Mexico City – Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, considered the world's wealthiest man by Forbes magazine, was awarded a prize in recognition of his 10-year effort to help revitalize Mexico City's historic center.
That prize, the Sor Juana Ines Medal, is conferred by the University of the Cloister of Sor Juana, or UCSJ, "on people who have contributed to (Mexico's) cultural, artistic or academic development."
Ten years ago, the Mexico City and federal governments appointed Slim president of the executive committee of the Mexico City council for the recovery and restoration of the capital's historic center.
"Since then, he has organized, promoted and supported this project," the university, located in Mexico City's historic core, said.
The institution added that over the past decade Grupo Carso, the global conglomerate owned by Slim, has created more than 8,400 permanent jobs in the historic center and remodeled and adapted 100,000 square meters (1 million) for offices and 60,000 square meters for residential use.
"My deepest thanks to the UCSJ, its university council and its president ... for awarding me this prize, which I am very pleased to receive," Slim said after accepting the award from UCSJ President Carmen Lopez-Portillo Romano.
The magnate said restoring the historic center had seemed like an impossible task but an agreement between the federal and Mexico City governments to work together on the project made it possible.
The challenge "became steadily smaller thanks to that unity of work, solidarity and interest in solving the problem at all levels," the chairman and CEO of telecommunications giants Telmex and America Movil said.
Slim explained that the goal was to revitalize the area and not just restore buildings.
This was about "lifting the socio-economic level of the population in the historic center and giving them health, education, security and public-service programs," he said.
In his opinion, great progress has been made but much remains to be done, especially with respect to the steady and ongoing sinking of the city due to overexploitation of underground aquifers.
According to Lopez-Portillo, the historic center was "unpopulated, sick, gray, violent and degraded" a decade ago.
"Many of us therefore celebrated the initiative launched by the city and federal governments and the enthusiasm of individuals and groups to revitalize" the area, the university president added.
She praised Slim for committing to the project and keeping his word, saying he had "honored the trust that people and institutions had placed in him."
According to Lopez-Portillo, many people benefited from health programs, grants, microcredits and training workshops offered as part of the project between 2001 and 2010.
Journalist Jacobo Zabludovsky attended the ceremony and hailed the project for transforming the center from a "place marked by indifference that no one wanted to visit out of fear or lack of interest into the country's biggest tourist attraction."