News / Gentrification

  • Salsa on the Side: This isn’t Taco Bell, Bitch

    Folks we are happy to introduce a new partnership with Major Magazine. Over the next several months we will be reposting pieces from their website while also developing new pieces from their staff. We are very excited!

     

     

    Like most kids growing up, Saturday mornings were my favorite day of the week. Sleeping in, watching cartoons- that was the shit to me back then, but my favorite part about Saturday mornings, was being able to spend them cooking breakfast with mom. Since she worked 9-5 Monday through Friday, my brother Claudio and I never really got to enjoy home cooked breakfast until the weekend. Claudio was never much of a morning person, sometimes even the smell of the kitchen couldn’t get him out of bed, but I didn’t care, Saturday morning was my time to bond with Mom. If I wasn’t already awake by the time she was ready to cook, she’d come in and nudge me to get up. She’d play my favorite Jose Jose and Joan Sebastian albums and she’d show me step by step how to make her secret sauce for her Chilaquiles. I’d chop the onions, garlic and tortillas for her while she watched over me. Then, we’d go out into the yard together and pick out the herbs from her garden. I’d save crumbling the queso fresco till the end because that way I’d get to lick the cheese off my fingers. When the sauce was done simmering, I’d sit on the counter dangling my feet, telling mom about my week at school while she finished frying the tortillas. Everything about that dish reminds me of her and my childhood so much that I’ve developed a soft spot in my heart for chilaquiles. If I was ever sad or upset, she’d make me fresh chilaquiles coupled with a large glass of OJ because she knew what they meant to me. That was our dish.

    Mom working in the kitchen at an old family restaurant.


    When I moved out of her house, I missed those mornings the most. I’d make them at home but it wasn’t the same because she wasn’t there to make them with me, and she always did the most arduous part, slaving over the stove frying the tortillas. So when I started working at THC, I couldn’t hide how excited I was to find out their chilaquiles recipe was the closest to mom’s I’ve ever tasted. To this day, I eat them at least two, three times a week at work. They stepped the recipe up a notch, made them spicier, and even made the dish into a burrito if that’s the way you wanted it. I always liked them traditional, on a plate with scrambled eggs, the way Mom made them for me. Since I work in a highly gentrified area, it wasn’t much of a surprise to me to find out that non-cultured people loved the chilaquiles, especially as a burrito. Some of the customers butchered the name so much, I’ve heard so many variations of it, chill-ahh-queels, cheeleekeels, chillkills, cheequills, chillaqueeless, some of them don’t even try to pronounce it, and opt for just pointing at the menu as if they were in some foreign country who’s language their tongue couldn’t understand. More than once I’ve had people order the chilaquiles with the salsa on the side. My least favorite is “breakfast nachos,” and I almost grew numb to their ignorance, I mean, you can only expect so much from someone who knows nothing about your culture, but there’s always that one person who has to go too far.

    Since my mom passed away in January, my patience at work, and life in general has diminished almost completely, so I can admit that I already wasn’t in a good mood when this girl came up to me a few weeks ago.

    “Oh my god, I heard you guys have a really amazing Dorito burrito.”
    “Excuse me?”
    “Yeah, my friend said you guys have this burrito that tastes just like Dorito’s, here it is, this one.” She pointed at the menu.
    “You must be thinking of the Chilaquiles Burrito. ”
    “Yeah, the breakfast nachos, I want that.”
    “Well, it doesn’t taste anything like Dorito’s, it’s fried corn tortillas cooked in a spicy tomato based salsa and then topped with eggs and queso fresco.”
    “Dorito’s burrito! I want one of those. My friend said it was killer, but can I get sour cream on the side, no cilantro and no onion.”
    “So you want it without all the essentials, yeah, I can do that.”

    This isn’t fucking Taco Bell bitch. She did not amuse me and not once did I smile at her. Normally, I can look past a customer’s ignorance with a smile on my face, I mean, it’s all part of the job, but some days, I just cannot bring myself to it. That dish is a staple to my childhood and this chick made me feel like shit, for reasons she would never understand. I rolled my eyes as she walked away and I could honestly care less if she saw me.

