Lomas del Centinela - understanding a community in Mexico

Maggie Church 

Lomas del Centinela is a growing community on a hilltop in Zapopan, Guadalajara, Mexico. It borders the Bosque del Centinela, an important natural resource for the community, and several other communities.

The Zapopan municipality is home to some of the wealthiest and poorest communities in Jalisco creating stark contrast for its inhabitants. Many homes and businesses in Lomas del Centinela are part of the informal sector. In March 2019, MIT and Universidad de Guadalajara (UdeG) researchers met with the community and a non-profit called Circulo de Amigos. The teams hoped to better understand the neighborhood in an effort to source problem statements. In the end, community members attended the full workshop and identified several areas for more exploration including: women's empowerment, education, infrastructure, public space, connectivity, and safety and security.

Now back in Cambridge, the MIT team is working on a research proposal to continue work with collaborators in Mexico. Meanwhile, community members continued to work to improve their home. Below is a brief list of some of their recent accomplishments:


Lomas del Centinela

~Circulo de Amigos, in collaboration with the community, local industries and a philanthropist, are building a sustainable dining room for the community that can seat anywhere from 300 to 700 children. In addition, the construction of the dining hall will employ people from the neighborhood, with each team consisting of at least 50% women. A local architect will train all new employees and each person will have certified construction training. 


Lomas del Centinela

~With the help from the NGO Firefighters Without Borders, the community has started a volunteer fire team staffed by community members and led by Hector Jesus Castaneda Lomeli.

~In parallel, researchers from Cinvestav University and the University of Guadalajara are deploying lights along popular forest paths to provide improved use and additional security.  

~Students from the Tec de Monterrey will help the community design and build additional summer huts in the forest which can be used by community members to enjoy their resources without causing harm to the environment.

~Finally, Circulo de Amigos is building a database with qualitative and quantitative data from the people living in Lomas del Centinela. This will be an ongoing process, but eventually the data will be anonymized and shared with NGOs and research institutes who are interested in helping the community better understand inequality, poverty, and safety and security.

The MIT team is collecting a digital library to read and better understand informal settlements in Latin America. If you have any suggestions or if you are interested in reading along with us, please email Maggie Church: for more information.

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