Digital nomads have made their presence known in the last few years, with online influencers suggesting to “remote work in Mexico City — it is truly magical.”
The now-deleted photo that accompanied this caption was posted on Twitter by a visitor from Austin, Texas, in hopes of drawing attention to the city’s well-kept neighborhoods.
However, the use of the world “magical” highlighted an underlying issue that has come to light in recent months: gentrification.
“Please don’t,” said one Mexican resident in response to the tweet. “This city is becoming more and more expensive everyday in part because of people like you and you don’t even realize or care about it.”
Over the last few years, Americans have flocked to cities across Mexico thanks to its low cost of living, warm weather, and eye-catching scenery. In Mexico, Americans have the ability to stay for up to 180 days without a visa, making it an ideal spot for remote workers to explore.
This has led gentrification levels to ramp up according to residents, and the migration of remote workers is partly to blame.
In addition to the issues of displacement, locals also note that many travelers have flouted Covid-related restrictions and neglected cultural, social, and financial norms.
These problems are not unique to Mexico City either — worldwide, local residents of tourist-friendly regions have noted an uptick in expats in their country. However, because of its proximity to the US, Mexico City has seen the bulk of both the positives and negatives of these migration patterns.
Although the city’s economy partially relies on the revenue that comes from tourism, the class and race divide has accelerated tensions. Now, working class Mexicans have to deal with the weight of rising housing costs and inflation, while wealthy remote workers feel little to no impact.
“The responsibility isn’t directly on American or European tourists, but there is a colonial logic behind it,” said Carlos Acuña, a freelance journalist in Mexico City. “Many of the companies that capitalize on tourism aren’t Mexican either; those who come to Mexico to work remotely do not pay the taxes that a resident pays and their income is also in a much higher currency than those who live here.”
According to Acuña, who experienced displacement from his apartment in the city’s Centro Histórico neighborhood, Mexican legislators hold most of the responsibility due to not protecting residents’ housing.
“I try to have conversations in Spanish with workers, and I rent directly from owners, not Airbnb,” said Jessica, a tech worker from Texas. “But I don’t want to self-aware my way out of accountability. I know that my well-being here depends on this underclass of workers that earn very little money.”