DETROIT—The city of Detroit is tearing down derelict homes at an astonishing pace: around 200 a week. The demolitions, paid for with $52 million in federal funds, are part of the city's plan to clean up some salvageable neighborhoods. On Ewers Street in southwest Detroit, Miguel Galván Patiño has seen about a half dozen foreclosed or abandoned houses on his block crumble and burn. The 55-year-old Mexican worker bought a bungalow for his family here five years ago with $18,000 saved from his income as a sidewalk paver. Since then, city contractors have torn down the house next door, and two homes across the street are on the demolition list.
On a recent Wednesday morning, Patiño watched as a hydraulic shovel scooped up pieces of a house four doors down. He talked to National Journal about how his American Dream is changing as Detroit emerges from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. This interview was translated from Spanish and edited for length.
Why did you move to Detroit from Mexico?
I was coming here on-and-off for 32 years to work. One of my friends moved here first and said there was a lot of work for us. I work with cement—cementing sidewalks, driveways, all that. At first it was great; there was a lot of work and it paid well. I would come and return to Mexico so I could be with my family, and then I was able to move my family here five years ago when I bought the house. Lately [the work] has been decreasing, but we're already here, so that's that. Maybe things will pick up this year.