Sandra Ortiz struggles to talk about her family’s restaurant without breaking down into tears.
“They arrived and told us we had five minutes to get everything out,” Ortiz said, recalling her family’s eviction in February.
Ortiz, 55, and her four siblings had taken over Tortería Colima from their father, who started it as a bakery in 1968. The siblings expanded it into a restaurant, which grew popular among locals in Mexico City.
For 54 years, the Ortiz family ran its business from the ground floor of a four-story building, located at a busy corner in the increasingly desirable Roma neighborhood.
For more than 50 years, Ortiz and her four siblings ran a restaurant popular with locals, but as prices climbed, it became unaffordable for the family.CNN
But in recent years, the family watched as the community around them changed. An influx of foreigners, mostly from the US, inspired Mexican landlords to renovate and remodel their properties to accommodate the wealthier arrivals. Ortiz watched as visitors and tourists suddenly became full-time neighbors.
“Prices are much higher,” she said. “It’s difficult because a lot of these foreigners come, and they have a bunch of money to be able to spend on these apartments and rents.”
The Ortiz’s landlord followed the business trend. The family tried to push back and keep their space, but after a lengthy legal battle they were ultimately evicted in February. More than a half century of belongings were piled up on the street as they were forced out. The building is now being renovated into high-end apartments.
“A lot of pain … They hurt me a lot,” Ortiz said, washing dishes alongside two of her sisters. They now work at another restaurant — no longer as owners but as employees — in a far less central location than Tortería Colima.
Sandra Ortiz, 55, and her siblings couldn’t maintain their family-owned restaurant because of the rising cost of living.CNN
Ortiz admitted the crippling impacts of Covid-19 and rising global inflation have compounded the situation, and she does not fault foreigners for wanting to visit Mexico City. But she worries that as more US expats arrive to stay, more locals will be pushed out.
As renovations are underway in the floors above their now-shuttered restaurant, across the street sits a storefront with a sign appealing to new residents. It reads: “Hello Mexico City!” … in English.
“Please leave, we don’t want you here!”
It’s not hard for locals to understand the appeal of relocating from the United States to Mexico City.
“It’s pretty, their money is worth more here, they can live in a house or apartment that’s really nice and big, create a better life,” Fernando Bustos Gorozpe said. “But it’s not as though there’s an interest to participate and understand the local culture here.”
Bustos Gorozpe is a university professor who was born and raised in Mexico City. He noticed the trend of American expats traveling to Mexico’s capital accelerated with Covid-19, since Mexico had fewer border restrictions than other countries. That coincided with a growing number of US companies allowing their employees to work remotely. Many chose to do that south of the border, in Mexico City.
A view of Mexico City in February.Axel Hid/dpa/picture alliance/Getty Images
The US State Department says 1.6 million US citizens live in Mexico. But it doesn’t know how many are living and working there on tourist visas. The Mexican government does not track that data either, but it recorded more than 5.3 million American tourists flying into Mexican airports from January to May 2022. That’s nearly a million more compared with that same period in 2019.
Real estate agent Edyta Norejko said she gets dozens of calls weekly from Americans inquiring about relocating to Mexico City.
“It is very often from Los Angeles or New York City,” she said, adding that most are looking to avoid the rising costs of living in the United States and cash in on a strong exchange rate.
In 2014, Norejko, who’s originally from Poland, and her husband, Eduardo Alvarez, a Mexico City native, created their real estate firm with foreigners in mind. They say about 70% of their business comes from clients outside of Mexico who aspire to live in the country’s capital city.
“There is a lot of benefit about the foreigners living in Mexico City,” Norejko said, referring to the tourism revenue generated by Americans traveling to Mexico. “We need them.”
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