World: Some Tijuana locals say they're hopeful about a new Amazon warehouse that social media users called dystopian

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Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center. Thomas Pallini/Insider
  • Amazon's new warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico borders homes made of wood, tarps, and cardboard.
  • Some residents of the homes have reportedly said they are fearful Amazon will kick them out.
  • Insider went to Tijuana, where several residents said they were grateful for the new jobs.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Amazon's newest fulfillment center in Tijuana, Mexico made headlines after it opened in September and put the neighboring community of Nueva Esperanza in the spotlight.

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Photographer Omar Martinez captured photos of the Amazon facility, the first of its kind in Tijuana, that showed the brand-new facility standing feet away from a sprawling community of makeshift homes made of wood, tarps, and cardboard, where stray dogs lie in unpaved streets.

The photos were widely shared on social media, with users quick to condemn them as "dystopian" symbols of inequality, as Insider's Katie Canales reported. Some residents have expressed fears that Amazon could evict them, while the local government has praised Amazon's decision to move into the northwestern Mexican city.

Insider hired an interpreter and crossed the border to talk with residents living in the shadow of Amazon's new facility. Most of the eight people interviewed for this story said they felt hopeful about Amazon's arrival in Tijuana.

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Locals praise Amazon's new jobs

"It's good for the community because it brings jobs," said Rosano Ochoa Builon, whose home neighbors the Amazon warehouse. "The factory is welcome."

She said she was surprised by the recent media attention on the facility, saying she's never seen anything like it in 20 years of living there.

The blue and gray Amazon factory is instantly recognizable when approaching by air or on land. It sits in a newly-developed industrial zone on the Tijuana River just a few miles from the US-Mexico border.

Amazon opened the facility in September and says it's creating 250 new jobs. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider Amazon opened the facility in September and says it's creating 250 new jobs. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Lourdes Velazquez Toledo, who runs the eatery Comedor/Antojitos Mexicanos just outside the main gate to the industrial park, told Insider that she's seen an increase in customers since Amazon moved in.

"It's a better job than what they had before," Velazquez Toledo said of Amazon's new hires, speculating that local factories could lose workers to Amazon.

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It's unclear what Amazon is paying workers at the Tijuana facility. Amazon declined Insider's request to confirm its wages, saying only that it pays "industry-competitive salaries."

Amazon pays workers a $15 minimum hourly wage in the US and at a nearby facility just over the border in San Diego, California. By comparison, Tijuana's 2021 minimum wage is around 26 pesos ($1.29) an hour - which is slightly higher than the minimum wage elsewhere in Mexico given the city's status as a special economic zone near the US border.

Locals reported hearing Amazon offering wages at the Mexican peso equivalent of $15 per hour for some positions. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider Locals reported hearing Amazon offering wages at the Mexican peso equivalent of $15 per hour for some positions. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Reuters reported in April that 15 contracted staffers at Amazon warehouses across Mexico earned roughly 25 pesos ($1.25) per hour - above the minimum wage in their area - plus bonuses. The report also included allegations of unfair mandatory overtime practices.

Without confirming any specifics, Amazon has managed to make an impression - at least among the locals interviewed by Insider - that its wages are competitive. Two employees of a nearby factory told Insider that they've heard that Amazon's jobs are "good work in a good company" and that they pay well, without knowing specifics on wages.

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One resident of Nueva Esperanza, who asked not to be identified, said some of her coworkers quit their jobs to work at Amazon. She said they may have left because of the perception that Amazon is a "better company than ours" and had a nicer facility.

She also said she had seen social media posts that expressed concern over whether Amazon could destroy nearby homes because they were giving the e-commerce giant a "bad image."

Amazon's facility was built from the ground up in Tijuana. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider Amazon's facility was built from the ground up in Tijuana. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Amazon declined to comment directly on the Nueva Esperanza settlement but told Insider: "We are in constant communication with the local government to find a way to generate a positive impact in the community."

"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," Amazon said.

The Amazon fulfillment center will allow for same-day deliveries in Tijuana and next-day deliveries to nearby cities, a government press release said. Amazon is investing around $21 million into the ground-up construction of the 344,000-square-foot facility.

"Since our arrival in Mexico, Amazon has created more than 15,000 jobs throughout the country and now we are adding 250 in Tijuana, creating employment opportunities with industry-competitive compensation packages for all our employees, who enjoy benefits superior to the law, such as health insurance, life insurance, savings fund, and food vouchers," an Amazon spokesperson told Insider in a statement.

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The community of Nueva Esperanza is a collection of makeshift homes and unpaved streets. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider The community of Nueva Esperanza is a collection of makeshift homes and unpaved streets. Thomas Pallini/Insider

"Our wages and benefits strengthen local communities, and our investments help these areas to grow and to build better futures," Amazon said, citing 6.5 billion pesos of donations in Mexico that it says helped 30,000 families.

A woman who lives near the new warehouse told the Voice of San Diego that she's worried about being kicked out of her home.

"They have not threatened us directly with eviction but we have seen how other houses in the neighborhood have been sidelined to move or worse have destroyed their homes because they want to develop the land. I just don't want that to happen to us, " she said.

While none of the locals interviewed by Insider said they were fearful of being evicted by Amazon, they agreed Amazon has deep enough pockets to be able to resettle them.

"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.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amazon 'may have lied to Congress,' 5 lawmakers say .
Amazon has denied the allegations. In a letter sent to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Monday, lawmakers on the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee are asking the e-commerce giant to correct the record and provide "exculpatory evidence" to corroborate prior testimony and statements made to the committee.

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