Whitewashed Metapolis under the 3D (part 2)

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Along with this proletariat, there is another class category: we are referring to the metropolitan proletariat, which, unlike the sub-metropolitan one, survives thanks to the guaranteed salary of the welfare State or the free enterprise –payroll, fees, payment for specific work, internships. The former of these two can be education workers, employed in the different public state institutions: bureaucrats, officials and cultural workers; the latter are at the service of the free enterprise, inserted in the service sector of the cultural and creative industries, in financial services, in the quaternary sector of art and the tourism economy, as well as private higher education.

Unlike the sub-metropolitan class, members of the metropolitan class can usually get around by car, which they pay in installments to feel like they are part of the dominant class. They live in debt all their lives to be able to afford their own home, for their children and grandchildren. Their chains are mortgages and the needs created by the social status derived from consumption and entertainment (from paying for television and music services via platforms, vacation plans, changing cars whenever possible, high-end bicycles and motorcycles, music concerts in exclusive venues), the payment of rents or mortgages in residential and housing areas in the west and southwest parts of the city, or in the residential areas of the metapolitan states.

Although the vast majority of members of the metropolitan proletariat live in some middle-class housing unit or in some suburb far from the metapolitan centrality, they live chained to their car, eternally in debt on their digital cards –for their all-inclusive trips, private school tuition, visits to “pueblos mágicos”—, and attend all types of entertainment events for the metropolitan masses. Always judged for maintaining “a lifestyle” that they deserve. For this reason, they are “aspirationists”, opportunists, careerists, or whatever you want to call them, because they are always eager to climb to the top of the social-bureaucratic pyramid, be it the State or a company, for which they work. The new generations of the guaranteed or statified metapolitan class have long sought to live in the coveted areas of metapolitan centrality, in an effort to simulate a high status or belonging to the creative classes that they consume and display in the media, reproducing the stereotypes of success. In particular, young people are authentic EDipads 1, turned into fanatics due to the access to information, both existing and any which may exist in the future, which they certainly do not know how to digest or process.

For these people, “sustainable capitalism” ––environmentalism, diets without industrialized foods, urban gardens and organic food–– allows them to socially access sustainable or social responsibility issues, ride bicycles and electric scooters to move around the central neighborhoods that are in the process of being whitewashed by dispossession. They live, work, have fun and can create communities of digital workers and creative industries, always under the mantle of immaterial capitalism and the platform-State. Until recently, this class, which is very functional to capitalism, served as a “baby” class, pampered and used to spearhead the whitewashing of some areas of urban and territorial reserve that the real estate cartel and State promoted in the last decade.

Just as the creative industries displaced former urbanites to the other side of the borders of the metapolitan social apartheid, as previously illustrated by the first wave of whitewashing of Regina Street in the Historic Downtown Area in 2003, and now this trend is observed in the neighborhoods of Obrera, Guerrero, Tepito, Santa María la Ribera, Anáhuac, and the gray areas of San Miguel Chapultepec and Avenida Constituyentes, heading towards the Fourth Section of the Bosque de Chapultepec and the CETRAM Observatory, and from there to the Interurban Train to the city of Toluca.

But the pleasure of belonging to an artificial first world fell apart for the emerging metropolitan class, particularly for the young people who tried to live out the golden age of the CDMX creative class in the Cuauhtémoc, Miguel Hidalgo and Benito Juárez boroughs. In pandemic times, these young people had to emigrate to their parents’ homes, and that was the time to reconvert that metropolitan proletariat into a capitalist reality when these young people went “back to normal.” The increase in rents and the increase in prices in bars, cafes and restaurants considerably impacted their income, and this motivated their migration to the neighborhoods of Guerrero, Tepito, La Obrera or Santa María la Ribera. This replacement or forced displacement applied to the old whitewashing “bulldozers” was operated by the monopoly of temporary lodging of Airbnb.

The pandemic and post-pandemic crisis was used to provoke the arrival of thousands of digital nomads from other countries (cognitariat or workers in the creative industries and financial companies of “developed” countries) to now occupy those fertile neighborhoods that are ripe with homes and ideal places to exploit the income and value of the land, by global companies that practice nearshoring or relocation of companies. In this case, it was the industrial and creative sector of platform capitalism. The whitewashers were whitewashed. This short historical time de-classed them again. Although one of the characteristics of this class is precisely their refusal to recognize themselves as members of the proletariat, and their insistence on fluctuating trends for consumption, clothing, music, entertainment and other market niches, they continue to cling to a fictitious reality.

