Mr. Carlos Slim did participate in UNESCO's presentation of the Comprehensive Management Plan of Mexico City's Historic Center 2011-2016
Mexico City, August 16, 2011
In the event, which took place in Palacio de Minería, Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City Major, asserted that, after a decade, three successive administrations and a working consulting board, Historic Center repossession and restoration has been successfully accomplished.
Mr. Ebrard handed over the plan to Nuria Sanz, UNESCO’s expert for World Heritage sites in Latin America and the Caribbean. Mrs. Sanz did praise the occasion and underlined that Mexico City’s Historic Center stands for the central point for 22 million people.
She also pointed out that because of its complexity and vivacity, Mexico City’s Historic Center is second to none in a list of 36 World Heritage sites.
She also said that the Comprehensive Management Plan of Mexico City’s Historic Center stands for a sensitive and friendly citizenship sense of the efforts for restoring World Heritage sites in the current century.
On the other hand, Mr. Carlos Slim, President of the Executive Committee of Mexico City’s Historic Center Recovery and Restoration, said that when civil society, businessmen and government go hand in hand, big challenges can be successfully sorted out, like Historic Center restoration, which nowadays has increased dwelling population and investment as well. That area already has more dwelling and working people and more opportunities for investment.
Mr. Slim informed that Grupo Carso is already employing about seven thousand people in several business and activities in the Historic Center.
The ceremony was attended by the well-known journalist Jacobo Zabludowsky and Cardinal Norberto Carrera, both of them members of the Consulting Board, which has just accomplished ten years past August 14. Since its inception on August 14, 2001, the Consulting Board approved several social, economic, health-related, educational and cultural programs for improving living conditions and economic opportunities for those living or working in the area. Special emphasis has been put on promoting self-employment.
The Comprehensive Management Plan includes provisions for developing abilities, mobility, economic urban revival and urban life for the next 10, 20 and 50 years.
Mr. Carlos Slim’s address in the event
Good evening, Mr. Marcelo Ebrard, City’s Major, distinguished members of this table, fellow members of the Consulting Board, greatly esteemed members of the Executive Commission:
I am very pleasant in celebrating this Consulting Board Tenth Anniversary. The invitation and request by the civil authorities to participate in both the Consulting Board and the Executive Commission ten years ago was a great honor and also a very important challenge for all of us.
As it is known, several efforts to restore the Historic Center were made before us. A trust got constituted after the long-lasting efforts by our dear Honorary and Life Member Pepe Iturriaga. His try to hold back the destruction of the Historic Center began during the sixties.
As my dear friend Guillermo Tovar says, big destructors happens to be big constructors. During the fifties and the sixties of the past century, economic progress and growing car traffic compelled the city authority to widening 20 de Noviembre and Pino Suárez avenues. When Tacuba Street was targeted to suffer the same intervention, don Pepe Iturriaga called to a halt and did start an indefatigable campaign which influenced us much.
By that time, during the sixties, the graduate society of UNAM’s Engineering School did embrace the task of restoring that building, the Mining School, an effort abiding up to the present time.
In creating the Consulting Board in 2001 by federal and local government invitation, UNAM’s role was very important since it possesses many historic buildings in the area. So, it has been a big honor and pleasure to work hand in hand with so important institutions and this executive committee as well, which was originally composed by four civil society members, all of us present in here.
His Eminence Cardinal Norberto Rivera’s role has also been important, provided that his diocese harbors many historic buildings in that area. I also want to mention our dear friends Guillermo Tovar and Jacobo Zabludowsky. Mr. Zabludowky has been a member of the Consulting Board during ten years. So, here we stay in this undertaking called Historic Center Revival.
We all devised our work plan in the first meeting of the Executive Commission. The plan was not limited to restoring buildings; it looked for reviving urban life in the Historic Center, which had been deteriorating itself since the fifties and sixties, a process that seemed irreversible after the earthquake of 1985.
As a consequence of the earthquake, many people and activities abandoned the area. Lack of economic activity and unemployment began to draw a bleak picture. All of federal government offices emigrated, except Banco de México, fortunately.
The first aim of the revival plan was to improve social and economic conditions for the impoverished people staying here. So, we run health, education, training and job programs linked to the restoring aim. We also procured to lessening family violence.
It is important to say that there were government-supported and private micro-finance programs. Another aim of our program was to develop quality public security and public services. In respect to public security, Mr. Ebrard role was very important, even before he took charge as Secretary of Public Security. He contributed many ideas and solutions.
This was a big step ahead. Public services got improved. As Mr. Zabludowsky has said, electricity cables lurked as a real menace everywhere. All of them –power and phone lines, fresh-water and drainage systems– got substituted and laid underground. In short, the whole infrastructure got overhauled and we all got benefited from it.
Another aim was, of course, conservation, restoration and revival of buildings and surroundings. Revival was aimed to bring many people to work, live, attend education and enjoy themselves in the Historic Center. We looked to invigorate educational activities, not only elementary ones, but to restore the old university district’s life. UNAM embraced several programs, including the Palacio de la Autonomía restoration to invigorate university activities and give the Fundación UNAM a seat, whose president, Mr. Rafael Moreno Valle, has fostered many activities and is accompanying us now.
I want to mention specially Mrs. Carmen Beatriz López-Portillo, Dean of Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana. She has greatly encouraged educational, cultural and gastronomic activities in the area. She has recently opened a successful gastronomy school which is gaining national prestige rapidly.
Garibaldi Plaza and many surrounding buildings have also been restored. There are many people working and living there. I feel very pleasant in seeing the Historic Center populated again, especially by young people who see it as a choice to Condesa and Roma neighborhoods, which have also been revived after the earthquake. Nowadays the Historic Center has matched them by harboring many business and firms.
One thing is the many living and working here. Another is the millions coming for pleasure and entertaining annually.
We are very happy in celebrating our tenth anniversary. Because of that undertaking –thanks to join efforts by federal and local government, some institutions, Historic Center’s dwellers, business and civil society– we have restored, invigorated and embellished our Historic Center.
We in Grupo Carso have about seven thousand people working in the area. Several buildings abandoned by big banks many years ago are now occupied by call centers, our Institute of Technology and many other activities we have brought here.
There remain many tasks pending. Government, investors and businessmen keep working to fulfill them. The Historic Center will be the place for many more activities, and we are fond of it.
In respect to the well-known huge cave-in soil problem due to aquifer over-exploitation, we initially thought, after expert consultations, that the Historic Center area could be isolated. We were wrong. Fortunately, engineer Fernando Hiriart have closed all the wells in the area and relocated them in the periphery many years ago, so the cave-in problem has ameliorated.
However, it remains to be a big problem, a national security one. A solution is on the making. As a first step, Central Drainage System maintenance has been solved. The next step is building the East Drainage System. A further step will be treating waste water and bring it back to the Historic Center.
We expect that this comprehensive hydraulic work will be finished in the next ten years or less, surely, an accomplishment which will enliven us much. That will be a useful work for the whole city, not only for the Historic Center. Otherwise we could suffer buildings collapse and subsoil water contamination.
Historic Center revival shows that we can fulfill any challenge by joining efforts.
I want to amend an omission in my address. Some federal offices have returned to the Historic Center. They are the Treasury, Education and Foreign Affairs, the later now seated in Avenida Juárez after being in Tlatelolco since the sixties. The City Hall has been settled back in its historic building. All of these buildings have been restored thanks to joint efforts with both federal and local governments aiming to restore the Historic Center importance.
I want to finish my address by saying that we united can fulfill any challenge on condition that the challenge itself be clear and we be able to distinguish aims and instruments.