Los Angeles Times

Amazon, poverty are neighbors here

Residents of a Tijuana settlement hope a new fulfillmen­t center will benefit them and not drive them out.

- BY ALEXANDRA MENDOZA Mendoza writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Special correspond­ent Yolanda Morales contribute­d to this report.

The photos quickly went viral. A new, 344,000-squarefoot Amazon fulfillmen­t center in Tijuana amid a settlement where many houses are built with wood scraps, tarps and cardboard.

The images, first posted by photograph­er Omar Martínez, opened the debate because of the clear contrast. Some people on social media called them a display of capitalism and globalizat­ion.

In Tijuana, both authoritie­s and business-sector representa­tives praised the new investment entering the city, while residents of the Nueva Esperanza neighborho­od, located in front of the warehouse, still have doubts about what this would mean for them.

Amazon is scheduled to start operations in what will be its eleventh distributi­on center in Mexico on Sept. 22, said Arlene Herrera, spokeswoma­n for Amazon Mexico. At least 250 jobs will be created at this facility, she said.

“The arrival of Amazon to Tijuana contribute­s to the ongoing economic recovery in various productive sectors, achieving stability in employment,” reads a news release from the city.

The facility is in the Real Estate Management and Services Group industrial park, next to the Vía Rápida Alamar, an expressway.

About $21 million was invested in the constructi­on of this facility, according to city officials. Herrera could not confirm that figure, citing confidenti­ality matters.

Tijuana Mayor Karla Ruiz, whose term ends in three weeks, is confident that the warehouse will trigger developmen­t in the surroundin­g area. “If you change an environmen­t, it transforms the surroundin­g area,” she said.

Residents of Nueva Esperanza hope that those changes will benefit the area.

Pedro Arana has lived in the neighborho­od for more than 35 years. His house, on an unpaved street, is right across from the new facility, which carries a big Amazon logo.

“There’s a lot of poor families here. Where we live there are not many resources to build and there are many people who come from out of state,” said Arana, who sells cheese for a living.

He acknowledg­es that, like many of his neighbors, he had no idea what Amazon was.

He hopes that the arrival of the company will help improve the conditions for residents, but he fears that they could be forced to move.

Although no authority has notified them about moving, it is a concern discussed among neighbors, said María Mendoza, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years. “We are here because we need a place to live,” she said. “We just don’t want this to work against us.”

Tijuana’s secretary of economic developmen­t, Gabriel Camarena, said no one would be displaced. “Either there is complete transforma­tion, or they will be offered other and more dignified living options,” he said.

Amazon is not the only company set up in the area. There are at least five other industrial facilities nearby, including one bigger (538,000 square feet) than Amazon, Camarena said.

Francisco Rubio, president of the Tijuana Business Coordinati­ng Council, agreed that “it is always positive that First World companies continue to set up in our city.”

Diego Méndez, Amazon Mexico’s general director of operations, said in a late June news release that “at Amazon Mexico, we feel great responsibi­lity toward the communitie­s where we operate, and we are pleased to be able to offer hundreds of job opportunit­ies in Tijuana.”

The distributi­on center aims to offer same-day deliveries in Tijuana and nextday deliveries to cities such as Mexicali, Tecate, Ensenada and Rosarito.

Herrera, the Amazon Mexico spokeswoma­n, said the center will serve only the Mexican market.

About five miles to the north, Amazon built a 3.4million-square-foot facility in Otay Mesa, Calif., which is expected to provide as many as 1,500 jobs.

Between the Tijuana and Otay Mesa facilities, constructi­on is underway for a second port of entry in Otay Mesa, which would be used by passenger vehicles and commercial trucks.

Melina Amao, a professor at the Autonomous University of Baja California who holds a doctorate in cultural studies, said of the images that went viral: “What is striking is the contrast of realities that can be seen in the photos, but this is nothing new.”

She said that although it is clear that the warehouse was built in a place with many needs, the images show other issues that need to be addressed.

“What is being done for all the other pending social issues?” she said. “What it highlights is the inequality.”

 ?? Ana Ramírez San Diego Union-Tribune ?? PEDRO ARANA has lived in the neighborho­od for more than 35 years. His house, on an unpaved street, is across from Amazon’s eleventh distributi­on center in Mexico. The facility is set to start operations Sept. 22.
Ana Ramírez San Diego Union-Tribune PEDRO ARANA has lived in the neighborho­od for more than 35 years. His house, on an unpaved street, is across from Amazon’s eleventh distributi­on center in Mexico. The facility is set to start operations Sept. 22.

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