With the SpaceX launch pad, life in the US village of Boca Chica is turned upside down

Until a few years ago, a small road between dunes and swamps led to the mouth of the Rio Grande and the village of Boca Chica, in the Gulf of Mexico, in the far south of Texas. A police box checked travelers’ papers to ensure they were not illegal immigrants from Mexico, on the other side of the river. This was the time when US President Donald Trump wanted to extend the wall on the Mexican border to the sea. At the end of the beach, an invitation to respect the turtles during the spawning period. Today, turtles still exist, but the attraction is the launch pad of the space company SpaceX, which was installed by billionaire businessman Elon Musk.

listen too 2021, SpaceX Odyssey

Along the way, a company delivers electricity via a new high-voltage line, and strangers watch prototypes of giant rockets that are supposed to invade Mars. From the pick-up, Stephanie Calderon, her husband Miguel and their two daughters photograph the launch pad. For four years, the family left Ohio in the northeastern United States, living in his trailer. She’s visited 48 states in the country – only Hawaii and Alaska are missing. But Miguel Calderon would like SpaceX to hire him as an engineering technician and to settle near Boca Chica.

“My husband has always been fascinated by space. But it’s not easy to get hired by NASA [l’agence spatiale américaine]. Elon Musk can make his dream come true. Stephanie Calderon explains. The young woman explores the surroundings, looking for schools after tutoring her children, and discovers that sometimes Spanish is spoken exclusively on this side of the Rio Grande, where she will undoubtedly settle. The area, 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 Adalia and Eliana Calderon, 9, outside the SpaceX launch pad at Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville, Texas on March 10, 2022.

Almost everything is gone

Installing Elon Musk in these places has never been so easy. In the early 2010s, SpaceX explored several places, which were wiped out: Puerto Rico, which is served only by sea, Florida, where you have to wait to launch its rockets along with other competitors, and Texas, which provided subsidies to welcome the billionaire in 2014. This aid, which amounted to 32 million dollars (29.1 million euros), it was not easy, given the unfortunate past of the city with industrialists.

Graduates remember one tire factory, Titan Tire, who first set up shop in 1997 but quickly left when unions at its historic Illinois factory called off their strike and lowered their demands: Boca Chica was a decoy. Except that’s not the case for SpaceX, to hear from Nick Serafy, an entrepreneur who has volunteered for the local authorities’ financial project: “The SpaceX project has created 800 jobs. We’re in 1800, and more than 80% of the area. It’s a phenomenon.”

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