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To ease gentrification pain, some Latinos embrace gentefication to preserve culture

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: February 6, 2018

Fino Rodriguez shows off his skills as a chef at Taquero, his restaurant at the intersection of Chihuahua Avenue and Singleton Boulevard in West Dallas.

It’s a crossroads of reinvention. Chihuahua leads into a Latino neighborhood of Mexican immigrants like Rodriguez. Singleton Boulevard runs through an area of rapid gentrification, where for years now new restaurants, apartments and even townhomes have been popping up.

Rodriguez came here to show off his delicately prepared food and, just as importantly, his Mexican heritage. He’s part of a gentrification movement called gentefication, a fusion of the Spanish word gente, people, with gentrification. It’s loosely defined as development led by Latinos in Latino-dominant neighborhoods, often close to downtowns.

“I wanted to demonstrate that Mexico has such a rich culture, like the art and the food,” Rodriguez said. After checking out the $12,000-a-month rents on Lemmon Avenue to the north of downtown Dallas, Rodriguez knew Taquero, the taco-maker, should be in West Dallas.

In West Dallas, where Latino culture and history have dominated for decades, and where money has poured in for redevelopment in recent years, gentefication can be a way of preserving and building on the culture while new businesses and housing rise up, too.

At the center of gentefication is the idea that Latino entrepreneurs may be more likely to preserve a barrio’s integrity, the cultural institutions of a neighborhood.

“White gentrification is considered the norm,” Alfredo Huante, a sociologist from Los Angeles, told a Dallas crowd of 300 at a recent policy forum on the subject at Fair Park’s Hall of State. But, he added, “this group is not the only population interested in investing in working class barrios. Enter the Chipster or the Chicana or Chicano hipster.”

The forum was sponsored by the Latino Center for Leadership Development and the Southern Methodist University Tower Center. Huante is one of 18 scholars given a research grant from the sponsors. His doctoral work at the University of Southern California focuses on gentrification in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles. READ MORE