Posted by Marcie Hambrick, XALAPA MEXICO -- A few weeks back one of the local news stations reported that Atlanta was recently ranked the 20th most walkable city in North America. I was shocked. I've lived in the Atlanta area for a long time now and walkability isn't something I associate with this sprawled out, traffic-congested place. But Xalapa, the capital city of the state of Veracruz in Southeastern Mexico, is perhaps one of the most walkable cities I have ever seen. The city was designed before cars came into existence so the streets are narrow and wind along the contours of the hilly terrain. In fact, it's so cumbersome to traverse these narrow streets by car most of the locals travel around the city by foot. And they can because everything they need it within walking distance.
The city has no fitness center and it doesn't need one. Navigating the hilly streets is akin to a rigorous hiking trip. And there is a park in the center of town where everybody gathers. It seemed to me that the daily walking created a strong sense of community. Being in Xalapa felt like a daily festival. People, already drawn out of their houses and cars, tended to linger in the park as an extension of the family home. Venders would set up impromptu booths, and children played freely while adults socialized.
Marcie Hambrick, MSW is a Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. She also teaches sociology at Georgia Northwestern Technical College and is the Director of New Leaf Outreach Anger Management and Stress Solutions in Dalton. She can be reached at email@example.com.