With the SpaceX launch base, the life of the village of Boca Chica, in the United States, is turned upside down

Until a few years ago, it was a small road between dunes and marshes that led to the mouth of the Rio Grande and to the village of Boca Chica, in the Gulf of Mexico, in the far south of Texas. A police box was checking travelers’ papers to make sure they weren’t illegal immigrants from Mexico, on the other side of the river. It was the time when US President Donald Trump wanted to extend the wall on the Mexican border to the sea. At the end, the beach, and an invitation to respect the turtles during the egg-laying period. Today, the turtles are still there, but the attraction is the space company SpaceX’s launch pad, installed by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.

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Along the road, a company is busy bringing electricity through a new high-voltage line, and the curious observe the prototypes of the giant rockets supposed to conquer Mars. From their pick-up, Stephanie Calderon, her husband Miguel and their two daughters photograph the launch pad. For four years, the family left Ohio, in the north-eastern United States, and lives in his trailer. She has visited 48 states in the country – only Hawaii and Alaska are missing. But Miguel Calderon would like to be hired by SpaceX as an engineering technician and settle near Boca Chica.

“My husband has always been fascinated by space. But it is not easy to get hired by NASA [l’agence spatiale américaine]. Elon Musk can make his dream come true,” explains Stephanie Calderon. The young woman explores the surroundings, looks for schools after having educated her children herself, and discovers that sometimes exclusively Spanish is spoken on this side of the Rio Grande, where she will undoubtedly settle. The region, one of the poorest in Texas, now attracts those who dream of space and the conquest of Mars.

Stephanie Calderon, her husband Miguel, and their daughters Adaliah and Eliana Calderon, 9, outside the SpaceX launch pad at Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville, Texas on March 10, 2022.

Almost all are gone

The installation of Elon Musk in these places was not easy. In the early 2010s, SpaceX had explored several places, which were eliminated: Puerto Rico, served only by sea, Florida, where you would have to queue to launch its rockets with other competitors, and Texas, which has offered subsidies to welcome the billionaire in 2014. These aids, which reached a total of 32 million dollars (29.1 million euros), were not easy, given the unfortunate past of the city with the industrialists.

Alumni remember one tire factory, Titan Tire, which first set up shop in 1997, but quickly left when unions at its historic plant in Illinois called off their strike and reduced their demands: the Boca Chica area had served as a decoy. Except that this is not the case for SpaceX, to listen to Nick Serafy, an entrepreneur who volunteered on the financial project for local authorities: “The SpaceX project provided for 800 jobs. We are at 1,800, and more than 80% are from the region. It’s phenomenal. »

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