Number 40, Spring 2003

This Casa will soon be UC's home

On the edge of Parque de la Bombilla (Lantern Park), south of Mexico City, sits an elegant two-story house that the University of California will make its home-away-from-home in Mexico.

The University has agreed to purchase the residence and its adjacent buildings sitting amid manicured grounds from the current owner, Banco Nacional de México (Banamex). The bank acquired the property about a decade ago for employee training, and built a classroom and administrative facility onsite.

Casa California
Casa California.
This 1870 residence, built for a publishing family, is to become UC's second home abroad. The first was opened in London in 1999.

The main house and other buildings can easily accommodate UC programs, conferences, courses and other University and state-related activities.

"I hope that Casa de California will become a hub for research like the Washington, D.C. center," UCOP Vice Provost for Research Larry Coleman told members of the UC MEXUS Advisory Committee in March.

The Washington house provides facilities for visiting students and scholars in addition to linking classrooms in California with top political leaders and policymakers.

Equally interesting guests should not be hard to come by in Mexico, Coleman says.

"The best minds from both nations will work together to research and solve issues of common concern," said Coleman. “Major political and artistic figures and important policy makers will be available to students in the classroom via TV monitor,” he says. “This house will enrich our students’ educational experience immeasurably.”

The Carmen Street house sits in an area artists and intellectuals inhabit, close to several of Mexico’s major universities. The original residence was built around 1870 by a Spanish book publishing family, the Cumplidos, who also owned a chain of bookstores.

"It was one of the first houses to be built in the Chimalistac area after the 1859 land reform laws," said Miguel Aguilera, a member of the Chimalistac Historical Society. Those new laws permitted expropriation of land from the church, which owned much of the property in the area.

In the 1950s and '60s, the Carmen Street house was home to architect Francisco Artigas, a designer of schools, best-known for his modernistic creation of the nearby Jardines del Pedregal de San Angel.

In its new incarnation, the house will not only accommodate UC MEXUS programs but also a cluster of UC educational and outreach programs (See story in Issue 39) such as Education Abroad Programs, and a University Relations office, whichwill develop a UC alumni association in Mexico. The California governor's trade office will also maintain a presence and host events at the house.

The facility should be ready for operation within a year, once the building conforms to state standards for earthquake safety and disabled access, Coleman said.

Casa de California will greatly enhance the ties the University and the state have begun to forge with academics, academic institutions, the Mexican government, and trade and industry,” he said.

Read more about the historic Chimalistac neighborhood.