By Savannah Garza
“What’s wrong with gentrification if it means you’ll get cupcake stores in your neighborhood?” is literally what somebody once asked me on the internet.
Growing up in Austin means topics like gentrification, congestion, and the annoyance of Californians moving to our city are things you hear about or talk about pretty often. Every time I log on to Facebook there is always some family member on my news feed posting a status about the traffic, the Californians, or sharing an article about recent developments in the city.
All of these things may seem like they’re just the typical “hustle and bustle” of any city, and without a doubt they are, but it wasn’t always this way in my city. There wasn’t always trendy cafes filled with yuppies and college students right beside impoverished neighborhoods, there wasn’t always a welcoming setting for cyclists, mopeds, and runners, and there definitely wasn’t always masses of rich people fleeing to these areas back then.
When I was younger the east side was considered dangerous and ghetto, I never grew up in the east side but I had a great majority of my relatives live there. As I got older I noticed more and more renovated houses and buildings on the drives to their houses and there is always developments and construction in the area. A couple weeks ago I went to church with my grandmother and on the drive back to her house she told me what it was like growing up in the central-east Austin area in the 50’s and 60’s.
Ironically enough, we were driving in the east Austin area at the time because that’s where her church was. So there we were, sitting in my grandparents car passing by all of the houses, new and old, run-down houses beside renovated ones all with chain link fences. We were on our way to my grandparents house on the outskirts of Austin, where they moved as the city started to get more expensive and too noisy for them.
“I wish that they had fixed up the east side when the Hispanic people were living there, instead of moving in rich people, then we could’ve stayed there. But we were not in good neighborhoods. It was better to just move out to a better environment,” she told me. “I used to live on East 9th street, close to Guadalupe Church. Before I was born my dad had a corner store next to our house where he sold homemade corn tortillas to the neighborhood with my mom. Where I used to live there are bike routes now, I am amazed at how there’s so many people riding bikes. Back in the day when we had bikes when we had bikes we didn’t have anything like that,” she said. “We had to stay off the streets as much as possible,” my grandpa jokingly added.
“It’s not fair that the people who lived there and want to keep their houses have to pay more taxes because these rich people are buying and renting and investing in houses and the area improves for them,” my grandma told me. “I think it’s sad that we couldn’t stay there for as long as we wanted. Being in a free country we are forced to move out of our neighborhoods to make room for the rich people that want to move in because of the location. The people who originally lived there could have made a better living for themselves if they had the money and the support from the city to help them out, and we could’ve been a better community if we had the sources for it. We are just as talented, if not more. They’re taking our identity away from us, they’re trying to be our culture, and we still have lots to give of our own culture that we could’ve expanded on in our own community if we had the resources.”
“In a way it’s good and in a way it’s bad,” my grandpa added as we pulled in to their driveway.