MEXICO CITY (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – For most of his life, Filiberto Mena Laiza had worked the earth, growing carrots, cilantro, beans and other crops in what was once rich agricultural land some 50km north of Mexico City.
But as the metropolis of 21 million expanded in recent decades, swallowing up farmlands near the centuries-old town of San Lucas Xolox where Laiza lives, the 54-year-old indigenous farmer was forced to leave his livelihood behind.
Condos have sprung up where corn had grown before, bringing with them more people, pollution and crime, Laiza said.
After being robbed by unknown assailants of his earnings coming home from the fields one too many times, he decided farming had become too dangerous – and now operates a small taco stand with his wife in San Lucas’ main square.
“The process of human development can’t be stopped,” Laiza said with a sigh of resignation.
“But what worries me is what are we going to leave for those that come after? … Just garbage.”
Now Laiza and others in his indigenous community fear they may be about to lose another battle against urbanization – one revolving around Mexico City’s new international airport.
Set to be built on a military airbase called Santa Lucia, just a 15-minute drive from San Lucas, the project is being spearheaded by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.