I have experienced this twice in my life. Once in the States – and then in Costa Rica – where I now live.
I was born, in 1936, in a working-class neighborhood in my Father’s home town of Ft. Madison, Iowa. Our house would now be classified as a workman’s cottage – cheap housing for workers on the Santa Fe Railroad. Almost all of these (including the one I was born in) have now been torn down, as unsightly shacks. But when I was young, it was a friendly place – where everybody knew everybody. The couple next door, who had no children of their own – were happy to take care of me, whenever my mother tired of my company – which was often.
Then WWII came along and my Father’s photography studio (the only one in town) became a gold mine. We had money! And my parents moved up-scale to a nicer house in newer part of town – one that had brick streets, instead of dirt (or mud) streets. This was only a move of one block – but it might as well been a move to another planet. I quickly got to know the kids close to us – but the parents – as in suburbs everywhere – remained strangers. They had better houses (the most important thing, as far as they were concerned) – but no community at all. I went into shock – a shock I have never recovered from completely.
My second experience of moving from a neighborhood to a suburb occurred in Costa Rica. I had moved in with Marielos and her son, in a older neighborhood close to downtown San Jose, the capitol of Costa Rica. She had her own business sewing women’s clothing, which she copied out of fashion catalogs, changing the sizes to fit the customer. She employed two women full-time, the phone was always ringing, and customers were always parking outside, right in front of the house. It was only a 15 minute drive from downtown.
I liked living there, even if the houses were older, and often burned down, and crime was becoming a problem. People lived there. And Marielos’s business, which she loved, was doing fine. But she was not satisfied – she had to have a nicer house. She had that American disease – real estate fever. So we moved to a nicer house – which was a total disaster. We had no telephone, so customers could not call us. And we were right in a main highway that was so noisy only I could sleep – because I was wearing hearing protectors. Marielos only had one woman left working for her. Customers didn’t like the drive out to our place – because the traffic was so terrible.
So Marielos had an even better idea – she would buy a new house in a new subdivision in the foothills! The air would be cleaner, and the view of the city would be marvelous! She bought one – since the government made the financing easy. And immediately it started to fall apart – the roof leaked, and electrical wiring stopped working, the sewer clogged up, and the doors started falling off their hinges. And not only that – we had no telephone for over a year! Her business went to zero. I moved to Orosi – someplace much nicer – and she could not find another border, because it was too far out of town.
I lost track of her – but her future was not hard to guess. She has no doubt has lost her new house – and her business has probably gone too. She is right back to where she was when her family came from El Salvador thirty years earlier. Only she is older. Her son, who should be supporting her, is letting his mother support him instead.