The New York Time recently published “Los Angeles Neighborhood Tries to Change, but Avoid the Pitfalls” wherein they highlight how many Chicano’s are gentrifying neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, that only a few decades ago Latino’s were trying to flee due to street violence.
The article sparked a debate on social media because many of us have witnessed it or are contributing to it and while we as activists typically stand against gentrification (because we saw how communities of color were pushed out of Echo Park, Silverlake, Los Feliz to name a few) the fact is that we, social justice freedom fighters, are contributing to gentrification in some way or another. Just ask yourself, where are you spending your money?
As a first generation immigrant I see it both ways. I feel like as immigrants/first/second/third generation Latino’s gain access to college and better jobs our purchasing power grows. And it makes sense. However, not all people gain access to important social systems, many are left out because they are undocumented or because they have a criminal record. That in turn shuts people out and keeps them in poverty. They then have less access to power and are easily pushed out of housing because they can’t compete in the market.
Now combine that with the reality that more people nationwide are choosing to live in the city rather than the suburbs (http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/05/poor-people-are-now-more-likely-live-suburbs-cities/65396/) neighborhoods surrounding Downtown are exploding with younger people and couples. When I moved to McArthur Park a year ago I did it because it meant a shorter commute to work, more options for public transportation and entertainment all around me. I also believe that a former Mayor Villaraigosas emphasis on reducing crime has resulted in an L.A. city that is more attracting to everyone, including the Chipsters.
With those three factors in play (more money, a centralized city and reduced crime) it makes sense why Chicano’s want to move back to Boyle Heights — they are naturally attracted to the beautiful murals, Mexican art and duh the food — it’s like living in Mexico but in America. Think about it, you can get your grandmas tamales for breakfast, fusion tacos for lunch and your bourbon infused tequila shots at night.
With all that said I think that as 1st, 2nd, 3rd generation Latino’s we should be responsible for figuring out a balance. That means in investing in more educational programs that help immigrant families or advocating that new housing developments have affordable housing. I don’t think we can fight the wave of gentrification but we can mitigate its impact.