|December 13, 2006|
Ciudad Juarez: Gentrification and Displacement Visit a Border City
IN CIUDAD JUAREZ'S downtown a renovation project similar in many ways to downtown redevelopment plans in neighboring El Paso is underway. In fact, William Sanders and the Paso Del Norte Group have talked of linking the downtowns of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez in a binational “arts corridor.”
A total of 170 buildings, including 33 homes and 137 businesses, are targeted for buy-outs and removals in the zone roughly extending from the commercial strip along September 16 Avenue to the century-old Mariscal district. Almost $10 million dollars in public monies have been initially earmarked for the metropolitan make-over.
A veteran of Chihuahua City redevelopment, Valentin Trevizo, is under state-municipal contract to negotiate with the current property owners. Trevizo said recently: “I have instructions from the governor and mayor to carry out a fair negotiation. I believe it is a mistaken view if people don’t understand that it is fair and an opportunity to sell their property, because there will be no other opportunity.”
Interviewed by the local press, some downtown merchants expressed misgivings about the revitalization plan, or said they were simply uninformed about the scope of the project. The owner of La Superior Hardware, 69-year-old Don Sixto contended the initial offering price of $35,000 dollars for his family business was not even in the range of sane. “If they want to pay, let them pay what the store is worth and I will sell them the business and all,” retorted the shop owner.
A third locus of real estate speculation is emerging along the Anapra highway that connects downtown Ciudad Juarez to its low-income suburb of Anapra, which hugs the sands of the New Mexico border. Set to connect Anapra with the Casas Grandes Highway and link up to the future binational border city of Jeronimo-Santa Teresa that is jointly supported by the Chihuahua and New Mexico state governments, The Camino Real highway development is regarded as the impetus for the sizzling real estate market in one of Ciudad Juarez’s poorest zones. [William Sanders and Eloy Vallina of the Verde Realty Group, as well as Pedro Zaragoza of the Grupo Zaragoza, are the major developers behind this "Binational City" plan.]
Prices for some strategically located small lots have reportedly increased by 26 times their original price in recent months. Long regarded as run-down, the outskirts of neighborhoods like Felipe Angeles are suddenly places of acute interest visited by mysterious buyers who are offering as much as $38-39,000 dollars for small lots. “I don’t know what to do or think,” remarked one resident who preferred to remain anonymous. “It seems strange to me that they are offering so much money just for a small part of the property.”
The soaring real estate prices near Anapra are sparking concerns about the possible displacement of tens of thousands of low-income residents who provide much of the labor force for the foreign-owned maquiladora plants.
“Where are the city’s poor going to go?” wondered Cesar Fuentes Flores, an urban planning researcher at the Colegio de La Frontera Norte in Ciudad Juarez. “This was the part of the city where they went before, now many go to the south, but with (land speculation), just where?” Fuentes cautioned that the gentrification of Anapra could disperse new social conflicts throughout the city.
In addition to buy-out offers, the residents of Lomas de Poleo— where the proposed Sunland Park-Anapra international crossing will cut through—have already faced intimidation, arson and violence by the Grupo Zaragoza. The Zaragoza Group, representing one of the richest families in Chihuahua, wants to move out the people living in the Lomas de Poleo area who are in the way of binational redevelopment. In August 2005, José Luis Guerrero Rodríguez, one of the community activists opposed to efforts to forcibly relocate the Lomas de Poleo residents, was beaten to death during a confrontation with armed guards hired by the Grupo Zaragoza. [read La Jornada article.]
Sources: Frontera NorteSur (FNS), December 13, El Diario de Juarez, December 11 and 12, 2006. Articles by Gabriela Minjares and Horacio Carrasco. Norte, December 11, 2006. Article by Arroyo Ortega. La Jornada, July 30, 2006
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies,New Mexico State University.