Epilogue: urban form as a colonizing strategy

This survey of the adoption and deployment of the orthogonal layout as an organizing system in Puebla’s urban form allows us to see how the grid, for one, does not have a unique origin, nor does its origin determine its end. In other words, the grid was an organizing system that was, presumably, present in the Spanish cultural tradition for centuries before the arrival of the European colonizers to the New World, with various origins and capable of fulfilling statutory, legal, functional, and religious demands. At the same time, the physical alignment of architectural-urban elements, as in Cholula’s Tlachihualtepetl Temple, appears to have had the capacity to inform the outcome of urban decisions in Puebla’s urban form, making urban form a hybrid product. However, the urban grid in viceregal cities in New Spain, as in Puebla, also represented, an urban paradigm that enabled and guaranteed social and political order, therefore enabling and perpetuating a sophisticated colonizing apparatus.57

Indeed, the grid, as employed in Puebla and viceregal New Spain at large, was an expression of how space and time became entangled and embodied in the design of the urban environment, leading to the capacity of the viceregal institutions to establish, deploy, and control not just a city but a city’s hinterlands. The urban grids of carefully planned cities such as Puebla, Mexico City; Valladolid, today Morelia; or Antequera, today Oaxaca City should not be understood as the pinnacle of the urban Renaissance ideals in the American continent that Europeans never got to realize in their continent. Instead, an urban design such as Puebla’s also represents the beginning of an understanding of the territory in which geometry, space, time, and an emerging capitalist order inaugurated the forms and notions of modern urban planning. The capacity and historical role played by the Spanish American urban grid, in that sense, has only recently begun to be recognized and understood in these terms.58

All in all, Puebla’s urban grid should be viewed as one of the most successful and accomplished experiments in urban design in viceregal Mexico, representative of the second generation of urban foundings in the Spanish Americas (after the Antilles), hybrid in character, that together with other urban planning experiments, such as those of Mexico City, Antequera, and others, would forge an urban paradigm that would continue to be employed for the rest of the viceregal New Spanish period in the establishment of new urban settlements.

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