1/7/09

The Brown Hands of Gentrification

I haven't been blogging much, nor reading blogs as much as before because there has been this conversation in my head and with my peeps about what are we really doing with the blogs and most recently a new magazine/newspaper called Brooklyn and Boyle.

The conversation basically goes like this: What is our point in writing about Boyle Hts or our Eastside in general? To counter the false hipster Eastside? To tell people to come and visit/gentrify/move into our areas because we live here, we can write blogs, went to school and so now it is safe?

It really got me thinking that we are helping to gentrify and alter the fabric of our communities. Ooops there is the buzz word "community."

We live in this community, it has been here before us and we came to be a part of it.

Many have begun to write and think that we need to create a community because it's not here. Only when there are others who write, went to school, like the same art and music and we take up a space and hang out will we have a community. How colonizer is that???!!!

Some of the spaces are like forts, art outposts, so to say where the natives aren't welcome, kept out by big gates or overpriced beer I can get for $2 next door.

I read in the first Brooklyn and Boyle a piece by a woman saying to come 'discover' Boyle Hts. WTF??? DISCOVER!!! We have been here, just cuz you just got here we are discovered? How colonizer is that?

We seem to have a lot of colonizer thinking in us. I know I do.

Even Luis Rodriguez's piece in the same issue struck me as an Ethno tourist map. I love Luis Rodriguez but when you write about a living and breathing place in the past tense as if people can now feel safe and its ok to go there because he was there, it felt like yuck.

BH has been here doing fine without the art spaces, the galleries, the cafes, the hipster-o newspapers, as a community for Raza who work, raise kids, have parties on the weekends, eat at the great restaurants and go to the beautiful parks. Why do we feel we need to let the world know we are here? Do we need their approval? Are we lacking tourist dollars?

I'm at home here. I don't tell peeps what is in my kitchen, the art I have up, the people that visit me. Well maybe in a way that is what this blog has been.

I'm thinking instead of selling our area to fit into some idea of community, what we as writers from areas like BH need to do is start telling the world how we see the world around us. No one ever asks us what we think about Palestine's fight; Obama-landia, or right wing Christians. No one ever asked us if it was now safe to come and visit our home, yet we can't stop selling it.

(I'm going to visit some exotic area like Reseda and write about the cool stuff I discovered like the Vietnamese Vegan Pho spot on Sherman Way and how straight their streets are.)

I guess I'm repenting for writing in this blog about Al and Bea's and other spots I love around here, they are doing just fine without my pimping them.

The other day I went to a spot and the owner's son was chatting with me. I told him about the changes that are coming due to the trains and gentrification. He didn't even blink. He just looked around at his packed restaurant full of families with kids, viejitos and mariachis taking a break and said, "I'm not worried about it. We got our regulars."

Indeed maybe us writers/artists/community builders (more like blind to community) are making this bigger than it needs to be. The regulars will be here, all visitors will come and eventually go.

As Anzaldua wrote: "This land was Mexican once, Indian always and will be again." I guess I can say this land was/is colonized Chuppy once, Raza always and will be again.

10 comments:

Tan said...

"I'm thinking instead of selling our area to fit into some idea of community, what we as writers from areas like BH need to do is start telling the world how we see the world around us. No one ever asks us what we think about Palestine's fight; Obama-landia, or right wing Christians. No one ever asked us if it was now safe to come and visit our home, yet we can't stop selling it."

I get what you're saying about BH and such. This feeling of having to prove ourselves as a community can definitely have it's drawbacks and be just as overwhelming, maybe discouraging being that identity has become an evolving cosmos of the southwest.

-Tania

El Random Hero said...

Straight up telling it like it is, I love that. Personally speaking I'm not one to write about how things are changing for the better or what have you. I'm a metiche and I love telling stories about the people in Boyle Heights, the work they do, events they have and letting everyone else in the hood know about what they're doing so they can be a part of it. What do I care what people from the outside care about us. It's like you said, BH was there before is and will be there after we're gone.

kualyque said...

Raises some interesting questions and points for thought, P3k. I've got no answers to any of it, only more questions.

chicanaskies said...

