Seeking a Home in Nogales


If we look at it from the legal perspective, living here is a crime,” explained Susana Salazar, gazing out over snaking dirt roads, powerlines, and the patchwork of improvised homes that over 10,000 families call home. Salazar lives in Colonia Colosio, reportedly the largest squatter settlement in Mexico, which sits less than five miles from the Arizona border in Nogales, Sonora. “But, if we look at it from a humanitarian perspective, this is fulfilling a need.”

This need—to adequately house a burgeoning population of migrants, deportees, and maquila workers—is currently transforming Nogales’s urban landscape.

A massive concrete water tank sits on a hilltop at the edge of Colosio, near Salazar’s home. As one of the highest points in the area, this is a convenient location for a municipal water tank, but residents of the Colonia do not receive its water—instead, most buy water at high prices from tanker trucks that prowl the neighborhood. The tank, meanwhile, supplies water to Las Bellotas, a subdivision packed with uniform row houses that nudge up against Colosio.

These urban developments—and the challenges of living in them—embody contrasting visions for a just and livable border city. Unfolding in parallel to the migrant detention and deportation crisis in Arizona, housing dynamics on the Mexican side of the border are another outcome of the free trade and immigration policies that have converged on the Sonoran Desert.

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