Tampiquito is a neighborhood displaying a high degree of social diversity. It is located in the very center of the municipality of Nuevo Leon, Mexico’s municipality with greatest per capita income.
During the last few years, the construction of gated communities has influenced the development of Tampiquito. Each new gated community constructed has its own name, its own entrance and its own surveillance cameras. The lack of integration of the new urban development has had a great impact on the social structure of the neighborhood.
Nevertheless, Tampiquito, thanks to its inhabitants and labor force, was able to maintain the typical atmosphere of a Mexican craftsmen neighborhood. Here one can encounter traditional craftsmen workshops such as car repair shops, padding workshops, tailors, hairdressers, carpenters, blacksmith’s shops, bakers, bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, architects, and even musicians and photographers.
In Tampiquito people walk the streets. They also use their bikes, their skateboards and their cars. It is on the street that much of the daily life occurs, while, chatting, listening to music or to a football game. From one street corner to another one can feel the smell of food changing: sometimes is the smell of grilled meat, sometimes the enchiladas.
Tampiquito is the option for different social economic classes to learn how to share the same neighborhood. An example of a community based on interdependence.
Based on the social actions we led so far, we believe that we can start writing up a Cookbook for a Healthy Community. We start by mentioning six pieces of advice, which we call “recipes”. We mention these recipes in the order in which we applied them in our neighborhood, Tampiquito. The sequence of application was an important aspect for us, since in most of the cases, one action lead to the next.
Recipe One: Invent a Symbol for Your Neighborhood
Our Ingredients: A plaster lion
Outcome: Bonding trust, bridging trust
Our first community project evolved around a plaster lion that was handed out to children in several families. Children painted the lions and the result, the colorful oeuvre, was exposed in a public exhibition: a unifying event for the whole community. This first simple project helped create social capital in the families involved. Parents were in part the supporters and coordinators of the endeavor. Social capital within the family is about the role parents play in their children’s lives. The social capital of the family is the relations between children and parents.
We believe that the lion project created social capital also outside the family. The lion sculpture was adopted by several families after the painting project had ended. Even families who had not participated in the exhibition wanted a lion of their own. The lions acquired by the families in the neighborhood were placed on the rooftops and at the entries of their houses. The sculpture became a unifying symbol for Tampiquito.
Recipe Two: Interaction in the Public Space
Ingredients: The Fair of Tampiquito
Outcome: Social interaction and integration
From its very foundation, El Narval believed in the value of interaction in the public space. In a city torn by security concerns and high inequalities, isolation and the abandonment of the public space is a big concern. In line with Molly O’Meara (1999:348) we believe that the isolation of the rich and poor as well as the abandonment of the public space has a high potential of increasing the level of insecurity in a city: “Crime often plagues fragmented cities that isolate the poor in distinct pockets”. (O’Meara 1999: 348)
Urban writer and activist Jane Jacobs also pointed out to the consequences of populating – or abandoning – the streets. In her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities Jacobs points out to the advantage of diverse street life, by arguing that many eyes on the street deter crime.
We believe that there is no better way to resuscitate public places than by organizing public events outside, on the streets or in public parks. One such example of an event that we organize is the Tampiquito Fair.
The first Tampiquito Fair took place in 2009 and the second Fair followed in an even more spectacular shape in 2010. This local event is now meant to take place every year and its main purpose is to raise the awareness about the public space, local values, neighborhood life, traditions and local talent. We calculate that there were more than 400 people involved in organizing the event in 2010 – and the most satisfying part is that the organization involved people from the neighborhood but also residents of neighboring municipalities, and of all social strata. As for the guests, we estimated that we had over 1500 guests during the two Fair days of the 2010 edition.
Several art spaces opened in the neighborhood during the time of the fair. The event also intervened in neglected spaces of the neighborhood. In an abandoned house, for example, we installed an art exhibition with pieces inspired by the local environment: people, animals and phrases – “made in Tampiquito”. The art space had ponies outside that could be ridden by children – and small adults.
Recipe Three: Start an Artist in Residence Program
Ingredients: Young artists, willing to spend a longer period of time in our neighborhood
Outcome: Interventions in the neighborhood and a higher reputation for the community in the city
In Tampiquito El Narval runs an Artist in Residence program, whose aim it is to engage young local and international artists in projects for development of the neighborhood’s social capital.
So far, two such projects have run. In 2009 the urban artist Eltono came to Tampiquito, stayed for two months, and painted the facades of about 50 houses in the neighborhood. The project considerably increased the neighborhood’s reputation.
In 2010 we invited the Colombian sculptor Ana J. Haugwitz. She also stayed for two months and worked together with the neighborhood’s craftsmen. The result was a collection of nine works of art which were exhibited publicly in our neighborhood. Each work of art reflected her collaboration with and the talent of the workshops Haugwitz had worked with.
Recipe Four: Give the Community a Voice
Ingredients: The community blog
Outcome: Collaborative form of engagement
We see ourselves as community leaders and we believe that one of the key roles for public leadership is to create platforms where opinions can be collected and shared. In 2009 we thus created the community blog, to which community members have access. The blog entails different news items and proposals, from pictures of damaged streets after the hurricane Alex, to the public selling of urban art in a neighbor’s garden. The blog also informs about community projects and neighborhood meetings. We believe that blogs can be very useful tools for community development, since they represent collaborative and conversational forms of engagement for the citizens. The digital divide between the rich and poor is still a problem when it comes to access to internet and computers, but we discovered that the population of our neighborhood makes intense use of the two internet cafes at their disposal – the blog thus became know throughout the neighborhood, with the young and old.
Recipe Five: Materialize Local Identity
Ingredients: The neighborhood passport
Outcome: Local identity feeling
We found out that self esteem tends to be very low in neighborhoods resembling Tampiquito. With the Tampiquito Passport Project (a real-resembling passport for the neighborhood) we aimed at addressing particularly this lack of self esteem. At the 2010 edition of the Tampiquito Fair we put the grounds of the “Embassy of Tampiquito”, and we sold the Tampiquito passports for only 30 pesos (around $2.5) per piece, to all interested citizens, applying no discrimination whatsoever. During the fair, 80 people assumed a new local identity by buying a neighborhood passport. Some of them were not even from Tampiquito! By sharing out passports we aimed at getting people involved in the same cause and at the same time, as Leadbeater would say, make them feel “like real citizens, who feel a sense of belonging in the city.” (Leadbeater 2006: 239)
Recipe Six: Support Local Talent
Ingredients: Graphical map of local talent
Outcome: Talent repertoire for the community
As Coleman explains (1988: 101) “physical capital and human capital facilitate productive activity, and social capital does as well.” Our aim in Tampiquito is also to facilitate productive activity. One first project supporting this goal was to map the small repair shops and workshops in the neighborhood on a neighborhood map. The mapping corresponded to a mapping and advertising of local talent. The first maps of the small businesses of Tampiquito were printed out in 10’000 copies in May 2010, and the distribution started in the neighborhood itself and in neighboring municipalities.
Coleman, James S. (1988): “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital”, The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 94, Supplement: Organizations and Institutions: Sociological and Economic Approaches to the Analysis of Social Structure. (1988), pp. S95-S120.
Jacobs, Jane (1961): The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House.
Leadbeater, Charles (2006): “The Socially Entrepreneurial City”, in: Nicholls, Alex (2006): Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change, Oxford University Press.
O’Meara, Molly (1999): “Exploring a New Vision for Cities”, in: Reinventing Cities for People and the Planet, Worldwatch Paper 147. Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute, 1999 (www.worldwatch.org).