The Racial Complexities of Gentrification in L.A.

In some Latino neighborhoods, the gentrifiers are also Latinos. The result is a complicated mix of culture, change, and resistance.

February 8, 2019, 9:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink

Boyle Heights Los Angeles

InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr

Ludwig Hurtado writes about the phenomenon of "gentefication" — when Latino neighborhoods are gentrified not by affluent white people, but by young, educated Latinos. "In essence, the aim of gentefication is to allow Latinx communities, usually low-income, [to] evolve without having their roots diluted into whiteness," says Hurtado. 

The idea behind gentefication is a neighborhood retaining its Latino identity while bringing in economic development and ensuring that residents are not displaced in the process, say proponents. In Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in East Los Angeles, Latinos are opening coffeehouses, wine bars, and record stores and they say they are trying to provide what millennial Latinos want. "But in making a Latinx community more attractive to young Latinxs, gentefiers have to ask themselves if they’re subsequently making their communities more attractive to affluent white folks as well," notes Hurtado.

Anti-gentrification groups have been active in Boyle Heights, and they oppose all efforts to change the neighborhood. "They have been a leading force for keeping 'hipster businesses' out of the Boyle Heights and boycotting those that managed to make their way in," says Hurtado. 

Community advocates say that economic development needs to consider the effects of gentrification, regardless of who is behind it. Preventing displacement is central, particularly in low-income neighborhoods with a high percentage of renters, and strategies such as land trusts can help promote homeownership in places such as Boyle Heights.

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