Americans are flocking to Mexico — a trend ignored during Biden’s immigration-focused visit

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MEXICO CITY – Marcos Del Rosario Santiago has been living for more than ten years in la Roma, at the time an up-and-coming neighborhood on the west side of Mexico City.

But Del Rosario has seen a shift in his neighborhood. More Airbnbs are popping up after those living in apartments, some who have already had three or four roommates, can no longer afford to live there. At his local panadería, where he often orders coffee and pan dulce, he heard people ordering only in Spanish, even though they weren’t Mexican. Now he said he sees and hears more foreigners ordering in English.

“Some of them don’t even try to speak Spanish,” he said.

While many Mexicans are increasingly concerned about gentrification due to the influx of Americans moving to “el DF,” as the capital used to be known, Del Rosario believes that having new neighbors isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Diversity.” The single word Del Rosario used to describe the impact of this new phenomenon. And the rising rent and food costs? Well, that’s just the price to pay for progress, he said.

Less than five miles from the Del Rosario neighborhood, President Joe Biden met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador last week to discuss how to stop large groups of migrants from illegally entering the United States.

“We are working together to meet this challenge in a way that enforces the laws of our nations and protects the human rights of migrants in desperate circumstances,” Biden said at Tuesday’s press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City.

While immigration rhetoric in the US focuses on sending migrants back to Mexico, another burgeoning phenomenon is largely ignored: Americans are migrating to Mexico.

Over the past decade, Mexico has become the top country for American Americans to move to — a trend that gained momentum during the pandemic. There is now a record number of US Americans temporarily residing in Mexico from 2022.

According to an analysis by Bloomberg, there was an 85% increase in the number of Americans temporarily residing in Mexico between 2019 and 2022.

Americans also choose to move to Mexico because of the easy process compared to other countries.

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A majority of expatriates heading south work for US-based companies, earn US dollars and benefit from a favorable exchange rate and don’t have to go through the cumbersome process of applying for a visa if they plan to be there 180 stay for days or longer. fewer.

Some neighborhoods in Mexico City, such as Roma, La Condesa, and Coyoacán, are beginning to mirror the modernized areas in the US, such as East Austin, Texas, Brooklyn, and the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami.

At a café called Ojo de Agua — a Mexican chain now opening locations across the U.S., such as in Miami’s Brickell area — in the La Condesa neighborhood, top 40 American pop songs blared through the speakers.

A group of English-speaking people found their way to the café after initially walking past it. They sat down at a long table that could accommodate their group of ten. Immediately a worker, someone who spoke to them in English, came over to greet the customers. She explained the concept of the eatery and told them to go to the counter to order.

But as the group of US citizens settled into the café, a Spanish-speaking couple sitting at a table on the sidewalk had just taken their order of an agua de fresa and a smoothie bowl, enjoying the blustery 60-degree weather.

A mariachi band came by to serenade the couple. At the same time, Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer” blared through the cafe – rivaling the melody of the mariachi.

Migration of US citizens to Mexico is not new, said Ariel G. Ruiz Soto, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank focused on immigration policy.

What’s new is the demographics of Americans moving to Mexico.

“More and more US citizens, mostly digital nomads, have been able to work from Mexico, be paid in US dollars by their US-based companies and have better living conditions,” said Ruiz Soto. The number of remote US workers is only a few thousand compared to the more than millions living in the city.

Ruiz Soto added that Mexico and Mexico City officials are not deterred by the rise of “digital nomads”, noting that the country relies heavily on tourism.

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Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum even partnered with Airbnb last October to increase the number of remote workers coming to the city. At the time, Sheinbaum dismissed concerns about rising rents, saying those who came were moving to areas where rents were already high.

But part of the backlash among locals with the rise of U.S. remote workers is based on social perception and perceived fear about the burgeoning pool of citizens moving to the country, Ruiz Soto said.

In the past, when U.S. tourists came to the city or U.S. investment came, it was on a temporary basis, he said. Now Americans stay and serve local restaurants and businesses serving US citizens. Businesses now have English menus. Some companies now even show television commercials in English.

“Although the number is still relatively small, in the city of millions of people, Mexicans often see this as a significant change in the social fabric they have become accustomed to,” said Ruiz Soto.

And even some Americans who have lived in Mexico City for more than a decade are seeing the culture shift.

Dan DeFossey, a New Yorker who has lived in Mexico City for 13 years, said when he first moved to the city he was forced to integrate because so few Americans lived there.

“We had to be immersed in Mexican culture,” DeFossey said of the small group of Americans he knew when he first moved to Mexico City. “Walking down the street, if you spoke English, people would turn around and look at you. It was a different experience. We were forced to learn Spanish and immerse ourselves in the culture.”

DeFossey, owner of a Texas-style barbecue joint in Mexico City, said new American home workers rely heavily on social media to find great restaurants, the best neighborhoods and just the “cool places to go.”

He said that through crowdsourcing, Americans all end up in the same neighborhood, like la Condesa or la Roma.

General view of WeWork, a coworking and office space in Mexico City, taken on September 13, 2022. – A growing number of US citizens are coming to live in Mexico, finding life cheaper and more enjoyable. According to the US embassy, ​​which does not keep official records, about 1.6 million currently live in their southern neighbor. Other foreign citizens also choose Mexico because of the living conditions. (Photo by CLAUDIO CRUZ/TBEN via Getty Images)

DeFossey noted that while there is some weariness among Americans coming to live in Mexico City — some of his friends worry they feel “an alien in their own town” — there’s still a sense of pride that he’s among his friends notice that people want to move to Mexico.

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“People were so excited to hear that their city was something an American would want to come to,” he said. “And I think there’s still a little bit of it.”

While many locals and local officials are getting used to the new group of Americans, Mexico’s top leader has often taken a more nationalistic stance during his reign over Mexico. López Obrador has hit the US repeatedly and has not been afraid to call the new immigrants, even Americans, “foreigners.”

But those messages don’t resonate well with the Mexican public, said Duncan Wood, senior adviser to the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a public policy think tank.

“We’ve seen that over the past year when the president tried to lash out at the United States a few times, and had to bring that back in because polls showed that Mexicans actually have a very favorable view of the United States. ‘ said Wood.

He noted that many Mexicans now have ties to the US or have visited the country more.

“I actually think there’s a lot less suspicion of the United States today than there was 20 years ago,” Wood said.

While many Mexicans are accepting of new Americans settling in Mexico City, some are still concerned about rising costs for Mexicans who can no longer live in the neighborhoods they once called home.

Betsabé Basáñez, who has owned a property in the La Condesa neighborhood for nearly 20 years, said rents are now “sky-high” in her neighborhood and stores and coffee shops have started raising their prices.

“Most of the people who were there, like renters, had to leave,” Basañez, 43, said. “They fled to surrounding neighborhoods because they just couldn’t afford it.”

“It’s not as cheap as it was three years ago,” she added.

Reach Rebecca Morin on Twitter @RebeccaMorin_

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden in Mexico missed an immigration trend: US citizens moving there