Social Representations of Mexico City Historic Center: Heritage and Controversial Memories

  • Martha de Alba Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa, México
  • Lesslie Herrera Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Jean-Christophe Loubier University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland Valais, School of Management, Institute of Tourism
Keywords: social representations, cultural memory, heritage, Mexico City Historic Center, spatial analysis


In this paper, we present the results of a research project that deals with the controversial memories of historic urban landscapes that have been designated as World Heritage sites by UNESCO. We observe – through the study of social representations of Mexico City Historic Center – how the World Heritage label transforms the meanings and memories of such landscapes. In the first part of this paper, the concepts of social representations and collective memory, and the role of heritage in the marketing of cultural memories are discussed. The empirical research conducted in Mexico City Historic Center is presented in the latter part of the paper. The focus will be on the analysis of interviews applied by combining different techniques and analytic methods commonly used in social psychology and geography. Research results show that different layers of city memories coexist in the social representations of Mexico City Historic Center nowadays, and that the World Heritage site designation recognizes and gives value to old cultural memories that become products for touristic consumption. This makes collective memories of social actors’ struggle to survive when their neighborhood was being transformed into an open museum.

Author Biographies

Martha de Alba, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa, México

MARTHA DE ALBA is research professor of Social Psychology in the Department of Sociology at the Autonomous Metropolitan University, Iztapalapa Campus, Mexico City. She gained her Ph.D in Social Psychology from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France. Her research interests deal with social representations and collective memory in urban spaces. She is cofounder of the National Research Network on Social Representations and the Centre of Mexican Studies in Social Representation, and she is a member of the National System of Researchers of the National Council of Science and Technology in Mexico. EMAIL:

Lesslie Herrera, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

LESSLIE HERRERA is doctoral assistant, she is writting her thesis on Collective Memory and Resistance at Ecole Polytecnique Fédérale de Lausanne. She is also Consultant at United Nations Refugee Agency. EMAIL:

Jean-Christophe Loubier, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland Valais, School of Management, Institute of Tourism

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE LOUBIER is Professor at the Haute Ecole de Gestion et Turisme in Switzerland. He holds a PhD in science from the Joseph Fourier University of Grenoble in the field of spatial dynamics and structures. He has specialised in the problems of human-environment interfaces and more particularly in the field of the effects of the implementation of sustainable development on complex systems combining mass tourism, economy and the environment. In parallel with this thematic approach, his current work is being developed along two lines: methodological and epistemological research, the objective of which is to address the complexity of geography in the quantitative field on the one hand, and geogovernance on the other. EMAIL: