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Pamela works as a Press & Communications Manager for an international NGO (IWGIA) defending indigenous peoples' rights. She holds an Erasmus Mundus MA in Journalism, Media & Globalisation from Hamburg and Aarhus University and an MA in Political Science from the University of Buenos Aires. She will be putting the eye on international media coverage of indigenous communities and their demands.
It’s ironic. While Donald Trump professes a culture of fear against the risks of Mexican immigration, American retirees settling down in Mexico are threatening indigenous communal lands and their traditional way of life.
Almost 7,000 expats live and other 10,000 arrive temporarily every winter to the area known as the “Chapala Riviera” in west-central Mexico. Indigenous Cocas know what this trend means for the community and their future. They are witnessing a considerable influx of migrants from the United States and Canada to their neighboring cities of Chapala and Ajijic. The newcomers do not only bring their hope for eternal sun but also their standards for comfort and desire for development.
How does the trend look like in the future? The expat community may double in the next five years, imposing a fast economic growth and an irreversible change in the local environment.
In concrete terms, this immigration wave translates into greedy property developers, intimidation, mining, a general increase of prices and especially a transformation of indigenous land to an expensive (and trendy) commodity. Indigenous communities are raising their voices to not be mistaken in this context:
“We want progress but we want to own that progress. We don’t want to be sweeping up the crumbs of others because this land is ours.”
The experience of this community shows that dichotomizing development and indigenous aspirations is not only a huge mistake, but it rather hides historical power imbalances between indigenous peoples and mainstream society.