Jan 11th, 2023, 10:00 AM

Americans are Colonizing the World

By Lucia Rios
Image Credit: Unsplash / Liam McKay
Amid rising living costs in the US, Americans relocate abroad and make cities unaffordable for local populations.

The past couple years have been eventful to say the least. Recent global events like the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused worldwide inflation and a rise in cost of living. For Americans, the cost of various goods and services have increased by about 8.3% while the cost of food has increased by 9.4%. Amid rising living costs, Americans are moving abroad to countries like Mexico and Portugal, making cities unaffordable for local populations and driving them out. 

In Mexico City, Mexico, the country’s abundant natural beauty has made it a top travel destination for Americans for years. Now, Americans outnumber the local population. According to the State Department, 1.6 million Americans call Mexico home; and digital nomads have been flooding the capital since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Locals who want Americans to go home refer to this phenomenon as “modern colonialism” or “new-wave imperialism”. and want Americans to go home. 

“We are losing the local population. Everywhere we go in the city, whether it's the mall or somewhere else, we are outnumbered; foreigners are taking over our city. Local businesses have disappeared and new elitist businesses have appeared, taking advantage of our culture and roots to make a profit,” said Blanca Castañeda, who has been living in Mexico City for 54 years. 

In popular areas of the city, rent prices have soared and landlords are prioritizing foreigners that can pay more than locals. Local businesses are being replaced by coworking spaces and trendy cafés. Locals are fed up and want foreigners gone. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported the appearance of English posters around Mexico City that read “New to the city? Working remotely? You’re a f-ing plague and the locals f-ing hate you. Leave”.

@ajplus Mexico City locals are fed up with Americans moving to their city. #gentrification #moderncolonialism #cdmx ♬ Minimalistic Electronic Background - OnPointMusic

In Portugal, Americans now make up 7% of the country’s population, according to the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service; this is the highest it's been in over a decade. 

“There are more Americans moving or setting up holiday homes in Lisbon, Comporta, and the Algarve. It’s becoming more expensive to rent or buy a home here [Portugal] because of the increased demand from foreigners and because a lot of properties are dedicated to Airbnbs,” said Aimée Betancout, who moved to Lisbon with her partner in 2020. 

Government officials in Portugal have noticed the negative impact Americans have on the country and in some cities have paused the “golden visa” programs which grants residency to foreigners who purchase homes valued at $500,000 or more; especially because Americans dominate the program. Yet earlier this year, Portugal announced its new digital nomad visa which allows digital nomads to secure short-term residency as long as they earn four times the national minimum wage. The new digital nomad visa means a larger influx of Americans. 

“The American population will definitely increase. On the downside, rising property taxes are making it very difficult for Portuguese residents to be able to afford homes and live in the center of Lisbon,” said Aimée.

@uptin Replying to @vitalhustler ♬ original sound - Uptin

Digital nomads, getting paid in American dollars, seek cities like Mexico City and Lisbon because they are cheaper compared to other American cities. According to the World Bank, a basket of goods that would cost $1 in the US, costs only 57 cents in Portugal. Making living in Portugal almost half the cost of living in the US. The Portuguese minimum wage is roughly $800 a month while the Mexican minimum wage is 207 (roughly $10.5) pesos per day. Digital nomads often make twice or three times the national minimum wage and are thus willing to pay more for goods and services. This has driven prices up and in certain cases, has forced locals out. 

“Their [American’s] higher wages have increased living costs for us. I have a friend who left Mexico City because he felt outnumbered in his own city. He left Mexico City and moved to Merida,” said Blanca. 

Americans, check your privilege. Traveling to a country wanting to appreciate its beauty and culture is different from settling in a country simply because it's cheaper. One cannot forget that ‘cheaper’ countries are cheaper because they are indeed poorer. One must be mindful of the communities they enter in order to avoid modern colonization and gentrification.