In the 1960s, after the closure of the sand mine located at the place, the community was threatened with eviction because the sale of the land. In spite of growing discrimination and repression lived by the inhabitants of Palo Alto, the community organized as a Cooperative and in 1971, won the right to buy the land. With the help of external collaborators the Palo Alto community was able to establish the development of a participatory architecture which emphasized that the urbanization of the territory was an active social construction where people had the right to housing. Each of the cooperative members obtained its residence through the construction of 300 houses, which used the progressive architecture strategies to project a model of self-construction that considered the growth of the families.
Today, Palo Alto has an estimated population of 1,600 and has been withdrawn from the real estate via its legal status of collectively-owned land. However, the increasing outside pressure over this lucrative area has led to internal tensions. Since the mid-nineties, 42 of the 300 houses have been abandoned as a result of a battle, in which some members have deserted and demand the private ownership of their homes. This shows that the collective consciousness is not a matter of course, which can be easily handed from one generation to another, but a living process of the collective cause.
Juan Daniel Franco Estrada, Tortilla Maker
Daniel works at the Tortilleria in Palo Alto, a collective effort by the residents of the neighborhood, producing up to 180 kg of tortillas a day. It is located next to the Assembly Salon under a mural telling the story of the Living-Cooperative. He starts each day by “putting on good music to set the mood.” And the key to making good tortillas, Daniel says, is setting the right temperature.
Josefina Juarez Guerrero, Shopkeeper
Josefina runs a small kiosks in Palo Alto. Her shop consists of a shelf with a variety of candy and snacks, at entrance of her house. Her customers, by no surprise, are the children from the neighborhood. Apart from earning a small income through the side business, Josefina proudly mentioned, “I know all the children of Palo Alto, and I’ve been watching them grow since the past 20 years.”
Rosa Maria Salas Juarez, Chef and Restaurant Owner
Rosa is a chef who has been running a restaurant from inside her house, for the past two years. “This house is my daughter’s, but she moved out some years ago with her family. Eventually we came up with the idea to run a restaurant here.” The restaurant serves not only people from Palo Alto but also from the surrounding neighborhood of Santa Fe, especially after the state prohibited informal street vendors in the area.