Evictions - <i>Western Style</i> - On the Rise

root - Posted on 01 September 2003

by Alex Cuff/PNN Newsbrief Editor

In Tijuana, hundreds of poor families are being evicted from their homes by city officials. Referred to as "shantytown dwellers", these families are squatting on public land and stealing electricity and water from adjacent neighborhoods because they have nowhere else to go. They live in the dry riverbanks and the city’s canyons building houses with scraps such as garage doors, movie billboards, and old tires.

As El Nino threatens to return this year, officials are urging families to relocate from high risk areas to higher ground and plan to begin evicting soon. Although authorities have set aside land and are giving residents a chance to buy lots, the cost of the lot ($4000 with a $400 down payment) is an unrealistic amount of money for most of the families who will soon find themselves homeless again. Even if the families were able to afford to purchase the lots, the designated land would only accommodate 300 out of the 1,200 targeted households.

Homelessness has increased in the past 10 years as families from the rural areas of the center of the country migrate to the border in hope of finding work with one of the scores of US firms that have been built south of the border as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Although many families were able to find work, their weekly salaries (read: paid by US companies) do not usually cover household expenses. Their only choice is to settle on land that is deemed unsuitable for housing and usually subject to erosion and floods.

In a neighborhood called "the Eagle’s Nest," children play on rusty metal cables, trash fills the sidewalks, and sewage runs down the hillside. Despite the "unsuitable" living standards, most residents insist they don’t want to leave. For some, the new plots of land are too far from their jobs but most can’t afford to buy the land. "We’re hear because we have nowhere to go," said Adrian Grisostomo, who came to Tijuana from Michoaca in search of work.

This emergency in Tijuana is just one example of the widespread trend of evictions of the poor we are seeing more and more all over the world. As "free trade" spreads and the urgency of capitalism saturates more and more countries, land becomes more of a commodity than the People of the land. The current situations in Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa, mark the connection between capitalism and NAFTA and increasing poverty and increasingly smaller concentrations of wealth and below living wage work evictions and homelessness.


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