Pao Alto: Mexico City Saves Itself


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Written by President Ella

       Pao Alto is a compound of shacks that the business people in Mexico City ignore on their way to work… like Harlem. Like Baltimore. Like Chicago. Like Washington DC.  Like any other place where proffessionals and Section 8 recipients live next door to or the block over from each other — so close yet tax brackets apart. Like so many other places where there is “work” but living is unaffordable. Mexico City, like Africa, is one of the places I would love to travel to, because the societies have been modernized (and polarized) beyond our racist, American understanding. My “understanding” sometimes cloaks me in ignorance: I can barely afford to live in New York City, and I forget about the people much worse off than me — how do they make it? In Pao Alto, Mexico City, the people chose to take care of themselves. 

   I was inspired by this NY Times article because it showed the resilience, community and unavoidable dissent that occurs in any great society.  Founded by working people who moved to Mexico City to find work, but could not afford to live there, the plot of land now called Pao Alto is organized and managed by community leaders who found a way to construct homes at a very low cost. The COOP idea is phenomenal; all residents pay towards the maintenance of the entire zone, immediately including them in the community around them. What struck me most was the dissent; the story of people trying to sell their shacks and even going to court for it. It amazes me that people can get sometime for close to nothing, and they will try to capitalize the first opportunity they get. Luckily, the tenants would have to buy the shack from the coop (for about $1 million) before they can sell to anyone else. 

   I wonder what the world was like in a time where people cared for their neighbors. I find that “less modernized” places have friendlier people because neighbors depend on each other… The house next door to me caught on fire the other day — it is a large, affordable housing building, and the fire was contained to that one room because NYC buildings are built that one. You might think it’s for privacy, so that you can feel alone… but I can’t help to think that it’s also so that you burn alone..

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