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Tijuana’s Explosive Growth

The city of Tijuana has undergone explosive growth. With a population of 1.3 million just 10 years ago, it is now estimated to have over 2 million residents. People from all over Mexico and Central America are drawn to the city in hopes of more lucrative job opportunities, a slightly higher standard of living, and maybe a shot at crossing into the United States. Tijuana is also quite diverse with Chinese, Haitian, and American populations, among others.

Initially, people settled towards the Western part of Tijuana and the coastline. Available land in these areas has significantly increased in price (lots that used to go for $7,000 are now up to $50,000) and undeveloped space is getting harder to find. This has naturally pushed Tijuana’s growth toward the East side of the city.

The city is much newer on the East side than the West side. Neighborhoods on the West side can date back for 50 or more years. They have benefited from all of those years of development, even as slow as it may be. East side neighborhoods are much newer, about 20 years or less. They look and feel significantly behind in terms of development. Little to no street pavement or utilities, and household income levels are much lower. When comparing these areas of Tijuana, the East side appears 10-15 years behind the West side.

In East side communities, housing and infrastructure are typically the primary need. This makes the East side a natural next step for Doxa in its house building operations. We want to acknowledge and act on the changing needs throughout the city of Tijuana. This is always guided by input from Doxa’s local staff and partners.

It won’t be too many more years before the outskirts of Tijuana and Tecate grow together. Doxa’s expansion to also build houses on the Eastern side of Tijuana is a natural next step in response to the city’s changing needs.

Introduction to Unidos por Siempre Orphanage

With Doxa’s expansion of house building operations to also include the East side of Tijuana, it became clear that another orphanage partnership was needed. Someone who knew the new neighborhood, people, and could be an effective partner. The Rojo Gomez neighborhood is over 1 hour away from Doxa’s more traditional house building neighborhoods on the West side of the city. This also meant house building groups would need a place to stay closer to their building sites.

Enter Unidos por Siempre Orphanage. Founded by Maria Figueroa in 2002, originally as a community soup kitchen, Unidos por Siempre is now home to over 30 children who come from a variety of backgrounds. The orphanage itself is cozy and bright with yellow walls, and laundry often hanging to dry in the central patio. There are two dormitories (accommodating about 30 boys and girls), a kitchen, dining room, and common spaces to play. Maria and her staff spend time with the kids in an unhurried manner. The pace of life is comfortable here and love is in abundance. Maria greets you with the trademark “my house is your house” and you know you are home.

As house building groups have slowly gotten to know Unidos por Siempre, there are lasting relationships formed. It’s impossible to spend even a couple days there without someone getting to know your name and vice versa. Groups have even undertaken many smaller projects around Unidos por Siempre to help their facilities improve. The house building experience serves as the springboard for so much more. It’s been such a joy to journey along with them and they have been so gracious with inviting us in. We have only struck the tip of the iceberg here!

To see a current map of houses built around East Tijuana, feel free to checkout our Impact Map. Rosa, the person who screens and prepares families for houses on the West side of Tijuana, has been a mentor to Maria as she learns the screening process and how to adapt it for families throughout the East side of Tijuana.