In memoriam – Estefania Chavez Barragan “Manina”

“I met her in the mid 70’s, in Mexico as she was a renown member at the Mexican Planning Society, (SMP) where she was President (’68-’76). In the early ‘70s the Mexican Congress started discussions on Human Settlements, where she was involved and went to HABITAT I in Vancouver to participate in the discussions as head of the SMP. I was at the time struggling with my degree on Planning at the University of Edinburgh, under Professor Percy Johnson-Marshal, one of the founding fathers of ISOCARP. In 1975 the annual ISOCARP Congress was in Edinburgh and I was invited by Johnson-Marshal to participate in the discussions, and by his invitation and support become a Mexican member of ISOCARP. When I return to Mexico, as she was president of the SMP. and using her local influence in the field, the Mexican National Delegation of ISOCARP was created together with Octavio Falcon and other important Mexican planners. She took the lead of our delegation and participated in almost all ISOCARP Congresses since then. With her active involvement, together with Adriana Dal-Cin, she become member of ExCo. Until 2003 when she finished her responsibility and encourage my participation as representative of Latin America. Fortunately for me, elections went well, and I stared in ExCo in 2004 under Alfonso Vegara.

In the 90’s Manina, now as Emeritus Professor in Planning, created the Degree in Planning in the National University (UNAM), and hold several other important academic responsibilities, creating the University Program on City Studies and other initiatives. Again, with her active involvement in planning matters, she went to Istanbul to HABITAT II.

During the Guadalaja, Mexico Congress (’91), under Javier de Mesones as President and Manuel Costa Lobo as Rapporteur General, I was part of the local organizing Committee, and after several days of discussions in putting the program together, she came to Costa Lobo, with an idea that to me at first was somehow peculiar, considering the formality of Congress structure at the time. She wanted to assign time in the Congress Program to a group of Young Planners that she had invited to participate. Once she stablished her point, Professor Costa Lobo asked me to reorganize the program, so I did, thus the ISOCARP Young Planning program was born under the aegis of Manina.

She always was in politics in relation to cities thus in ’97 she was elected as Mayor of Xochimilco a city in Mexico next to Mexico City with some 750,000 inhabitants. She was in office until ’99 when her term ended.

In 2000, the ISOCARP Congress was at stake, because of different reasons, the originally assigned venue was not able to organize it, so as she was part of ExCo she proposed Mexico to be the venue. Leading the Mexico National Delegation, we all support her proposal and took the challenge, and in very short time the Congress was held in Cancun, Mexico.

Without leaving her academic responsibilities, she made time to wright nine books and several articles and papers for congresses and seminars in Mexico and abroad. She had the stamina to do many things at the same time.

The last time we coincide in an ISOCARP Congress was in 2015 in Rotterdam, and after that in HABITAT III in Quito in 2016, where we had the time to have a long chat about the Future of Cities. One always learned from her.

She was Architect, Master in Planning and PHD, obtained several awards such as the Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Medal of Honor, and the Gold Medal for Academic Merit UNAM, and others.

Unfortunately, she left us on January 11, 2020, she had the ability to make friends, and a lot of them had been presenting their respects to her family. She was active almost until her final days
I will remember her with affection and great thanks as she was an important part of my personal and professional life.”

Ismael Fernandez Mejia
ISOCARP President (2009-2012)

“On 11 January 2020 our dear ISOCARP Member Estefanía Chávez Barragán died surrounded by family members. It’s difficult to imagine that Estefanía is no longer in our midst, she seemed to have eternal life.

Dr. Estefanía Chávez Barragán was Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Architecture of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Until recently she went to the university once a week.

In her extensive academic career she taught almost 50 subjects and gave more than one hundred undergraduate and graduate courses, at UNAM as well as at other universities. Estefanía was head of the Department of Liaison and Culture of the Faculty of Architecture and is considered a pioneer of gender equity in Mexico. In the late 90s she was Mayor of the City of Xochimilco.

Estefanía is author of several essays, articles and nine books, the last one published in 2013: “The authors of the city. Proposals to improve the urban image in a local environment”. She spread her knowledge in congresses and seminars.

Estefanía was one of the pillars of ISOCARP, regular participant at ISOCARP Congresses, former member of the Executive Committee and founder of the YPP programme in Guadalajara in 1991. Her energy and enthusiasm for and with the young people made the Young Planning Professionals’ programme a success from the beginning. Estefania stayed young all her life and she not only taught the profession and the significance of ISOCARP to the young people but also gave them wise lessons for life. In 2016 at the Durban Congress she held a passionate speech on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the YPP workshop. She was surrounded and admired by so many young persons. Together with her husband Carlos she attended most ISOCARP congresses. She participated very actively, always spoke up for those that were heard less. Estefanía was deeply interested in the other, not only professionally but also on the personal side.

Her passion for the profession, people and life as such kept her young. She was outspoken and decisive and always respectful and with loving care. She enjoyed the small things in life. Unconventional, authentic, curious, full of energy and dynamism even in her eighties. It was a pleasure to listen to her stories and memories. Even when her health became fragile, she wanted to meet her colleagues at ISOCARP congresses. In a wheelchair and accompanied by her daughter or niece she attended the 2016 and 2017 congresses and fully participated not only in the professional part by also in the social part, always surrounded by young colleagues.

ISOCARP will cherish Estefanía’s values and continue her commitment for the young professionals in the YPP programme.

We will keep Estefanía in our hearts, she will stay with us forever.”

Gaby Kurth
ISOCARP Programme Manager 1991-2018

“Many names, many faces become part of our worlds in a life time, and many leave. Once the age is older, every year more than the previous one… until we get used to the lost ones. But we remember, respect, love and cherish only a few… just because of their unique touch into our lives. Estefania is one.

In the 25th Anniversary Forum of the Young Planning Professionals’ Programme Durban, 2016), Estefania said: “The members of Young Planning Professionals’ Programme have the responsibility to know the history of their Society which they belong to.” That history starts with Estefania.

What a privilidge and honour to know you, Estefania!

A woman, a leader, a teacher devoted herself in humanising the way we perceive and design urbanity with the spirit of intelligence, humbleness, quality, equality, solidarity and rights in this highly patriarchal and discriminative world, and as so in professional associations which are in danger of transforming into personal display windows of business cards, project portfolios and advertisement. Her world is ISOCARP, and for me, she is the ISOCARP. Not a network, not an association; but a Society, marked by its people, relationships, collaboration and memory.

Thanks to Estefania, since 1991, ISOCARP carries this legacy through its commitment on young generations by facilitating knowledge for better cities with the youth. She believed that ISOCARP’s life is sustained only with Young Planning Professionals’ Programme – active participation of young generations in the future of our Society. As of 2019, we have 1095 YPPs streching the legacy of ISOCARP throughout the world. I hope we are successful in preserving and rejuvenating the strength and spirit of the programme worthily to Estefania and all the following generations that devoted themselves in the programme by respecting to the traditional societal values, while searching always for the unconventional with the Society and our future society.

What a privilidge and honour to know you, Estefania!
You will always be in my and our hearts.”

Zeynep Gunay
ISOCARP Board, Director Young Planning Professionals’ Programme

Do you hold special memories of Estefania? Please share your condolence message with the ISOCARP community on the Member’s area  (members-only).



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