Carta de Navegación: Colonia Cuauhtémoc

Reina Imagawa & E Tonatiuh Trejo

Carta de Navegación: Colonia Cuauhtémoc (Navigational Chart of the Cuauhtémoc neighborhood) was a project that aimed to understand the networks of resistance, collective care and solidarity that emerged on the scale of our neighborhood during the global pandemic. Cuauhtémoc, located in the heart of Mexico City, is a neighborhood where major banks and five star hotels coexist with street vendors, family-owned businesses and other small, independent practices. The dynamic of this space shifted significantly when tens and thousands of office workers were forced to work from home and the local economy crashed. 

Using mapping as a way to understand this new terrain, the objectives of the project included:

a) Broadcasting the rich culture of this often overlooked neighborhood, revealing everyday corridors of activity (markets, street vending), things of interest (anti-monuments, small storefronts) and enclaves (a block dedicated to piñatas, a street full of Russian art)

b) Positioning local businesses as portals; map points where anyone can grab a free copy of the map and connect themselves to a larger landscape of mutual aid and support

The project was a collaborative effort between two neighbors, Reina Imagawa (designer, architect, facilitator and founder of Gato Gordo, a storefront located in a 1940’s Luis Barragán building) and E Tonatiuh Trejo (editor and founder of Esto es Un Libro, an independent publishing practice, and Biblioteca de Anomalías, a hidden library, both located within a few blocks from Mario Pani’s ex Hotel Plaza). The project was inspired by a map that they both remember seeing in Clandestina, a boutique located in Havana, Cuba, and was developed over the course of a few months via walking, prototyping and deepening relationships with local businesses.

Every aspect of the map was designed with the neighborhood in mind: 1) it is two-sided, one side featuring a mapping of all of the spots and the other using opacity to show different layers of history, 2) it includes a QR code that is linked to a Spotify playlist, featuring songs selected by Tonah and Reina to compliment one’s experience of walking around in the neighborhood, 3) its iconography was inspired by the styles of modernist Mexican architects who did many experiments in this neighborhood, 4) its title, a navigational chart, was based on the observation that all of the streets are named after rivers, and 5) it was printed in risography by Can Can Press, a nearby studio.

Almost a year later, some of our reflections on this project include: 

  • How has our neighborhood changed since? Are all of the map points still active, running and/or accessible? What is the relevance of this map now, one year later? 
  • What information did the map not show? What are the other layers or map points that could have been valuable, and for whom? 
  • We ended up having mainly two kinds of conversations: with the vendors, business owners and neighbors as we designed the map, and with neighbors and passerby as we distributed the map. But we know that other conversations also happened around the map, for example between employees and store owners and sometimes the owners did not 100% feel comfortable putting the maps in the stores. What made them feel that way? What are the conversations we did not have access to and what does that say about this project?