Kayla Veloz, a 14-year-old lifelong resident of Echo Park, writes about her experiences of gentrification in Los Angeles. The following essay is featured in the Autry’s La Raza exhibit, currently on display, which explores how the La Raza newspaper (published 1967–77) provided a voice to the Chicano Rights Movement.
The life of a Hispanic in the US is one of ups and downs. We come to this country for a better life and a better future for our children and our childrens’ children. A Hispanic populated area was once Echo Park. You see, growing up here was difficult and there were times of envy when someone else had a white picket fence home while I never got that kind of opportunity. Both sides of my family immigrated here from Mexico, they worked hard for everything in life and never complained for what they didn’t have. I won’t say growing up here was fun or safe but it was home. Now home has increased by a thousand dollars and my family is struggling to have a place to sleep.
This is gentrification. Gentrification to me is an invasion. An invasion of a life we once had, of a community we grew from. It’s a process of kicking people like me out of our lives.
I have heard the argument that because of gentrification the streets are safer for people. Well, what people are you speaking about? You are not speaking about my people. I’ll clarify it, the streets are only safer for those taking them. Where shall we go? The streets are safer but now more expensive, and we can’t afford it because this system doesn’t provide the help lower class and minority citizens need.
Mariana is my Tia, I grew up with all five kids of hers. Side by side and now she experiences what others in my area do as well. She once paid five hundred dollars a month for an apartment when her family was only that of four. It was a one-bedroom home, now she pays one thousand seven hundred for a two bedroom with a family of seven. I asked her what she thought about and experienced with gentrification. She expressed her worries that it was no longer feeling like a community. The parks are no longer for children and the once family visited stores are now organic coffee shops. The diversity is practically nonexistent and their community now feels like a tourist site. The clubs are open all night and parties are every week. With all these changes occurring, long life friends could be moving or have already left and it’s possible we may be next.
We live in a world where not all of us are accepted. If we can’t even be accepted in our own lives, then where are we to go? This is the place where my family grew up and I want to preserve every memory. Every taco truck on every street, every panaderia with the people we have seen for years, and every step on every sidewalk. All of it is ours and it shouldn’t be changed.
Kayla Veloz is 14 years old, currently in 10th grade. She is Mexican-American, as both sides of her family immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She cares passionately about the problems of the world and wants to use literature and photography to spread the word about important things in this world.
Header image: Protesting the anti-Latino policies of California Governor Ronald Reagan, Downtown L.A. Circa 1972. Patricia Borjon-Lopez. Courtesy of the photographer and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, © Patricia Borjon-Lopez.