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The impact of gentrification on locals in Mexico and 5 things expats should stop doing

- January 16, 2024

Hi, I’m Jeremy Albelda, a 36-year-old entrepreneur living in Mexico City. I want to share my story and some tips with you. This is based on a conversation I had with a journalist. It’s been shortened and simplified for clarity.

I grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Roma Norte, Mexico City in 2015. My mom is from Mexico so I always wanted to live there. I went to San Miguel, where she lived as a kid, in 2009 during my college break. That’s when I decided I would live in Mexico someday.

In Mexico, I worked as a writer and a marketer. Then, I opened a British pub and got into more restaurants and real estate. Things changed after COVID-19.

I saw more white Americans moving to Mexico. The fast gentrification hurt the local people. Here are some things that Americans moving to Mexico should stop doing.

1. Stop speaking English to locals right away

Many locals speak English in the gentrified areas of Mexico, but it’s nice to start talking to them in Spanish before switching to English. This shows that you want to learn the language.

I don’t speak English on the street or loudly at restaurants. You should learn the language or some words before you move here. I have friends who’ve been here for years and don’t speak Spanish. That’s not cool. I think it’s rude and insensitive. Being polite helps a lot and saying “hola” first is expected here.

Try to learn Spanish and you’ll make a good impression on the locals and the tourists.

2. Stop staying in older Airbnb units

Older Airbnb units used to belong to local people who were forced to leave. The newer Airbnb units are made for tourists so they didn’t take anyone’s home. The Mexican government made some rules and taxes with Airbnb to make more Airbnbs and help tourism.

Airbnb prices and other real estate prices have gone up. I bought my apartment in 2018, before more Americans moved in. Since then, the rent in my building has gone up a lot. I’ve seen locals put up signs in English telling Americans to go home and that we’re not welcome here because the rents are too high.

Because of this, it’s better to stay in a newer Airbnb or a hotel that has a license and follows the rules.

3. Stop raising your voice when out in public

I’ve noticed that Mexicans are very polite and respectful. If you raise your voice, you might make people around you feel bad. If you’re angry, deal with your problems in a calm way to avoid being rude.

4. Stop only going to American-owned businesses

Over time, I’ve seen many new bars and restaurants for people to have fun, but it’s important to go to local restaurants, street vendors, and markets to help the local businesses. Eating on the streets is a way to be with the community here and it’ll make you feel more welcome.

When I moved here, there were more kids in the neighborhoods and more parks and schools. Mexico City had more museums than any city except London. There were many bookstores and fondas (small family-run restaurants) too.

Here is a possible way to rewrite the text in a friendly manner:

I moved here when there were more kids in the neighborhoods and more parks and schools. Mexico City had so many museums, only London had more. There were also many bookstores and fondas (cozy family restaurants). But now, after more Americans came, there are mostly restaurants, bars, cafes, boutiques, and clubs. I don’t see many kids in the neighborhood and young people can’t eat out every day.

Also, in the summer, there are too many new restaurants and not enough customers.

5. Stop hanging out with only Americans

Be friends with local people, have fun with them, and learn their culture. I always hang out with my local friends, practice my Spanish, and learn more about the culture. I talk to my neighbors and the vendors on the street often. This makes me feel closer to my community.

My neighbors have known me for a long time and I speak Spanish and mingle with locals so they don’t think I’m one of the new foreigners, but to someone walking by, I might look like one of the expats who are gentrifying the place.

Locals can’t live in their own neighborhoods

It’s important for digital nomads who move here to know how they’re changing the lives of the local people, culture, and lifestyle.

I remember seeing the local people buying food from the street vendors and small restaurants for lunch. They can’t do that anymore. Many of them had to leave their homes and only come back to work for the businesses run by foreigners. Gentrification has hurt them and we need to be careful about how we live here to help them.

Source: Business Insider