MOVE TO THE CITY

Mexico 2016 | DIPLOMACY | FOCUS: CIUDAD DE MÉXICO

Distrito Federal, better known as Mexico City, is set to become Mexico's 32nd federal entity this year. The move is set to boost democratic accountability.

For years, there has been one sure way to tell whether or not someone is a local in Mexico: ask them to name the capital. While the name Mexico City is widely used internationally, most Mexicans simply call the city the “DF,” short for “Distrito Federal.” This is because, since 1824, Mexico's capital has been designated a federal district, separate from other the 31 states of the republic, and governed directly by the central government.

This year, however, all of that is set to change, as the Distrito Federal becomes Mexico's 32nd federal entity, equal to the other 31 states of the republic. The most visible change for many will be in the city's name, which was officially changed to Mexico City when the political reform was approved by the Senate in April 2016. However, the reform is about much more than just a change in name. One of the main goals of the reform is to increase the level of autonomy and democratic accountability in the city's government by granting the city the same governmental institutions that exist in the other states of the Republic.

To this end, in June of 2016 Mexicans voted for a new local assembly that will meet in September of 2016 to write the city's first constitution, to be completed and approved by the end of January 2017. The city will also now have a local Congress, which will replace the previous Legislative Assembly. Congress will have the power to independently accept or reject any additional reforms to the constitution, just as any other state congress in the country. Finally, the city will also have an elected mayor, who will replace the previous “Head of Government.” These changes will place Mexico City's government on par with the other 31 state governments across the country, giving denizens of the capital more autonomy over local affairs.

The effort to reform the government of the Distrito Federal dates back to the 1980s, when the devastating earthquake of 1985 played a key role in developing a sense of identity and community for residents of the city. The following year the first proposal for DF statehood was rejected by the national congress, and in 1987 the first Assembly of Representatives was created for the city. Later in 1996, this was replaced by the Legislative Assembly of the DF. At the same time, following a plebiscite in 1993, the position of Head of Government of the DF was created. The position became directly elected in 1997. Two more efforts at DF statehood were proposed in 2001 and 2010 before one finally succeeded in 2013, moving forward to be approved in 2015.

Apart from political issues, the DF had also seen a push in recent years to change the city's name for the sake of tourism promotion. As Armando López Cárdenas, head of the Fondo Mixto de Promoción Turistica de la Ciudad de México (FMPT), explained to TBY in an interview, the city made the independent decision to rebrand itself as “Ciudad de México” in 2013 in an effort to distinguish itself from the other six Latin American cities with the same designation (including Bogotá, Buenos Aires, and San José). A major element of that transformation was the creation of the now ubiquitous CDMX brand, which can be seen throughout the city on taxis, government buildings, and public art projects.

As the city prepares its constitution and its new government, one question remains: what to call natives of the capital now? Numerous words have been proposed such as capitaleño or ciudad mexiquense, and surely the slang chilango will remain popular. Only time will tell as a new CDMX identity emerges over the coming years.