I feel you.

EL CHAVO! said...

Not writing about BH or other often neglected areas is the equivalent of what the software world calls "security by obscurity", which means that trying to hide yourself from virus/computer threats is only good enough 'til they find you, then you are done for. When I write about places in LH or the Eastside it isn't to get "others" to necessarily recognize and approve of us, but it does let them know that we are aware of ourselves, and no, you didn't just discover us. And it's also to let those that live within these areas be aware of what we do have and to value it, because way too many grow up here with every intention of moving out to some shitty suburb as soon as they can afford it, taking with them any talents they could have used to contribute to the neighborhood.

I understand your point but gentrifiers are going to move in no matter what, and they usually don't look towards our blogs for a final decision. If you can shape the definition of the area then they'll at least know they need to just STFU when they start complaining about ambulantes or backyard parties. It's what I think.

leftside said...

Gentrification is a tricky subject loaded with all the contradictions of the capitalist society we are all slaves to. People everywhere want safer streets, a variety of restaurants and stores, good parks, better schools, etc. People in BH have been fighting for these things for a long time. Now that some of these things seem to be coming, the terrible reality is that many other negative things will almost certainly be brought along = gentrification.

I think the most important thing conscious people can do is speak openly and honestly about these contradictions. Why can't a community improve itself and still retain all the things it loves about itself? What are the benefits and drawbacks to living in a segregated community? Why are the poor and renters most at risk of being displaced? Why does a community not actually control so many of the things it finds important? Etc. Etc.

The point is that gentrification should be a jumping off point for getting people to think more critically about the type of society/economy (capitalism) we live in. In my experience in Chicago, this helped reduce tension between races and classes as well as help point the finger at the system rather than the (perhaps good hearted) person opening up a coffee shop, or whatever....

As a Chicago transplant (and city planner), I do have to say that the threats working class communities in Los Angeles face are less intense than many other cities. In other words, so many spread out, diverse communities here are being gentrified that the effects are generally not as quick and severe in one particular neighborhood. This means that the attitude of "we'll be fine" probably prevails more because there is no emergency feared right around the corner. It is a slower process, but no less important.

Wendy Carrillo said...

Hey guys,
It’s not gentrification, it’s a renaissance! (lol).
Here’s the deal, you write “No one ever asks us what we think about Palestine's fight; Obama-landia, or right wing Christians.” Why does someone have to ask you?
Why don’t you just do it?

This is such chicano bs. You rant and rave about higher education, aztlan and the need to tell our stories, then you are ridden with catholic guilt for telling the narratives of people and places that come from a space of truth and personal experience.
The inherent issue is not your blog or other chicano’s who blog.
Your issue is with Brooklyn/Boyle paper you read that had a narrative of BH you disagree with, which in essence, makes your blog that much more important.
So keep writing and don’t become disillusioned!

p.s. is there a link to this paper btw? Is it online?

Pachuco 3000 said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful and important comments. We need to keep this conversation going and growing within ourself/selves.

I am far from being disillusioned, just re-focusing what I want to write about and how I come across. Might be messy and bloody at times.

One thought on science fiction writing. White folks have cornered the market on that for a while and pretty much leave people of color out of those worlds. If we as p.o.c. start building our sci fi and leave them out, will we be called out at segregationists? Did we ever call them out?
hmmmm

Raquel Gutierrez said...

I'm interested in starting a POETRY OF PLACE collaborative series at any number of spaces that are proliferating in neighborhoods we inhabit and are estranged from. I'm doing one at galeria de la raza to test out material before doing stuff in LA. The event there is called Mistaking Planes for Stars: The Poetry of Place in Southeast Los Angeles (I'm from Bell Gardens and Huntington Park though I live in Echo Park now). Anyone interested in doing something for Boyle Heights, as well as other neighborhoods in LA?

tacosam said...

I say keep writing about Boyle Heights. I agree with El Chavo! Plus, I am one of those that grew up in Highland Park and left as soon as I could. By reading about the old neighborhood, it keeps me connected in a way.