HIGHLAND PARK — New York Times columnist Hector Tobar says that the gentrification of many L.A. Latino neighborhoods like Highland Park, where his Mexican-American wife, Virgina Espino grew up, has helped end “decades of de facto racial segregation.” Tobar said that the 2010 census showed that L.A. County was the nation’s most segregated metropolitan area when it came to Latinos and whites. Gentrification has priced out many working class residents but Tobar says the same changes have re-integrated neighborhoods and left Latinos less isolated.
In a column titled Viva Gentrification, Tobar, whose family immigrated from Guatamala, says of recent visit to a Highland Park market:
The point was driven home to me the other day, when I stepped into that same bodega and saw a fair-skinned child of about 6 wandering past the stack of tortillas. It’s one thing to see a 20-something white dude walking with freshly picked organic lettuce in his backpack. But the presence of this girl in that small retail space, filled with Spanish chatter, pork rinds and other symbols of Mexican-ness, bespoke a deeper shift.
Tobar’s wife, who saw whites move out of Highland Park during the 1960s and 1970s, “is starting to warm to the changes” but the transition has been difficult:
After a walk on York one night, my wife nearly burst into tears. The vibe and ethos of her old neighborhood had shifted before her eyes: from a place where Latino people scraped by and took pride in doing so, to one where newcomers practiced conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure. Our local panadería underwent a major renovation, and jacked up the price of the Mexican sweet bread. A beloved mural with kitschy Latino themes was painted over to make way for a French restaurant.
Tobar and Espino live in Mount Washington.