The $16 Taco Blog Post

In the introduction to The $16 Taco, Joassart-Marcelli “explores the role of food in the transformation of urban neighborhoods, with a particular focus on the experience of immigrants who live there, running businesses, feeding families, building communities, and creating homes.” She talks about different perspectives that are introduced, like the “from above” perspectives of privileged individuals who see places like Barrio Logan as in need of outride improvements. The other point of view is the “from below” approach where individuals view ethnic food as representative of their culture. Communities where ethnic food play a large role are pockets of culture that extends only to this community, and others are attempting to “better” their food culture by “cosmopolitanizing” them with more American foods and higher prices. In chapter 5, she goes on to talk about how the communities are expanding and why. Privileged white people have an interest in the authentic foods of communities like Barrio Logan and they have become destinations for “foodies” seeking healthy and unique dining opportunities. Private-public partnerships attempt to prioritize the growth and stability of food organizations, but some are more effective than others. The cosmopolitan foodscape would not be structured the way that it is today without immigrants and the food communities created by them. However, the needs of the immigrants themselves are often not prioritized in this effort to expand the scope of ethnic food. Small business owners and low-income families are not as much a part of the cosmopolitan foodscape as they should be, as the food comes from their community. Then, in chapter 6, the gentrification and appropriation of cultures is brought into the picture. The experience of Jenny Niezgoda is a prime example, as she attempted to bring her her fruteria, La Gracia, into Barrio Logan with the intention of providing an addition to the community that brought people closer to each other and offers options made from healthy Mexican produce. She is an example because of the expensive prices in her fruteria and her exploitation of the culture she was inserting herself into in Barrio Logan. People like this fail to acknowledge that the prices do not assist low-income families and their appropriation of culture for the sake of profit is quite exploitative. She saw this as an attempt to improve a neighborhood, and others share this opinion. However, Niezgoda and people like her share a disregard for the communities that they want to infiltrate. Americanized versions of the local businesses have begun to erase the communities and the food they create. It is baffling that “foodies” place so much value in authenticity, but gentrification and erasure are ensuring that authenticity is difficult to find and appreciate while still being beneficial to the community. In chapter 7, Joassart-Marcelli highlights the conflict between helping the community by embracing traditions or inviting the business of outsiders. Regulars of the community help small business, but so does advertisement and inclusivity, though the united motive is to help the neighborhood improve and expand authentically. There is always the issue with tradition and changing society, because inclusivity needs to have its place. This chapter also emphasizes the importance of maintaining the culture surrounding food as well as making sure all members of the community have food. The problems are rooted in racism and capitalism alike. The whitewashing of ethnic food disregards the needs of the community entirely by raising prices and creating business that are more financially successful. Consumers and business owners both play a role in this as neither acknowledge the differences in racial lenses. The call to action by Joassart-Marcelli provides the idea that buying local food and supporting ethic food economies is important, and these communities have rich histories and are not in need of “saving” by white consumers and business owners.

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