Lecture Two Notes

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2 Mar 2011
Cities of Central America and the Caribbean
Lecture Two
Total population: 186 million
Percent Urban Population: 69%
Annual Urban Growth: 1.7%
Most Urbanized: Guadeloupe (99.8%), Martinique (97.9%), Puerto Rico (97.6%)
Least Urbanized: Trinidad and Tobago (12.2%), Monteserrat (13.5%), St.Lucia (27.6%)
Megacities (1); Number of cities of more than 1 million (17)
Cities of the Caribbean
Relatively small cities oriented towards the port (seaward economies)
Low rates of industrialization with high concentrations of rural populations
Palpable legacies of European imperialism
Current emphasis on tourism, off-shore banking and services
High rates of informal economic activities
Cities of Central America
Internally varied urban structure
oLarge internal highland cities (Mexico City, Guatemala City, San Salvador)
oTourist cities along the coast (Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama)
oIndustrial towns in Northern Mexico
Less port emphasis than the Caribbean
Spanish influence seen in urban form (grid pattern with formalized central square)
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Great deal of change in the last 50 years (industry, tourism, natural resources)
Measuring Urbanization
Urbanization: Population densities and non-agricultural employment
Drastically different densities when set against North American cities as well as the urban-
fringe activities (informal economies and settlement patterns)
Rural to urban migration in Middle America is more characteristic of developing countries
Primate and Megacities
Primate Cities: Defined by size and function it refers to countries that have one city that is
economically dominant and culturally expressive of the national identity
oTypically twice the size of the next largest cities
oImbalance of development with the primate city relying upon resources and migrant
labour from the surrounding environs
Megacities: Typically urban agglomerations over 10 million people that contains a
metropolis and metropolitan area (Census Metropolitan Areas) with an urban core and rural-
urban periphery
oMexico City
oPrimacy is characteristic of many of the areas in Middle America-Caribbean with
each island having a primate city, with a doubling of 1-5 million cities in the past 30
years as well as the relative stability of 500,000-1 million resident cities
Legacies of Colonization and the Informal Economy
Palimpsest: Term used by physical geographers to describe how layers of history leave a
physical imprint upon the urban environment even after new development as occurred
(Central America-Caribbean)
oStreet patterns designed by colonial powers
oColonial architecture (churches and government buildings)
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oPatterns of land ownership and economic (often exploitative) relationships
Urban Form
Cities in Middle America-Caribbean are characterized by tension between planned and
unplanned development
oFord and Griffin Model (1980) with centralized and spinal CBD bordered by Elite
Residential Zone; Zone of Maturity; Zone of In Situ Accretion; Zone of Squatter
oHybrid-characteristics and chaos are other factors
Readings from Chapter Three: Cities of Middle America and the Caribbean
Historical Geography
Mexican urban system forged in large measure by Aztec pattern of urbanization and Spanish
colonization, centralized around mining and agricultural systems
Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) was established during the Pre-Columbian area of Central
American development
oState-City model of organization (large commercial or religious settlement)
dominating rural
oNearly 2.5 million inhabitants by the middle of the 16th century
Spanish developed new cities to carry out administrative and political functions as well as to
act as commercial-economic centres linking natural resource (farming, mining) exploitation
with Spain
oEnclave economies (Taxco, Guanajuato)
oRegional growth through foreign investment and regional railways (33%) and
oUrban growth in central and northern regions which became transportation hubs
and heavy industry
oCommunications networks helped to link urban systems, high exports to the US
inhibited the development of balanced urban systems (primacy)
By 1940, there were six cities with a population over 100,000 which accounted for 20% of
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