Population: 116 million
Life expectancy: 75 years (men), 80 years (women)
Currency: Peso (MXP)
GNI per capita: $8,610
Mexico was the home to many great civilizations including the Olmec, the Maya, the Zapotec, and the Aztec. For over 3,000 years before the Europeans arrived these civilizations flourished. In 1521, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztecs and Mexico became a Spanish colony. For 300 years Spain ruled the land until the early 1800s. At that time the local Mexicans revolted against Spanish rule. Father Miguel Hidalgo declared Mexico’s independence with his famous cry (“el grito”) of “Viva Mexico”. In 1821, Mexico defeated the Spanish and gained full independence!
A strong two-party political system emerged with the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the National Action party trading off periods of rule in Mexico up until 2018. In July of 2018, Mexico elected Andrés Manuel López Obredor (AMLO) as president, with his MORENA party also winning a substantial majority in Congress. López Obrador has promised to fight corruption. His post-election support of a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement signaled a more pragmatic approach to governance and a welcoming attitude toward badly needed foreign investment, but López Obrador must prevail over Mexico’s powerful drug cartels to reverse surging homicide rates. The judicial system is weak, there is a frequent solicitation of bribes by bureaucrats and officials, widespread impunity, and the high incidence of criminal extortion undermine the rule of law. Corruption is pervasive and fed by billions of narco-dollars. More than 100 politicians were murdered in 2018.
In 2001, the Mexican government launched the largest affordable housing campaign to ever take place in Latin America. Investors including the world bank, foundations, Wall Street firms and many more partnered with the government to invest more than $100 Billion dollars in the project. From 2001 to 2012, roughly 20 million people — one-sixth of Mexico’s population — left cities, shantytowns and settlements in hope of owning a better home.
The plan had the support and good intentions but quickly turned into a massive debacle. Ultimately people were displaced, stuck with unreasonable loans and trapped in low-quality developments which turned to slums and hotbeds for narco activity. This was due to poor execution, financial planning, and corruption.
Many developers and investors flocked to the project with dreams of making money in the name of affordable housing for Mexico. Some made a lot of money while delivering low-quality housing with complex loans that rose with inflation. The housing was not just poor but very often never finished! The unfinished developments blight cities across the country. In Mexico state, which surrounds Mexico City, developers have completed only 36 of the 235 developments started between 2005 and 2012, leaving 200,000 to 500,000 people in limbo, according to state records.
While people were trapped in their “new” homes or hadn’t received them, gangs took over neighborhoods and financially desperate people turned to criminal activity to keep up with their rising debt. Developers weren’t held accountable, corruption ran rampant and the situation spiraled out of control to the point that it couldn’t be fixed. As the project fell apart, the government and developers were unable to make it right by the people and millions were left in worse situations than they started in. The impact of this project is very visible in the Mexico housing scene today.
Read more here LA Times Article – Mexico Housing Debacle
As if Mexico didn’t have enough to deal with, in September of 2017 a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked central Mexico, killing more than 200 people and leaving thousands more homeless. This was one of the biggest earthquakes to ever hit Mexico and damage was widespread across numerous states and cities. The state of Morelos, south of Mexico City, suffered some of the worst damage and left many people with an unsafe home and nowhere to go.
This earthquake was a major catalyst for New Story’s work in Mexico. Usually, it takes quite some time to establish a relationship with a government and get their support and start working in a new country. After the earthquake, the government of Mexico was quick to accept and support organizations helping with reconstruction and this expedited New Story’s entry into Mexico. Most of the communities we are working in have been affected by the earthquake and we are anxious to get these people off the streets and out of damaged homes into safe high-quality homes!
Our Local Partner in Mexico: Echale A Tu Casa!
In each country, we work with a local home building organization. They know the people best, have government connections and most importantly they know the ins and outs of housing in Mexico in a way we never will.
Our partner in Mexico is Echale A Tu Casa which translates loosely to “putting your heart in your home”. They are one of the largest affordable housing organizations in Mexico and they have worked there for over 20 years! According to Mexico’s National Housing Commission, 6 million Mexican families still need to improve their living conditions. Échale understands the housing deficit as a social problem in need of a creative solution and has created a model that makes the community a part of the solution. Community members can learn new skills, develop self-esteem and drive their own development. Échale has learned how to listen and help identify their basic needs and challenges and how to address them through working with community members on the ground as partners. This is core to their company values and also perfectly in line with New Story’s which makes them an amazing partner and we are so lucky to work with them and learn from their wealth of experience.
Meet the Eco Press
All homes in Mexico are being built with bricks from our partner’s special Eco Press! Echale developed a machine that presses together a mixture of earth and concrete to create stronger blocks for building homes. Not only are they stronger, but they are also more environmentally responsible as you can recycle and reuse old brick from torn-down homes. Echale employs locals and teaches them to use their Eco Press machine to create the bricks with which they will build their community! Below is a picture of our partner Gretel with the press.