios que muestran un proceso de transformación a cargo de sus propios ocupantes aún más intenso que lo producido por los hacedores de las periferias. Esto lo podemos ejemplificar con las múltiples formas de transformación al interior de los viejos edificios, consistentes en subdivisiones verticales del espacio habitable para ampliar la superficie aprovechable de las unidades de vivienda con las llamadas barbacoas cubanas o los tapancos mexicanos, y los añadidos hacia espacios colectivos llamados ampliaciones en Cuba o nuevas, pero precarias viviendas, conocidas como cuartos de azotea en México. Estas lecciones constatan el rol desempeñado por la producción social del hábitat en la transformación y uso de los centros antiguos, legitimándolas como parte inexcluible de su historia.” (