Monday, July 20, 2009

The Happy Little Rainbow of Gentrification

"To say that it is a pr community that welcomes all is also incorrect. It is an all community that welcomes all. We should not be fighting to keep "white people" out, we should be fighting to keep minorities in. Bringing awareness and business to the minority owned businesses and events being thrown in the park. If we say we are fighting to kick people out then we would be the same as them. Unity Unity Unity" says a Facebook commenter to an upcoming anti-gentrification event (look above).

My response: No one is denying that there are other latinas/os and people of color living in Humboldt Park. Nonetheless, this community is the cultural, economic, and political heart of the Puerto Rican people in Chicago. One way to combat gentrification is to stake a claim to an area - one that is rooted in the historical memory of its longtime residents. Therefore, with the strategy of Paseo Boricua (Division St.) this community is able to claim space in a myriad of way, whether it is with those two large flags or the murals on the walls. This a community that welcomes all, but also recognizes its historical and contemporary identity. I have met time and time again non-Puerto Rican residents of Humboldt Park who enjoy and participate what this community has done despite its Puerto Rican focus. This is also why we stand in solidarity with other communities of color facing gentrification, such as Pilsen and Bronzeville, the cultural hearts of the Mexican and Black communities, respectively.

Unity is also important that is why Elvira Arellano and Flor Crisóstomo - two undocumented Mexican mothers - stood in sanctuary in Adalberto Methodist Church right here on Paseo Boricua with the full support and protection of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center across the street. We accepted them wholeheartedly because we stand in SOLIDARITY with our Latina/o fellow sisters and brothers. They did not stay in 26th Street or in Pilsen but right here, in what they understood (and everyone in this city) understands to be the heart of the Puerto Rican community. Elvira said many times that she was proud to be on Paseo Boricua and thanked all the support she received from the Puerto Rican community. There is a difference between solidarity and respecting spaces than a multicultural farce where "we are all one." A huge difference.

There are blacks and Mexicans and other groups in Humboldt Park just as there are Puerto Ricans in Little Village and Cicero, but that is not the same as building entire monuments, institutions, festivities, social and political networks...etc in those particular places that represent a particular group. That is why there is not a Puerto Rican-focused effort to rally around gentrification in Logan Square (where there are plenty of Boricuas). It is in Humboldt Park because it is our historic center and fighting gentrification is just more than saying we need housing for all, but that there are things here worth defending.

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