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Ciudad Satélite, frequently called just Satélite is a Greater Mexico City middle-class suburban area located in Naucalpan, State of Mexico. Officially the name corresponds only to the homonym neighbourhood, Ciudad Satélite, founded circa 1957. Over the last few decades it has expanded and it is now rather segmented socially and economically, distributed in a number of different neighbourhoods, although it has remained a predominantly middle class area.
Satélite originally was conceived as a commuter bedroom community; developers hoped to maintain a green belt between it and Mexico City, but its rapid development (and rising property prices) made this untenable. However, popular culture, market segmentation, availability of services, and comings and goings of life in this area have helped to define Satélite as a cultural center. Ciudad Satélite became the core of a new suburban phenomenon that eventually included not only single-family dwellings but also apartment buildings, condominiums, and retail spaces; some manufacturing also developed. This was a vast departure from the original concept (See History). Over time, the progress of real estate development has expanded on the original meaning of the Satélite community in the minds of Mexico City residents.
The project was approved by the president Miguel Alemán Valdés in 1948. The city was almost finished, but remained uninhabited until 1952 when people started to move in because of the attractive prices. Public services such as the phone lines were not finished yet in all circuits and people initially had to use public phones. By the 1970s, the Ciudad Satélite population vastly increased.
The area can be divided into four parts: the south zone, which comprises from Las Américas neighbourhood, next to Naucalpan City Hall, Vista del Valle (after the famous Norwegian poet), Paseos del Bosque and El Mirador. Some consider the neighbourhoods of San Mateo, La Florida and the Echegaray borough to be part of the South Zone of Satélite. The next zone would be the central-western zone consisting of Ciudad Satélite, the core neighbourhood, Lomas Verdes, Boulevares, Naucalli Park, and La Concordia. The third area is the northern zone: Fuentes de Satélite, Santa Cruz del Monte, Bellavista, and Calacoaya neighbourhoods.
Two more zones might be considered inside Satélite: the first one is called the far northern zone. The exclusion is explained because there is a huge low income zone (San Andrés Atenco) between the urban extension of what is considered the Satélite neighbourhood. The far northern zone includes neighbourhoods such as Alamedas, Santa Mónica Valle Dorado, Arboledas, Pirules and Club de Golf Hacienda. The last zone is Zona Esmeralda (consisting of Chiluca, Vallescondido and Sayavedra). This exclusion is because of the detachment between Satélite and Zona Esmeralda: several hectares of undeveloped land, Chamapa-Lechería highway and Madín dam divide the two urban extensions. Other factors are a different urban concept and a higher income level.
The only pre-Hispanic facts known about the area are that once the Tlatilca culture lived in the area formed between Totolinga, Los Cuartos and Hondo rivers. (tucked inside the industrial zone of Naucalpan we can find a small museum). Later, during the colonial period, the Shrine of Our Lady of Los Remedios was built when a Spanish officer found the religious figure under a maguey plant. It is said that the small virgin had been brought by Gonzalo Rodríguez de Villafuerte. The shrine, which divides the Satélite area from the popular zones of Naucalpan municipality, was built in the sixteenth century, and in the architectural compound we can find the well-known caracoles or Los Remedios Aqueduct.
Ciudad Satélite, the core neighborhood, started as a new urban concept in the mid fifties, when the rapid growth of Mexico City and the rise of a new, energetic middle class forced the development of entire new neighborhoods. The story of Las Torres de Satélite, the Greater Mexico City landmark for the area, is related in another article. It has been said that the grounds (in the northwestern suburbs of the city, near the old highway to Querétaro) originally belonged to Mexican President Miguel Alemán Valdés, who was in office from 1946 to 1952. He kept some acres and built a mansion in Doctors Circuit. Architect Mario Pani created most of the urban design. The great novelty in Ciudad Satélite is the total absence (at least in the core neighborhood) of traffic lights, due to an ingenious street layout with "circuitos" or wide oval circuits where incorporation to other main roads allow drivers to see if cars are coming. Each of Ciudad Satélite circuits has several streets with names of famous professionals relating to the circuit's name. The names of the circuits are the following: Centro Comercial (The Mall), Centro Cívico (Civic Center), Sculptors, Painters, Musicians, Mineralogists, Pedagogues, Scientists, Engineers, Teachers, Historians, Surgeons, Doctors, Medics, Geographers, Sailors, Playwrights, Orators, Missionaries, Architects, Poets, Novelists, Economists, Heroes, Jurists, Journalists, Diplomats, and the two external circuits (Circunvalación Oriente y Circunvalación Poniente). The urban design and the original pricing for the grounds was deliberately intended for segmenting the new city into three areas: middle class, upper middle class and high class. Novelists and Economists were the circuits with the highest ground prices, so it is not a surprise that the most spectacular manors were built there. Many of Ciudad Satélite's houses were built in a functionalist style, absent of any kind of decorative elements in the facade. This also applies to the so-called Ciudad Satélite's cathedral, San Felipe de Jesús Sanctuary. This big, spectacular church features many functionalist style elements, as well as astounding paintings. Other styles present in the neighborhood are colonial, modernist (vintage Mexican architecture), and Spanish or Californian colonial style.
