Digital nomads have made their presence known over the past few years, with online influencers suggesting “working remotely in Mexico City – it’s truly magical.”
The now-deleted photo that accompanied this caption was posted to Twitter by a visitor to Austin, Texas, hoping to draw attention to the city’s well-kept neighborhoods.
However, the use of the “magical” world has brought to light an underlying issue that has come to light in recent months: gentrification.
“Please don’t,” a Mexican resident said in response to the tweet. “This town is getting more expensive every day in part because of people like you and you don’t even realize it or care.”
In recent years, Americans have flocked to cities in Mexico thanks to its low cost of living, warm climate, and eye-catching scenery. In Mexico, Americans have the option of staying up to 180 days without a visa, making it a great place for remote workers to explore.
This has led to rising levels of gentrification according to residents, and the migration of remote workers is partly to blame.
Along with travel issues, locals also note that many travelers have flouted Covid-related restrictions and neglected cultural, social and financial norms.
These issues aren’t unique to Mexico City either – around the world, local residents in tourist areas have noted an increase in the number of expats in their country. However, due to its proximity to the United States, Mexico City has experienced most of the positive and negative aspects of these migration patterns.
Although the city’s economy relies in part on tourism revenue, the class and racial divide has accelerated tensions. Now, working-class Mexicans face the brunt of rising housing costs and inflation, while wealthy remote workers feel little or no impact.
“The responsibility does not lie directly with American or European tourists, but there is a colonial logic behind it,” said Carlos Acuña, a freelance journalist in Mexico City. “Most of the companies that bet on tourism are not Mexican either; those who come to Mexico to work remotely do not pay the taxes that a resident pays and their earnings are also in a much higher currency than those who live here.
According to Acuña, who was moved from his apartment in the city’s Centro Histórico neighborhood, Mexican lawmakers bear the bulk of the blame due to residents’ unprotected housing.
“I try to have conversations in Spanish with the workers, and I rent directly from landlords, not Airbnb,” said Jessica, a technician from Texas. “But I don’t want to become aware of my way of escaping responsibility. I know that my well-being here depends on this underclass of workers who earn very little money.