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The Restaurant at the Center of a Gentrification War

Rising housing costs have triggered a wave of displacement in Mexico City’s Centro Histórico. But residents are finding creative ways to resist.
Cafetería Trevi, and the residents who live above it, find themselves at the center of a pitched battle over displacement in downtown Mexico City.
Cafetería Trevi, and the residents who live above it, find themselves at the center of a pitched battle over displacement in downtown Mexico City.Martha Pskowski/CityLab

MEXICO CITY—The Trevi is a six-story apartment building overlooking Alameda Central, an iconic park in Mexico City’s Centro Histórico neighborhood. On its ground floor there’s a time-worn little Italian restaurant, Cafetería Trevi, from which the building takes its unofficial name. With its red-vinyl banquettes and vintage neon signage, Cafetería Trevi looks like a time capsule of Mexico City’s past. But since last year it’s become the epicenter of a battle over the neighborhood’s—and the city’s—future.

The fight began in March 2018, when the Trevi’s current owner told the tenants of the building’s 24 apartments, four storage units, and six storefronts that the building was going to be sold and they would all have to move out. For the past year, the restaurant and a handful of upstairs tenants have been fighting their eviction, determined to hold on to their imperiled corner of working-class Mexico City.