Saturday, September 30, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, September 30, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Residents protest inauguration of Mexico City’s tallest skyscraper

The demonstrators accused the city and federal governments of allowing the largest real estate project in Latin America to be built without the proper permits, among other complaints.

MEXICO CITY (CN) — Residents from various Mexico City neighborhoods Friday blocked traffic, hung banners and chanted to protest the opening of a new mixed-use complex they claimed was built illegally.

Located just north of the historic neighborhood of Coyoacán, the Mítikah mixed-use complex is the largest real estate development in Latin America. 

Built by real estate investment trust Fibra Uno, the shopping, residential, office and medical complex also boasts the capitals’ new tallest building. The 68-story Torre Mítikah (Mítikah Tower) rises 877 feet from the ancient lakebed on which Mexico City was built. 

The complex sits in the heart of the pueblo originario (original town) of Xoco, a community with roots dating back to before the arrival of the Spanish in 1519. 

“Even before the Aztecs!” shouted one protester in the crowd when a speaker mentioned this history during the blockade. 

The ecological impact of the complex was front and center in the protesters’ complaints. They claim it uses over 1.3 million gallons of water a day in a city that the United Nations has warned could run dry by 2028 if its water usage habits do not change.

“They’re taking our water from us,” said Elizabeth Álvarez, who has lived in the Xoco neighborhood for over 30 years and volunteers in the Pueblo de Xoco Citizens’ Assembly. 

“It’s businesses, green spaces, people living in apartments and condominiums — so many people using the water,” she said. “This is an atrocity.”

Protester Elizabeth Álvarez leads a chant at a protest outside the Mítikah mixed-use complex in Mexico City on Sept. 23, 2022. She and other area residents claimed the development was built illegally. (Cody Copeland/Courthouse News)

Assembly President Álvaro Rosales echoed her complaint in front of a group of around 100 protesters.

“We did this event precisely so that they see how they have hurt us,” Rosales said through a bullhorn. “Today we have no water, yet we pay very high prices for it.”

Álvarez and others also denounced the felling of over 200 trees to build the structures, as well as the appropriation of a public street for the complex's private use. 

“It was the main access to the neighborhood, the only one, and they took it from us,” said Álvarez. “They left us a sad little strip we can barely fit through.”

Many of Álvarez’s neighbors have already started to feel the effects of Mítikah’s presence in their pocketbooks. The complex has raised their property taxes to amounts many can no longer afford, she said.

“People who were paying 3-4,000 pesos ($150-200 USD) are now paying as much as 30,000 ($1,500), some even 50,000 pesos ($2475),” said Álvarez. “They want to kick us out of here.”

The protest got off to a rocky start when traffic backed up outside of the San Ángel Inn Hospital, angering dozens of commuters, one of whom was a mother who claimed to be taking her injured daughter to the emergency room. 

The 68-story Torre Mítikah (right) rises 877 feet in the Mexico City neighborhood of Xoco. (Cody Copeland/Courthouse News)

Protesters laid the blame on the transit police who failed to reroute the heavy midday traffic, despite being aware of the protest ahead of time. 

“It’s convenient for the government for there to be confrontations between the neighbors,” said Juan Carlos Durán, a resident of the neighborhood of Mixcoac who has demonstrated against several megaprojects in the city in recent years. 

“They wanted drivers to get out of their cars and come complain, which is what they did,” said Durán.

“There’s no confrontation among us neighbors,” interrupted a fellow protester who overheard Durán. 

Protesters also accused Fibra Uno of sending company agents to act as neighbors to sow discord or try and change public opinion of the project. The company did not respond to Courthouse News’ request for comment. 

But accusations of government complicity with the developers went much higher than the city’s traffic police. 

Álvarez and others accused Mexico City Mayor and 2024 presidential hopeful Claudia Sheinbaum of allowing the project — as well as hundreds of other similar towers — to be completed without the proper permits, claiming she had financial interests in the complex. 

“Just imagine, if she’s doing this as mayor, what will she do with our country once she becomes president?” said Jesús Vega Lugo, a resident of Santa María Magdalena Atlitic, another pueblo originario further south in the city.

Sheinbaum’s office did not respond to Courthouse News’ request for comment.

A crowd of protesters gathers outside the main entrance of the Mítikah shopping center at a demonstration on the complex's opening day, Sept. 23, 2022. (Cody Copeland/Courthouse News)

Demonstrators also called out President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for what they considered to be broken promises. 

Referring to López Obrador by his initials, they chanted: “AMLO said that things would change. Lies, lies. The same old garbage.”

Assembly member Álvarez said she also believed López Obrador to have financial interests in the project, but assured Courthouse News that their protest was not political in nature. 

“AMLO said he would support the people of the barrios and pueblos, but he has never shown up here,” said Álvarez. “No one is sponsoring us, we’re not from a political party, we’re not from the government, nothing. Our struggle is personal. We fight it with what we were able to scrape together.”

Follow @@copycopeland
Categories / Environment, Government, International

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.