Ti­juana’s ‘Lit­tle Haiti’ stalled but mi­grants still plant­ing roots

Manteca Bulletin - - Local / Nation -

TI­JUANA, Mex­ico (AP) — Brightly col­ored clothes air from lines strung be­tween rudi­men­tary ply­wood-sided homes. Cin­derblocks stacked chest-high form the skele­tons of un­fin­ished houses, and a pile of un­used re­bar lies in the dirt pa­tio.

A bill­board puts a name to what has be­come some­thing of a neigh­bor­hood in­ter­rupted: “Lit­tle Haiti. City of God.”

The arid hill­side bar­rio, on prop­erty be­long­ing to the Am­bas­sadors of Je­sus evan­gel­i­cal church, made head­lines last year when nearly 3,000 Haitians ended up in this city bor­der­ing San Diego on a failed bid to get to the United States. About 200 were taken in by the church.

But the church’s plans to build a com­mu­nity for Haitians hit a road­block when civil de­fense of­fi­cials said there was a flood risk and barred fur­ther con­struc­tion. A year later, just eight of the 100 homes en­vi­sioned are in place, with an­other 50 peo­ple or so liv­ing in sim­i­lar con­di­tions in nearby Scor­pion Canyon.

“The neigh­bor­hood was not built, and the Haitians who were here went to rent else­where and be­came part of the work life,” Ti­juana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum Buen­rostro said.

In­deed, the denizens of Lit­tle Haiti rep­re­sent a small por­tion of the lo­cal mi­grants from the im­pov­er­ished Caribbean na­tion, many of whom are putting down roots just across the bor­der from what was once their des­ti­na­tion.

Most of the Haitians had gone to Brazil after a 2010 earth­quake dev­as­tated their own coun­try and found jobs dur­ing the Olympics and World Cup. When Brazil’s econ­omy slumped and work dried up, they headed north. Some de­cided to stay in Ti­juana be­cause they had found de­cent work and were ea­ger to set­tle down. Oth­ers said they feared the U.S. would be un­wel­com­ing.

Across the city, Haitians have found em­ploy­ment as welders and fac­tory work­ers, and have be­come part of the ur­ban land­scape, seen board­ing buses, pump­ing gas or wad­ing into traf­fic sell­ing fla­vored waters to mo­torists.

“With this job plus what my wife earns sell­ing tamales ... it gives us enough to pay the rent and the monthly ex­penses,” said Thony Mer­sion, a 34-year-old work­ing as a se­cu­rity guard at the Ti­juana air­port.

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