The next neighborhoods were developed in the next years, so the urban extension of Satélite area has been growing ever since.
Contemporary issues in Satélite include the big traffic problems (as this is a sleep-over zone, many people drive to Mexico City everyday), The decrepit state of many roads, new concerns of car robberies, violations on environmental regulations, saturation and oversupply of real estate due to new developments, and unauthorized commerce in residential-designed zones.
Many of the old history of the area is seen in Our Lady of Los Remedios Shrine and its aqueduct. House watching has never been a popular activity, but certainly there are many interesting architectural details to be seen.
The Satélite Towers. This landmark stands in the middle of Periferico, Mexico City's main Freeway. Built by Mathias Goeritz and Luis Barragán and inspired in the painter Jesus Reyes Ferreyra's ideas, it is truly a great piece of architecture. Due to the unusual fact that nobody really owns the land over which they were built, they were not maintained by any government and had fallen into disrepair, until they were finally repainted in their original colors, which had been chosen by Barragán, and recovered their landmarking symbol in the late 90's.
Naucalli Park is a large extension of eucalypt forest devoted to the recreation of locals and other inhabitants of nearby areas. It used to be an ejido (communal agricultural grounds) called "Ejido de Oro". An expropriation decree converted it into a park which has a jogging circuit, many playground spots, monumental fountains, a convention center, an Agora (forum for art exhibits), a Culture House, the branch of a well-known Mexico City restaurant, an archery training ground, a big forum for classical music concerts (The State of Mexico Symphonic Orchestra used to play here on Sundays) and an amusement park with animatronic dinosaurs.
Plaza Satélite, built in the late sixties by the studio of the famous architect Juan Sordo Madaleno, is one of the biggest malls in Mexico City. It has undergone two full renewals and has all of the big department stores of the country, music stores, restaurants, boutiques, services and a big cinema complex.
Mundo E is a smaller, most middle to lower middle class tendered mall, with libraries, boutiques, another cinema complex, a fitness center and a couple of nightclubs.
Other smaller malls are: Heliplaza, Shopping Plaza and the commerces on Zona Esmeralda. A new and controversial big mall was built at La Cúspide (The Summit), which is the area's highest ground, offering sweeping views of Mexico City.
The Mall Circuit Zone (Circuito Centro Comercial) is Satélite's central commercial zone. Besides the big mall, it includes several commerces such as restaurants, nightclubs, cafeterias, three different but excellent bookstores, banks, and all the usual suspects of a twenty first century suburb.
The Blue Zone (La Zona Azul) is a nostalgic pair of commercial blocks that have some of the first businesses that operated in the area. It is such a famous icon of Satélite that it is the local place for joy demonstrations after Mexican National Team's victories in soccer matches. A well-known ice cream and spicy fruit parlour is the main culinary attraction. There are of course other food options, a branch of a world class cafeteria and an old stationary store. The Blue zone is known for drag racing of motorcycles and custom tuned cars.
The Ruins of Acropolis. Originally built as an outdoor shopping mall. The Acropolis never obtained popularity and was abandoned. Nowadays it stands as one of the landmarks of ciudad satélite.
Luis Barragán's sculptures can be seen in Arboledas neighbourhood. However, some monuments are in a decrepit state.
Parque de los Ciervos (Wild Deer Park) in Zona Esmeralda is a forest park where wild deers are raised. Picnic and playground facilities.
Education, Culture & Sports
Satélite is known for being an area with an excellent educational circuit: some good private schools as well as a couple of public junior highs have their home here. School competition is officially low but is a big issue of pride for many "satelucos", to the extent of determining a particular state of mind for each and anyone of them. The most important educational center is an UNAM Faculty of Superior Studies at Acatlán. The area also houses a Universidad del Valle de Mexico (UVM) university campus.
Some of Mexico's best known Olympic medallists lived or live here. Examples are Carlos Mercenario, Soraya Jiménez, Dolores Knoll and Fernando Platas. In the lower zone of Boulevares, almost next to Acatlán Town are the fields of the zone representative teams, such as: The Buccaneers (Bucaneros), the Cowboys (Vaqueros), the Black Dogs (Perros Negros), and the Redskins (Pieles Rojas). The second and fourth being the most famous outside Satélite. There is also a local soccer football league: Liga de Fútbol Satélite.
Cultural exports from Satélite include: classical tenor Rolando Villazón, the members of the band Café Tacvba, troubadour Fernando Delgadillo and rock band Dildo. For more prominent "Satelucos", visit Satelín-Torres' list: Satelín-Torres#Prominent Satelucos list.
- History of Naucalpan Municipality
- Plaza Satélite - History of Plaza Satélite shopping mall
- Satelín-Torres, activist group focused on creating conscience around the identity of both Ciudad Satélite and being a "Sateluco".