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NY Times Explores The 'Gentefication' Of Boyle Heights By 'Chipsters'

 A covered gazebo in a park.
Mariachi Square in Boyle Heights.
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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How does it make a difference if the residents who are part of gentrifying a neighborhood happen to have roots in the hood?

The New York Times tackles this question in a piece on Boyle Heights wherein it drops the Spanglish portmanteaus "chipster" and "gentefication." It checks in with some of the hip places being opened by Eastside natives, including the bar Eastside Luv, the taco restaurant Guisados and the coffee shop Primera Taza. In a previous generation, these owners might have fled to the burbs once they made enough money. Instead, they've been returning to their old stomping grounds and starting new businesses that appeal not so much to mostly-white hipsters—as you see in Echo Park—as chipsters.

Boyle Heights native and city worker Juan Romero opened Primera Taza four years ago, and he describes his decision to return this way: "We grew up always talking about being a part of something bigger. We’ve learned just how to create it for ourselves. Making it doesn’t mean moving out."

The so-called chipster phenomenon and its gentrifying tendencies (a close cousin of hipsters' gentrifying tendencies) have been getting more attention lately. The latino humor and satire site Pocho recently ran a piece on eight ways to tell if you're a chipster and the number one way was this: "You gentrified your own neighborhood when you moved back in with your mom."

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Telemundo did a light-hearted report on chipsters last year. Even though it's in Spanish, the images alone give you an overview of how it mashes up a veneration of Chicano activism and Mexican culture with American pop culture:
Not everyone is happy with the "gentefication" trend, since it's happening at the same time that poor people are getting pushed out of the neighborhood by rising rents. Leonardo Vilchis, an organizer with Union de Vecinos, said the trend wreaks of opportunism: "People want to pretend that their actions don’t have an impact on the people already living here, but when the prices go up, the poor have to go someplace else. Coming back is emblematic of some kind of opportunism. We had children going to college two decades ago, but back then it wasn’t cool to live here."

Of course, here are plans for good old-fashioned gentrification in Boyle Heights, too, which is hinted at in the Times article. Eastside activists as well as the Los Angeles Conservancy have been protesting a proposal to redevelop the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments. The plan is to create a dense housing development aimed at people who make $90,000—double the median income for Boyle Heights.

The owner of Eastside Luv Guillermo Uribe says he sees gentrification as inevitable at this point and says he'd rather see it happen by native themselves: "If we want to preserve the cultural integrity, the pride we have, the only shot we have is to do it ourselves."

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