“Gentrification” or “gentefication”? No matter what you call it, upwardly mobile Latinos bring change to Boyle Heights

View of Mariachi Plaza from newly renovated Boyle Heights storefront space.

“Gentefication,” a term used by Boyle Heights bar owner Guillermo Uribe, has for some come to mean the arrival of upwardly mobile Latinos into the primarily low-income neighborhood.  But whether it is Latinos or Whites, the arrival of new residents, business owners and house flippers has some Boyle Heights activists worried and conflicted about what gentrification means for the Eastside community that has traditionally served as a home for low-income immigrants, according to a New York Times story.

Latinos might be more sensitive to preserving the neighborhood character and culture even as they raise property value and rents, according some business owners. Says the Times:

Mr. Uribe and others see change as inevitable — and say that if they do not take advantage of the opportunities, somebody else will. For years, he wanted to open a bar that would appeal to people like him: native Angelenos and the children of Mexican immigrants who listened to performers like Morrissey as well as mariachis. Unable to find a place he could afford downtown, he jumped at the small spot in Boyle Heights. Now, hundreds pack the bar for karaoke nights that also feature songs from David Bowie, Juan Gabriel and Selena.

“If we want to preserve the cultural integrity, the pride we have, the only shot we have is to do it ourselves,” he said. “My grandmother here covered everything in plastic because there wasn’t extra money to go buy another couch if one of us messed it up. That’s something we should celebrate now. I want to be amongst people who understand that and get it.”

Even Maria Cabildo of the East Los Angeles Community Corporation, a Boyle Heights nonprofit that has campaigned for more affordable housing and the rights of street vendors, “sees the benefit of more young college graduates moving into the area.” Some of her employees are among those college-educated newcomers.



  1. It makes sense that business owners and home owners welcome gentrification. The only people who oppose gentrification are those living with 1985 rent control rates. Nothing gold can stay.

  2. I was impressed by the general savvy of this article in the NYT. They often have a hard time avoiding cliches when writing about LA.

  3. Very smart idea. Hits the reality head on and also forces, in a great way, the mixing of locals and newcomers.

    Gentrification negativity is a delivery device for racism, in my opinion. Anyone who looks at the history of LA, all neighborhoods change. Will predominantly Armenian Glendale be up in arms in 20 years when Latino, Caucasian, African American, Middle Eastern, etc. Straight and Gay couples move into their neighborhoods? I remember 20 years ago when it was a mix of races and cultures. Understand that there’s change. Has to happen…bad and good.

    • Although gentrification is based on class, you can’t tease class and race apart in this country unfortunately. I mean really, the people that were captured and forced to work along with those who were put on reservations are collectively the two poorest groups in the country. Coincidence? So when middle class and later working class whites were ALLOWED to move to the suburbs they took the wealth of the cities with them because of the historically and deliberately constructed unlevel playing field in other words the white man’s 200 years of
      Affirmative Action. This didn’t have to happen but alas it did. Now these same suburban dwellers are moving back into inner cities that were left desolate and broken with the same wealth that was unfairly taken from the cities mid-20th century. So the point is, you must put history and resultant circumstances in context. If blacks and latinos en masse moved into Glendale (probably won’t happen but let’s run with it) there wouldn’t be any history of blacks or latinos oppressing, discriminating against, redlining, blockbusting, deliberately siphoning funds from Armenian public institutions to fund other institutions where they are not allowed, obstructing access to and from etc. So other than cultural clashes why would Armenians be “up in arms”? We must speak in context, that’s unless you just wish to indulge in hypotheticals which I just did with you.

      • The urban sprawl model can only work if there is cheap oil and an efficient transportation system. Neither exit today. People of higher income will reclaim the prime real estate and push poor latino, asian, anglo, and africian famillies out to desert such as Riverside.

        Population density will become of less of an issue in the inner cities.

        Reverse migration is taking place…

  4. The (true) Eastside across the river, or East LA, has been the slowest of LA ‘hoods to change — if you’ve been around for any length of time you know what’s happened to Watts, Hancock Park/Wilshire/Miracle Mile, Hollywood, Eagle Rock, K.T. (used to be white and Japanese American), San Pedro, South Gate/Bell/Huntington Park, Lincoln Hts. All have flipped and changed incredibly — but East Los still looks and feels pretty much the same from when I was a kid.

    Seems change is afoot now, fascinating that there are many younger Latinos in the new wave.

  5. The healthiest look at gentrification I’ve seen so far. “Yes its coming, so lets make it our OWN” rather than “All gentrification is bad! Lets leave the neighborhood exactly as it is!” is refreshing to hear.

  6. The Real Eastsiders from the east side of Downtown and the L.A. River will continue to move forward with making our neighborhoods better. We’ve grown up here, we’ve had family here since the mid 1900’s, and we’ve already started making this place better for the last 15+ years. People like myself and others who avoided joining gangs will make positive contributions to the history of Los Angeles. Taking ownership of our streets and hoods is exactly more of what we need, not outsiders dictating our future. A mixed neighborhood is fantastic, we just need to make sure we preserve our culture and history within these areas.

    • Give the “outsiders” and “Real Eastsiders” talk a rest all ready. You can be an engaged Angeleno without so much bluster of who is and isn’t autentico.

      • Yes, and no — it’s common talk, ever hang out with Real New Yorkers? Real Hawaiians, Real SF’ers, Real Midwesterners, Real Bostonians……..etc.

        • This “real” New Yorker says sorry, not true. Every “real” New Yorker with a few functioning brain cells knows that the only constant in a major world city is change. Los Angeles is slowly being forced to wake up to this fact. Not that it matters, really — neighborhoods like Boyle Heights will look very different in a few decades’ time either way, as will many other underperforming areas of the city that share proximity to good jobs and decent transit links. The question is, how much of a say will Angelenos have in the process?

          Oh, and btw — it should be obvious already, but anyone who really wants a stake in the future of these neighborhoods should step away from the internet and go scrape up the cash to buy themselves as much property as possible, the closer to transit the better. That’s how you get to lay claim to a neighborhood. Everything else is just a waste of hot air. (And it’s already warm enough on this side of town, thanks.)

      • No thank you. I do agree with you though, you can totally be an engaged Angeleno without being from here.

        I do need to continue to say what is the real Eastside and what isn’t when there are lots of people who aren’t from here trying to change the term. There is a historical geography to the real Eastside, and it ain’t Silver Lake.

        I do not want outsiders dictating the future of our neighborhoods, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

  7. As a BH resident I’m really interested to see how the neighborhood develops in the coming years.
    to me it feels like BH’s “gentrification/gentefication” is different from what we’ve seen happen in other areas. Changes are coming from within the people of the area and not necessarily from outside investors or transplants.

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