President Felipe Calderon inaugurated the second “rural city” in Santiago el Pinar, Chiapas, the state’s poorest municipality. The new “city” is scheduled to house 460 indigenous families from five nearby communities. Rural cities consist of suburban style houses clustered closely together in what appears to be a repeat of the “model villages” counter-insurgency strategy developed during the Vietnam War. Populated mostly by indigenous campesinos, residents reportedly must abandon their current lands and burn their houses before moving to the rural cities, in large part because so many inhabitants of the first “city” maintained dual residency. The new “rural city” is strategically located in the valley below Oventic, one of five Zapatista political and cultural centers. The UN Development Program characterized the project as an innovative effort to combat poverty. Each “city” costs about US$35 million. The pre-fabricated houses include indoor plumbing and tiny rooms, in stark contrast to traditional housing in the region.


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