Gentrification Guilt


The tall trees lining each side of the street cast a cool shadow on everything as we drive down the busiest street in our clean suburban town. Each time we make this drive, my mom makes the same comment as she looks out the window.

“Me encanta los arboles.”

She loves the trees, the well-kept streets, and the paved walkways.

I can imagine these well-lit streets they now drive every day are a stark contrast to the streets my parents grew up in. My parents grew up in a small town in a small country. They’ve called Los Angeles home for the last thirty years, but a large part of their identity is still rooted in that small town miles away in El Salvador.

Over thirty years ago, my parents were new to this country and landed in neighborhoods full of faces and stories much like their own. Neighborhoods that were, and for the most part are, mostly Latino.

As my parents tell it, moving out of that neighborhood became a prime focus for them. Saving enough money to raise their family, my brother and me, somewhere else. Their version of the American dream was one day buying a home outside of these neighborhoods they first called home.

For the last fifteen years, they’ve lived in a quiet suburban town. The type of place where people walk their dog late at night and jog early in the morning with no fear of who’s around the corner.

The pride that washes over my parents face when they talk about their suburban home is palpable. Moving out of those neighborhoods was an accomplishment. These are the same neighborhoods that so many people are trying to keep Latino by fighting the looming effects of gentrification.

There’s a part of me that feels a tinge of shame when they talk about moving out like it was their greatest escape and highest accomplishment.

But my parents’ identity as Latinos doesn’t rely on their zip code. It’s something they wear regardless of what they say or what they wear.

The perception of my identity relies on the narrative that surrounds Latinos. The way we dress, the way we talk, the neighborhoods we call home.

Somehow calling the suburbs home stains your Latino cred. As if, we can only exist as the truest version of ourselves when surrounded by other brown faces.

It’s the neverending push and pull of being a hyphenate-American. Having to defend and wear our pride with intent to remind people here and there that we’re aware we’re American plus a little something more.