Recently, Vice News reported that rents in Mexico City are skyrocketing due to remote workers in various industries moving there during the pandemic and real estate developers taking advantage of a controlled market. While the increase in rental rates due to Airbnb is a global phenomenon, as Emily Green reports, the assumptions about Mexico and Latin America still being "our [United States] own backyard" continue to play out in disparate and unequal ways.
As Green writes,
"Over the last couple of years, Mexico City has become a haven for well-paid digital nomads from the U.S. who are attracted by what locals have always loved about it: the balmy weather, great food, vibrant ambiance and terrific nightlife. They can also afford to pay rent prices more in line with New York City and San Francisco, in the process displacing longtime residents, even if unwittingly."
The reporting is familiar, though, in contrast to other large global cities, the government of Mexico City has courted AirBnB. Airbnb says the failure of government policy to build affordable housing is the problem, while residents have taken their protests to the streets. It is unclear what precisely the "unwittingly" part of gentrification and displacement means, particularly when there is an official "Digital Nomad Mexico City Guide" and the raison d'être of capital letter "C" Capitalism is "accumulation through dispossession."
As USian history teaches, development for some communities means genocide for others, and perhaps gentrification is another form of settler colonialism. To be clear, this does not mean. All that said, it is not like developers and real estate parasites are unaware of the consequences of markets of scale for those on the bottom. Still, the arrogance and attitude of exceptionalism are the most striking and not new. This is how empires act. And empires are made up of people who believe the world is theirs to dominate, and those dominated should be grateful for the opportunity to survive. Empires are not nation-state specific but ideological positions.
Ari Goot, non-Mexican City-resident real estate developer [Goot's nationality is not reported], explains his take:
"…he is sensitive to the issue of gentrification, but also thinks the complaints are overblown. "You can't take the good without the bad. If there were zero foreigners coming, would that be better for Mexico City? They bring a lot of money and support all these Mexican businesses and employment and hire people."
In other words, it is a zero-sum game, and people should shut up and be grateful. Check out the "Anti-Capitalist Chronicles" podcast for a discussion by David Harvey explaining "accumulation by dispossession."