Gentrification has gotten a bad rap, with the term akin to “wealthy whites pushing out long-term residents of color and driving up rents.”
In traditionally Latino Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, younger Latinos don’t have quite the same view about tradition. Their Latin identity, according to this report by local public radio station KPCC, extends as far as the dollar allows it.
Community activists like Gracian had their misgivings back then: were the businesses too cool? Would they change the flavor of what’s traditionally been a working-class immigrant neighborhood?
Turns out the business owners were themselves the children and grandchildren of immigrants. Some grew up in the area. They see the changes, not as gentrification, but rather the evolution of a neighborhood.
“I came and I started going, man, what do I want to do here?” said Guillermo “Willie” Uribe, owner of Eastside Luv, the wine shop. “This could just be an expression of who I am as a Mexican American, you know?”
In the story the owner of a trendy wine shop in Boyle Heights, Eastside Luv, has a rather transactional view about what makes a place of business “traditional Mexican” or for “hip, white folk.”
Still, the First Street strip on which Eastside Luv sits has undergone a transformation. Where an old-school Mexican restaurant once stood, a new taqueria sells green-tinged kale limonada, lemonade. A second bar catering to so-called “chipsters” – that’s for Chicano hipsters – now sits down the street.
But Uribe and others still describe a grass–roots vibe.
“I think that is what Eastside Luv is,” Uribe said. “It’s really just an expression of our Mexican-American-ism, and it is a wide spectrum. We can be as American as we want and as Mexican as we want. And there’s a lot to play with in between.”
This is an example, from a retail perspective, of the increasing fluidity of Latino identity, and we’ve seen this in attitudes of Latino consumers for years. What makes a person Latino (or Hispanic, or Mexican-American – see the terms are varied, too) is increasingly individualistic and dependent on the circumstances. “As Mexican as we want to be” is not just a cute slogan. For younger generations of Latinos, especially in urban areas, identity is increasingly malleable.