We visited the community living in the shadow of an Amazon warehouse in Mexico, and asked residents what they thought of their new neighbor

·10 min read
Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider
  • Amazon's newest fulfillment center in Mexico sits directly adjacent to an impoverished community of makeshift homes.

  • Locals in the community told Insider what they think of having the e-retailer as their new neighbor.

  • One said that Amazon's presence was good as long as it created jobs and didn't destroy the town.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Amazon is celebrating the opening of a new fulfillment center in Tijuana, Mexico that it says will give the city better access to one-day deliveries and create 250 jobs.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

The warehouse stands next to a makeshift community of shanty homes, constructed of wood, cardboard, and tarps. Photos illustrating the contrast between the facility and the neighboring homes were shared widely online.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Insider's Katie Canales detailed how the photos of Amazon's Tijuana warehouse went viral.

Social media users were quick to condemn the photos as "dystopian." Amazon, for its part, is touting the jobs and investments it will add to the region. A Tijuana city press release said roughly $21 million was invested in the warehouse.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Impoverished communities like Nueva Esperanza are a common sight in Mexico but this one now sits in the shadow of a 344,000-square-foot Amazon facility, and the contrast is stark.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Insider hired an interpreter and crossed the border into Mexico to get a closer look at Nueva Esperanza. Here's what we found.

San Ysidro Border Crossing - California/Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

We first spotted the fulfillment center on the flight to Tijuana. It was impossible to miss the blue and gray building from the air as it was among the largest in its industrial park.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

While locating Amazon from the air was easy, finding it on a map was difficult. This industrial park is so new that it doesn't even appear on Goggle Maps' satellite view.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Luckily, it wasn't hard to find as we approached the Nueva Esperanza neighborhood. As it turned out, the facility was as easy to spot from the road as it was from the air.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

It was just a 15-minute car ride from the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the largest border crossing in the world, and the facility is just a few miles from the border itself.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

The border fence is visible from the highway that serves as the main artery to the zone.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Our first stop was the main gates to the industrial zone, where two local businesses said they have seen their customer base grow significantly in the past few weeks.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Oscar Orduña Paz works for Billieria el Prime, a food stand selling birria that was packing up from the lunch rush as we arrived. He estimated that as many as 50 Amazon workers visit the business daily given its proximity to the industrial zone's gates.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

"It's a benefit not only for us but for the people because they get jobs," Orduña Paz told Insider.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Another small business, located on the opposite side of the industrial park gate, also says it has benefitted from Amazon's presence and the growth of the community.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Lourdes Velazquez Toledo told Insider that she has seen an increase in customers since Amazon has moved in.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

We then traveled the long dirt road that serves as the border between the industrial zone and the neighboring community.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Along the road are makeshift homes and businesses. Some locals have said they fear these homes could be torn down because of Amazon's presence.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

"We are here because we need a place to live," resident María Mendoza told the LA Times. "We just don't want this to work against us."

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Source: LA Times

"We are in constant communication with the local government to find a way to generate a positive impact in the community," an Amazon spokesperson told Insider when asked about the community's concerns.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

"At Amazon, we are committed to the development of Mexico and the communities in which we operate, benefiting thousands of Mexican families, through the generation of direct and indirect jobs," the company said.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

The neighborhood lacked basic roadway and sidewalk infrastructure.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

But what was once a blank spot on Tijuana's map is now a hotspot of development. Its popularity can be partly attributed to its central geographic location.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Its proximity to Tijuana's logistics hubs was evidenced by the low-flying planes overhead making their approach to Tijuana International Airport, as we did the day prior.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Amazon's facility loomed larger as we made our way to what appeared to be the main intersection of the community.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

The Amazon logo is instantly recognizable as it peers over the town.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

A convenience store in what appeared to be the center of town had a wide selection of goods, including cold Coca-Cola and snacks.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Homes in the town were pieced together by a mixture of materials, ranging from wood and cardboard to tarps.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Some children were playing out in the roadways alongside what appeared to be stray dogs. Residents said journalists had visited the town recently in the wake of Amazon's debut.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

A married couple who spoke to Insider from inside their gated yard told Insider that the media attention had surprised them. Amazon was the only business in the industrial zone that seemed to be of any interest to the media, they said.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

"It's good for the community because it brings jobs," local resident Rosano Ochoa Builon said. "The factory is welcome." Her husband said he was planning to apply to work at Amazon.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Few of the residents interviewed said they directly knew someone employed by Amazon, however.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Another resident, Henry Aworra Hernandez, told Insider he was planning to apply to Amazon.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

For Hernandez, an Amazon job would be the perfect combination of convenience and prestige, giving him a well-paying job without having to travel too far from home, he said. The commute would be as easy as walking down the dirt road to the main gate, and then over to the facility.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

We later found Hernandez collecting recyclable cans that he speculated were from the Amazon facility, in a small landfill along the facility's brick border wall. He said he can collect around 67 Mexican pesos per kilo of cans.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Other residents are hoping Amazon will help them secure basic services for their town. "We want water and electricity, but we'd be more grateful … if they helped us with crime. … The police never come here," resident Álvaro Gómez told Mexico News Daily.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Source: Mexico News Daily

"We're aware that we live in an irregular settlement but half of us pay property tax," Gómez said.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Source: Mexico News Daily

"If Amazon wants to get rid of these houses, Amazon has the money to relocate these people," Trinidad Adel Calles Zazueta, a passerby near the warehouse, told Insider.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

More businesses may be looking to call this part of Tijuana home. We spotted other buildings under construction during our visit.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Whether or not they get the same attention as Amazon remains to be seen.

Amazon fulfillment center Tijuana, Mexico
Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider

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