A mercenary and opportunistic class, very close to the criminal, street or union lumpen-proletariat. They are objectified and identified with capital, despite their high social and cultural capital. And although some of its members have tried to collectivize through collective or commercial projects, such as the flea market located until a few days ago in the Glorieta de los Insurgentes, they have not been able to recover from the decline in the social scale. Today, this metropolitan proletariat coexists with the sub-metropolitan proletariat in neighborhoods such as Tepito, Guerrero, and Obrera. They live in the central sub-metropolis.

Now, some groups or collectives are trying to resist by opposing the “social cleansing” policy of the Cuauhtémoc mayor’s office that began with the erasure of the signs of the permanent and semi-permanent food stands, and continued with the covering of mural graffiti with paint, the eviction of young people from the public squares, and the police persecution for anyone daring to report these policies. The truth is that this generates interest in some to support and join the organizations that have been fighting for years against the processes of whitewashing by dispossession in the western areas, in the rocky areas of Coyoacán or in Xochimilco.

Metapolitans, the invisible power

At the top of the great class pyramid of the metapolis is the metapolitan class. The class in power, this bourgeoisie that lives in certain neighborhoods in the west of the metapolis, in municipalities and housing areas in the middle of forests converted into exclusive areas for the owners of infrastructure, capital and the platform-State. In the city, these classes move in luxurious vehicles, impenetrable to the urbanites’ gaze, surrounded by police convoys that make way for their privileged vehicular flow. When it is necessary for them to travel, in order to visit or negotiate with their peers in some space in the metapolis or in neighboring cities, they do so using the air transport service that, when night falls, blends in with the lights of hundreds of surveillance drones.

From their glass towers or their homes in the middle of the forests, metapolitans communicate with their subordinates through innovative hyper-private multimedia virtual communication systems. Their task is not to work to survive, as the sub-metropolitan or metropolitan proletariat does, but to define the future of those same millions of beings who work to feed their financial cities. From their offices and consultancies, they create laws and regulate standards taking advantage of university, scientific and artistic research. Through them, they launch infrastructures of all kinds; they make and carry out business plans; they promote rulers, judges, legislators; they intensify entertainment projects or decide how the proletarian classes should be exploited, how they should have fun, what they should consume, where they should vacation or in which places they should spend their leisure time, that is, if they ever have time for that strange feeling of doing nothing.

Since the end of the last century, they discovered that whitewashing by dispossession is the best tool to fatten the reserve land and, to this end, legislative loopholes are the best way to appropriate rural and urban land. The ways of exercising the various forms of whitewashing range from the appropriation of money from criminal enterprises to launder it, to the search for records of homes owned by elderly people, or on supposedly vacant land, in order to dispossess the families or communities that have owned those properties for generations. Above all, they have discovered, with the help of some of their consultants, that an endless source for whitewashing by dispossession is culture, in its various expressions: from the neighborhood culture to the original or indigenous culture, including collective memories and art.

The way out

The different strategies of whitewashing through dispossession can be combated from a class perspective if an attempt is made to penetrate from a seminal neighborhood and community process, since those who make the metapolis have an immense subaltern and underground connection to obtain information, and with it, we can create initiatives of all kinds to stop the “fattening” of the land reserve. It is necessary to highlight the areas of appropriation of neighborhood and community economies by designing useful alternatives for that public space. Look for legal loopholes to take away the privilege of private companies to invade them, and regulations that defend tenants from the rents that overwhelm the economy of any proletariat.

Recovering decent housing can be achieved by regulating the increase in surface area and including new forms of property, such as collective-urban ownership. The greatest challenge for the metapolitan or subaltern classes is to remake the metapolis from the neighborhood, from the territory, from the community, staying away from the cathartic opinion of social networks. The metapolis seen as an immense neighborhood made of neighborhoods where we can humanely prevail, from the art of collective improvisation and the creactivity of living outside the colonizing frameworks of academic, state or business specialists. The destiny of urbanites can only be built by the sub-metropolitan and metropolitan classes.


Asher, Francois. Métapolis ou I´avenir des villes (1995). Odile Jacob. París.
Fisher, Mark (2016). Realismo Capitalista. ¿No hay alternativa? Caja Negra. Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Gaytán, Santiago, Pablo (2020). “Blanqueamiento por despojo: una categoría polisemántica descolonizadora”. Págs. 262-269. In Ciudad en disputa. Política urbana, movilización ciudadana y nuevas desigualdades urbanas, coordinated by De la Torre, Galindo, Javier y Ramírez Velázquez Blanca (Coordinators), UAM. México.
______________________(2004). Apartheid social en la ciudad de la esperanza cero. Ediciones InterNeta. Distrito Federal, México.

[1] This neologism refers to the iPad as an Oedipal digital device, used by young consumers. I take it from Mark Fisher in the work referred to in this essay.


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