I have been involved with Cinco de Mayo since the 3rd grade. Folks in my life KNOW exactly where I will be every year around this time of the year. I have seen and planned Cinco events within the community, in grade school, in high school, for any of the radio stations I have worked with, in college, at the university. I know the ins and outs of how to put these celebrations together, large or small. When I work an event, I usually work my butt off during the planning sessions so that the day of event, I don’t do much running around all loca.
In any event, you can do your part the very best you can yet there are things that you have no control of: the weather, whether the crowds will show up, or not; artists or bands travel schedules. if your station is on the air, or not . I tend to get super-focused and I mentally work my plan the entire day. I don’t go crazy unless any of the above situations occur.
So you can just imagine how I am when I actually A T T E N D an event where I am not working one. I can have it analyzed almost instantly – how could the event been better? what could the organizers done differently? who put this mess together? why did they do things this or that way? or not? I feel sorry for the folks who attend with me because I am usually counting the colors on banners, checking out the sponsor’s logos so that I can see if they’re interested in speaking to me about my events, handing out cards to the vendors. so it’s not the most relaxing time for me. thus I rarely go.
I attended this Cinco de Mayo event as my superblessedtalented godson would be performing in San Francisco’s Cinco event. I told myself to shut the hell up with my suggestions for the event, that I was there for him, not to analyze the event. My godson looked so cool and I loved watching him work it. I was happy being one proud Nina (godmother).
As we were walking though the festival, however, something didn’t feel totally right. This event was in the middle of the Mission District, this event was free, this event was being held on a beautiful day.
What was missing?
The straight-up Latino vibe was missing; or better yet. the L A T I N O S were missing. What did I see? Lots of trendy restaurants and bars, lots of folks of different colors, cute lil blended families with money – how could I tell, you ask? Very expensive strollers ‘de nombre‘. expensive pets, great clothes, lots of them talking about their work – mainly start-up, techies with very-well-behaved children, food trucks, no real Mexican food booths. The one word that came to me was ‘gentrification‘. I have worked many many many many festivals and events in the Mission and NEVER had I felt such sadness. When I voiced my thoughts out loud and said the word “gentrification”, my godson shook his head in agreement.
I love seeing all of the Latino desmadre at the events: familias, the lines for the tacos, fruta, aguas frescas, and more. The stage areas packed with people, the vendors giving out free stuff en friega, no one talking about work because fiestas are fun and social, and you hear Spanish and Spanglish everywhere! The best celebrations are where we Latinos celebrate our traditions, our food, our cultura, and we look at our festivals as a time to take a break from our regular lives and reconnect with the motherland and where we can be ourselves.
Gentrification is most definitely the reality in San Francisco. All of the businesses and their employees moving into the Mission may be construed as making it a busy, vibrant, place, as if it wasn’t before. There is a lot of action, true…but, a cambio de que? Rents are astronomical, and lots of the Latino familias have had to move into the East Bay and farther. I saw so many “Help Wanted” signs, but these are likely minimum-wage positions. With rent prices for some 1-bedroom apartments going for upwards of $3,000 a month; HOW could Latinos afford to live in their neighborhoods? Cultural disparity was also more front and center than ever in the Mission. My sadness at seeing the Latino flavor moving out of the neighborhood is so real. I’ve been thinking about it all day and night, how can this neighborhood remain Latino? do the people who live there care about this, my sense is that they are wanting to do the best for their families yet have little resources, my sense is that they would rather not uproot their families and move out of the Mission, but how can they thrive when they must concentrate on how to survive?
Looks like my next move will be to become better informed. Maybe I am off-point, maybe I’m trippin, maybe I am wrong, maybe it’s my imagination that business and money are sucking the life out of one of the most vibrant communities ever.
Then again…maybe I’m right.
Time Will Tell.