Rich and Poor on Top of the Old Garbage Dump of Mexico city/Mexico

Mexico City the 2nd largest megacity in the world, it’s also facing hard times with poverty. Poverty can be seen in any area of the city, even in areas like San Angel, Coyoacan, or Polanco that are supposed to be for high class and rich people. One of the biggest reasons of why poverty is hitting almost everybody in Mexico City is unemployment. Formal employment is not well known in Mexico City for many reasons. First, most of the manufacturers that hire many people to work for them are moving to the borders with USA, because it is cheaper to maintain factories there and to export to foreign countries.  The second reason is because the globalization. Many international companies join the market to compete, giving more quality and quantity, but because of that, workers’ salary is reduced every single time, instead of going up. Today, the minimum wage average in Mexico City is around $4 per day (Economist 2000), which for most people is not enough to afford to live in a good social environment.

Eulogy for a Sinner's Sanctuary. Mexico City, Mexico: Like most big city slum area, Mexico City's infamous Candelaria has its outdoor, crowded wash day.

This is the main reason of why people start to build in squatters settlements known as colonias proletarias. People really live in slums because of the system of how the Mexican government works, not because they like to live on slums, or because they like to be poor. For many people it is easier to build their own houses in the outskirts of the city, such as in Netzahualcoyotl which Furniss calls a “boomtown” (2008). Netzahualcoyotl is the biggest metropolitan area of Mexico City most abundant with squatters’ settlements. A big disadvantage of urban poverty in Mexico City is the problem of crime. Crime can be seen every single day in Mexico City, between from poor to rich and vice versa, and yes, I said rich to poor. In the latter cases, crimes take the form of company owners exploiting their employees, in terms of excessive work hours and low salary. But still, many people don’t complain because, they really need the job to feed their families.

            Slums in Mexico City can be really poor areas with lack of utilities such water, sewer system, electricity, etc. But the term slums not only refer to trashy houses, it also refers to overpopulated areas where all the houses are on top of another, in places people never think of, like at the top of a mountain or on top of the lakes of Mexico City. Slums are also the site of vernacular architecture, because vernacular refers to all the architecture which is build of creative materials, giving a little touch of Mexican culture to the city.

Pepinadores scavenge the Mexico city dump near the Nezahualcoyotl slums on the north edge of the city - ©Doug Bryant

In the other hand, globalization is another big hit to poor people. For middle or high class people, a shitty house can cost us nothing, but for low class people, they may need to invest all their savings on it. Although maybe essentially built of trash, it is still a refuge for them. When globalization came, it came with many mega projects for the “benefit of the city”. Well, for the people in business or industry, is for good, but for the poor people they might bring bad news. In Mega projects by Jones and Moreno, the Santa Fe is an enormous luxury project, where people will be able to live and shop or been entertained, but it will not do anything big for squatters. What Santa Fe project is doing for the latter is dislocating many people most known as pickers, people who live off of what other people throw away. Pickers have been living in Santa Fe area for years, but now they have to find another squatter settlement and start from nothing. Society doesn’t like slums, but if people cannot afford to live in regular houses, where are they suppose to live, if the city government is not really helping. Government is trying to help reduce poverty, but with what’s happening in the economy right now, the poverty is just simply increasing. Some other people are getting richer, like Carlos Slim, the richest person in the world, who really controls all Mexico City and who is in charge of getting new plans for mega projects devastating some of the lands that are refuges to many people around the city and its metropolitan area. Basically, some people just care about the money.