Week 13 Blog Post- The $16 Taco

I thought this reading was super interesting, because I had never thought much about gentrification when choosing a place to eat. Gastrodevelopment brings in tourism and money, but it often comes at a high cost for locals and longtime residents. The Barefoot Bohemian made me mad, because she was trying to bring in a fruteria, of which there were already four in Barrio Logan that were Mexican-owned. She was using empty buzzwords to try and garner support for her business model, but thankfully she was called out by the locals for her tone-deaf promises and the project was shut down within days of its launch. The author highlighted the disconnect between authenticity and ethnicity, and how authenticity on Yelp is often judged by decor and presentation rather than the food and its relation to the food cooked by people’s ancestors. Yelp also harbors people’s racist and classist biases, where reviewers comment that in order to eat “authentic” food one must navigate through a “sketchy neighborhood.” One of the Yelp reviews used the astute observation that many people who looked Thai were customers to justify its authenticity, and the author asked if the authenticity would be lost once locals could no longer afford to eat there. I thought that question really cut to the core issue of gentrification, behind the racism and classism. Gentrification has the ability to bring money into neighborhoods, but it also has the ability to displace longtime residents from their homes. Rapidly increasing prices make neighborhoods such as Barrio Logan unaffordable for not only for low-income residents, but also for ethnic businesses who can no longer pay rent. The same pattern is seen with the gentefication in Boyle Heights and other similar neighborhoods in Chicago and San Diego. The reviews also support the author’s idea that gentrification is often used to make neighborhoods such as Barrio Logan and City Heights more palatable to middle and upper class pockets. In nearby Mission Hills, developers brought in a weekly farmers’ market crowd, only to shut it down completely after a year once all the luxury condos had sold. The goal behind opening up businesses like La Gracias is not to enrich these neighborhoods, but instead to enrich the pockets of developers and upper class citizens. This is racial capitalism, and it erases ethnic foodscapes, replacing them with whitewashed cosmopolitan versions of what was once there.

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