Gentefied and the Representation of the Gentrification Related Latinx Conflicts
On February 21, 2020 Netflix launched Gentefied, a 10-episode long, fast-paced series revolving around a Mexican American family living in the LA neighborhood of Boyle Heights, showing their efforts to cope with daily needs, economic problems, and life dreams. Aside from its slice-of-life value, the series tackles a rather complex issue that has been raising a variety of conflicts among the inhabitants of areas historically populated by minorities: gentrification has been progressively changing the shape and quintessential nature of neighborhoods, increasing their economic value by renovating buildings and businesses in order to attract a more affluent population.
“Pop” Casimiro (played by versatile Mexican actor Joaquín Cosío) and his three grandchildren Erik (J.J. Soria), Chris (Carlos Santos), and Ana (Karrie Martin) orbit around their beloved family-run taco shop. Through the articulation of the cousins’ relationships and networks, the series reconstructs the fundamental issues related with the neighborhood community internal conflicts generated by gentrification processes and, more in general, the assimilation processes imposed within a monoglossic national state. Erik is presented as a loyal, little educated yet book-loving, heavily tattooed, machista young man with an estranged pregnant girlfriend, ticking—and at the same time, challenging—most of the stereotyped features of a cholo. His conflict with Chris—who wishes to become a chef in fine dining restaurants—is pervasive and juxtaposes the clashing realities of a small family-run business and the luxury industry. Both within the family and the workplace, Chris is mocked and discriminated for his lighter skin tone and alleged guilt of betraying his own roots; nonetheless, he gets fired—and consequently ostracized by the industry—for directly confronting his employer about his racist attitudes. Ana embraces her ethnicity and sexuality, but as a struggling artist she ends up “selling out” too; her conflicts with Afro-Latina activist girlfriend Yessika (Julissa Calderon) embody the dilemmas faced by many Latinx to achieve career goals without being exploited by affluent, overbearing White agents. As their grandfather struggles to maintain the shop afloat, the family tries to unite efforts to avoid its closure while pursuing their dreams; yet, both their dreams and intents of transforming the shop to attract new clients will clash with the struggle to preserve the neighborhood from gentrification. Caught between her own affections and the principles she stands for, a distraught Yessika will lead a protest against the shop’s new activities.
Without taking a defined position on the conflicts, the series succeeds in conveying the complexity of the internal, intersectional conflicts and—in fact—the impossibility of leaning starkly on one side or the other. It also effectively stages the underlying sociocultural and economic contexts in which—even without the intervention of gentrifying agency—a reconfiguration would have been inevitable for the neighborhood to adapt to current times and thrive, overcoming marginalization. Supported by a study of the mechanisms intrinsic to gentrification processes in the Latinx neighborhood, this paper will analyze them through their representation offered by Gentefied, pointing out its intrinsic values as well as fiction-related simplifications.
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