    When I think of chilaquiles, I think of my mom, dancing in the kitchen like a goofball, wooden spoon in hand, singing Joan Sebastian’s Maraca’s to me. I think of all those Saturday mornings I spent with her, telling me about life in Mexico before she moved to the states. Every time I eat a plate of chilaquiles, I think of her. I went home that day, threw myself into bed and cried. Cried because of how much I missed her, cried because I couldn’t call to tell her how stupid that girl was, cried because of how much she had insulted me and us, cried because some days, I just can’t handle the world’s stupidity. Cried because I was fed up and tired of pretending to be happy at work, helping people who know nothing about who I am and what I’ve been through.

    That night, I took a long, hot bath, put my headphones on and listened to all my favorite Joan Sebastian and Jose Jose songs that reminded me of her. I cried until my eyes hurt and I could no longer breath through my nose, trying to catch my breath in-between sobs, not caring if my neighbors could hear me through the thin walls. Before I went to bed, I put two large spoons in the freezer for the morning, so I could hide the swelling in my face, bracing myself for the next day, just like Mom had taught me.

    In loving memory of Eugenia M. Hernandez, my mom and best friend.

     

    Written by by Nicole Macias

    Reprinted with permission from Majormagazine.net

  • Santa Barbara Residents Fight Gentrification

    On February 15th, 2015, PODER organized a protest in an effort to focus attention on the dangers of the Milpas Community Association (MCA) and its proposed gentrification plans for the Eastside. The MCA’s Eastside business improvement district (E-BID) plan will make Milpas Street into a new State Street that will inevitably increase commercial and residential rents and drive out more locals from Santa Barbara.

     

    The protest took place in the 100 block of north Milpas in front of Taqueria El Bajio restaurant. The owner of the restaurant, Santos Guzman, is an advocate for the E-BID, working against the wishes of the majority of Latino-owned businesses on Milpas Street. This owner has historically stood against Latino protestors including the BFI Waste union protest.

     

    Spirited PODER activists waved signs, distributed literature, and spoke with interested restaurant patrons about the effects of gentrification on local communities. PODER members also spoke with Guzman about his perception of the E-BID. It was clear that Mr. Guzman does not fully understand the implications of gentrification and the harm his family business will suffer from in the long run under the proposed plan. The people most at risk are the residents and local business owners who would not be able to pay the increased fees and taxes since commercial and housing rents will inevitably rise if the E-BID is approved by city council.

    Police called by MCA member Jarrett Gorin checked in with PODER demonstrators and concluded that PODER was conducting a lawful protest through the exercise of its first amendment right to free speech and peaceful assembly.. Gorrin is a developer at Vanguard Planning and is invested in the E-BID through his recent acquisition of the defunct Chevron station on the corner of Milpas and De La Guerra Street. His mix-use infill project will establish retail and residential rentals on the lot despite concerns of soil and groundwater contamination by underground fuel tanks on the site of the former gas station.

     

    Accounts of the harassment and intimidation of local business owners by MCA members continues to grow and have been reported to city council members and local agencies. A seventy-year-old Latina businesswoman who has had her shop on Milpas for decades was intimidated by MCA members but was too afraid to report it. Another Latino business owner objected when a member of the MCA forcibly removed a sign displaying the owner’s opposition to the E-BID from his storefront window. Business owners who questioned the actions of the MCA were told they would lose business if they challenged their intentions (please see MCA emails).

     PODER were not surprised when Gorin demonstrated his usual intimidiation tactics against opponents of the E-BID by calling in antagonizers to PODER’s protest who engaged in heated exchanges with peaceful PODER activists. Gorin and other MCA members arrived at the protest and made false allegations about protestors claiming protestors were shoving people, blocking entrance and harassing customers. All allegations were false as this was a peaceful demonstration to shed light to the bigger issue.

     

    Since the MCA’s announcement of the E-BID at City Council last November, PODER and other activists have been engaged in dialog with local Eastside businesses and residents to assess their knowledge of the gentrification plan. PODER members have discovered that very few small businesses have been consulted by MCA officials despite paying regular dues to the organization.

     

     PODER members are concerned that neighborhood residents, community churches, industrial businesses, and small locally owned shops on the Eastside would be driven out by the MCA’s gentrification plan in order to usher in big corporate conglomerates catering to wealthy tourists, big box stores, and Montecito elites.

     

    PODER is one of many groups working to preserve our neighborhood’s affordability for small mom-and-pop shops and area residents. We do not believe that MCA’s gentrification plan is appropriate for our neighborhood and instead support community-based alternatives that reflect the authentic wishes and desires of our local businesses and residents.

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