How good it is to live in the leafy neighborhoods of Condesa or Roma, in Mexico City: we have a coffee organic (“organic”), we go to the delicatessen which sells oats from fair-trade agriculture; while two streets away, a beautiful French bakery offers its terrace, on which Westerners are seated connected to their laptops. July, a 27-year-old Texan, moved to the Mexican capital at the very start of the pandemic. “I’m a tech consultant, and my company allowed me to work from home, so I joined a friend here. Mexico City is a great city! »
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, a large number of Westerners have settled in the center-west of Mexico City, digital nomads authorized by their American companies to work from afar, choosing the mild, sunny and tree-lined daily life of a capital. cheap Mexican, to earn dollars that we spend in pesos.
A high standard of living
This axis that makes up the Chapultepec, Condesa, Roma and Juárez neighborhoods has been home to wealthy families for a century, as depicted in the film Roma by Alfonso Cuarón, winner of the Oscars in 2020. With cafes at 65 pesos (3 €) and rents oscillating between 9,000 and 12,000 pesos per person (i.e. 450 to 600 €), the standard of living there is good higher than in the rest of the capital, and the “bobo” atmosphere appeals to Westerners who do not hesitate to pay rents higher than their real price, penalizing the average Mexican.
Julieta, a resident of Escandón, a changing neighborhood that borders Condesa, has seen her rent go from 6,000 pesos to 8,000 pesos in four years. Increases suffered by many residents of the Mexican capital.
“In reality, the gentrification of these neighborhoods has already existed for fifteen years. Sooner or later, rents and restaurants would have reached these rates”, says Luis Alberto Salinas, a researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. This phenomenon of hipsters, young urban hipsters, led by this North American population has accelerated the process, according to the inhabitants of Mexico City. Maria Gala, master in sociology at El Colegio University in Mexico City, therefore prefers to talk about « touristification ». “In these already gentrified neighborhoods, this”touristification” causes the property to move from residential use to tourist use. »
Because, in the capital, there are 3,500 rooms available on the Airbnb platform, and this figure reaches new records each year. According to Airbnb, owners of accommodations available on the platform have seen their income increase by 100% since 2019. “The gentrification of central districts only benefits certain sectors: real estate, entrepreneurs and tourism”confirms with regret Luis Alberto Salinas.
In the Roma district, a huge tarpaulin attached to a superb art deco building on Colima street announces: “Presale: invest in an apartment for travellers! » Just below, Pushkin Park and its tropical trees with eternal leaves. For years, Roma’s historic residents have been asked to make room, like Silvia Pineda, expelled last year. The police, batons, shields and a last look behind you as if to capture the memories evaporating in the tree-lined atmosphere of Roma.
“We Mexicans have become foreigners”
“Now, when I go to Roma to go to a café or a restaurant, the bill has become very steep! And we no longer feel in our place. We Mexicans have become the foreigners. » Some establishments in Condesa and Roma even offer menus in English to the detriment of Spanish.
The phenomenon is such that posters are springing up in Mexico City criticizing these « Blancs responsible for gentrification »until explicit injunctions: ” Go home ! »“Most don’t care about being in Mexico, they keep to themselves and come because life is cheaper and we’re three or five hours by plane from Los Angeles or New York,” deplores Mayela Delgadillo, head of the Citizen Front Save the City in Mexico City.
How to reconcile the inhabitants of Mexico with these foreigners who came for the charms of the capital? “Policies are needed to encourage digital nomads to participate more in the local and social life of the cityestimate Mme Delgadillo. But the town hall has a neoliberal vision where it finds its account in the arrival of these Westerners. Today, any building is designed to be sold or rented to foreign workers. »
On the side of the town hall of Mexico City, we pretend to deny the existence of this increase in rents. To counter gentrification, the municipality is nevertheless carrying out a “special program of urban regeneration and inclusive housing 2019-2024”. It aims to “correcting the effects of gentrification, rising land prices and violations of urban regulations” in addition to inclusive housing development. A plan that will not slow down the “touristification” of Mexico City, since these accommodations remain far from the neighborhoods where the evicted families once lived.
The phenomenon even tends to spread outside of Mexico City. Further south of the country, on the Pacific coast, the atmosphere is lazy. In Zicatela, it’s yoga in the morning, line work during the day facing the five-meter waves, and fiesta The evening. Attached to Puerto Escondido, a popular fishing port, Zicatela is an expatriate village that no longer has anything Mexican about it, and there too the arrival of Westerners is causing prices to explode.
“Since the Covid, the price per square meter has tripled! », underlines Luc, a Frenchman who fled confinement in 2021 and who is building a villa with a swimming pool there. Objective: Airbnb from 2023. July has been established there since May. “I’m like stuck here” she laughs while sipping a margarita. “I will continue to work there. Return to the United States? I don’t think so, nothing forces me to return. »
An attractive capital
Mexico has 1.6 million Americans on its territory (Source: US State Department). The Mexican capital and its suburbs have 21 million inhabitants (2021)
The average rent for a two-room apartment in a popular area is between 9,000 and 12,000 pesos (450 to 600 €). The average salary in Mexico is less than 7,800 pesos (€400).
In 2021, Mexican owners obtained more than 2,600 dollars (as much in euros) in revenue thanks to Airbnb, a 100% increase compared to 2019. The platform recorded 40% more guests between 2019 and 2022.