Gentrification project

Monday, October 26, 2009

In the world’s 2nd largest Mexican city, amongst a dog’s dinner of other social challenges, is a rather surprising one: gentrification. Unlike the “traditional” concerns, such as safety, schools and employment, this is an entirely different one. Gentrification, the shifting of the gentry (class) in a neighborhood, and usually, the ensuing socioeconomic change, has become reality in many neighborhoods in Los Angeles and cities across the world. In a city that is fifty percent Hispanic, such neighborhoods, -- places where Hispanic or Hispanic-descended people comprise a plurality or majority -- have been particularly affected; be it for better or worse, depending on whom you ask. The impact of gentrification on these neighborhoods, and their inhabitants, especially those that are Hispanics, will be the subject of this project.

Gentrification can, and does, happen for a myriad of reasons. Most commonly, gentrification follows significant economic (re-)development. These often include the opening major institutions, as these attract an educated workforce; museums, universities and hospitals are all examples of these. Although, mass transit, social, culinary or art scenes can attract outside investment as well. Perhaps most importantly, though, is the location of a neighborhood; particularly its proximity to the above.

Unsurprisingly, the location of a neighborhood can be another driving factor. Neighborhoods are often coveted for their accessibility, but also other things such as amenities, desirability and infrastructure (charming architecture, for instance). The result of such is a neighborhood gentrifying for the sole reason that it is affordable and offers convenience to the aforementioned employment centers in paragraph 1.Gentrification, too, can happen for sheer fact a neighborhood is affordable; it is no secret that artists are traditionally known to seek out larger spaces, at cheaper rents. These are often in tandem with people being priced out of other neighborhoods, usually those that are further along in the gentrification process, and moving to the next closest neighborhood. (An example of this is Bushwick is to Williamsburg as Echo Park is to Silverlake.). Still, regardless of the method or degree of gentrification, or why it takes place, the mere change itself is almost guaranteed to alter the fabric/character of the neighborhoods and leave some impression on the locals.

It is those very people, whose plight, struggle, stories, experiences and opinions on the popular gentrification issue I am seeking. I mean, after all, they the ones on the receiving end of it, right? That right there should lend a lot of validity and credence to their thoughts on the issue – certainly much more so than some biased transplant would, anyways. Upon some deep brainstorming on the issue, several questions come to mind: How are they affected; positively, negatively? Does gentrification really change – for better or worse – the neighborhood? Will they benefit from the improvements likely to come, or will such improvements only cater to newcomers? Do gentrification and the ensuing disbursement really represent a loss of identity, culture and cohesion? The aim of this project is to thoroughly such questions, and chronicalize, or at the very least, document their stories, opinions and emotions on this topic.

Hopefully, hearing their stories, I will realize the bigger picture of gentrification; family, education, politics, economy and religion all included.

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