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Cambridge University Press


This article analyzes the urbanization and privatization of communal lands (ejidos) in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, via a computer vision model that utilizes Google Street View (GSV) and Geographic Information System (GIS) imagery. Our innovative methodology reveals how processes of ejidal urbanization in Mexico’s northern borderlands contributed to the rise of multinational factories (maquiladoras) and geographies of inequality and violence. Past scholarship on the (d)evolution of ejidal land tenure details how periurban ejidal lands throughout Mexico were often sites of impoverishment and a lack of investment, featuring informal settlement and rapid or chaotic urbanization following the country’s 1960 urban turn. Through its use of novel sources and methods, this article demonstrates that the urbanization process in Juárez’s principal periurban ejidos diverged from this classic model in specific ways. By combining conventional historical sources with visual data like GSV and GIS imagery, Juárez’s former and current ejidal landscapes reveal high levels of investment, formal planning, and infrastructure. We argue that Juárez’s distinctive physical, political, and economic geographies shaped the overwhelmingly industrial, private, and invested character of the city’s (former and current) periurban ejidal lands. This process occurred via a globalized modernization regime that forged disparate landscapes of investment and inequality beginning in the 1950s.


This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that no alterations are made and the original article is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained prior to any commercial use and/or adaptation of the article.



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