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'Vida' Examines Gentrification in East L.A. But Now Faces Backlash from Real-Life Protesters

A show about the impacts of gentrification in a working-class immigrant neighborhood in Los Angeles is generating controversy among those it represents.
September 7, 2018, 10am PDT | Camille Fink
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The Starz show “Vida” is about life in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, where gentrification is an issue at the forefront. The show has tried to tackle this topic—along with hiring a slew of Latino actors and writers—but it now finds itself the target of anti-gentrification activists.

"The protests over the filming mark a new ironic twist, because producers of the Starz show said they were simply trying to honestly portray the debate about gentrification," reports Alejandra Reyes-Velarde. The group Defend Boyle Heights does not like the show's portrayal of the community, says Reyes-Velarde:

Their biggest complaint is that those involved are profiting off the struggles of those trying to stay in their homes. They also say the show pokes fun at them and stole the image of the Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade, a grassroots group of female activists who lead bike rides in Boyle Heights to combat gentrification and other social issues.

Tanya Saracho, "Vida’s" showrunner and herself an immigrant from Mexico, says she is working to keep up an ongoing dialogue with the community because she wants the Boyle Heights world she creates on the screen to accurately depict real life.

Community response to the activists’ complaints has been mixed. “One city official who declined to be named said many of the community leaders he has spoken with have reservations about Defend Boyle Heights' decision to focus on [the show] because the show's producers have generally tried to be sensitive to the community's concerns,” says Reyes-Velarde.

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Published on Saturday, September 1, 2018 in Los Angeles Times
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