Boyle Heights: Fighting the Forces of Change

How has Boyle Heights and the history of the neighborhood led up to its contemporary ailment of gentrification? Boyle Heights: Fighting the Forces of Change, created by KCET, begins with this question and creates a historical portrait of Boyle Heights that spans the massive displacements that came when the freeways were built in the 1950s and 1960s to the Latino culturalization of the neighborhood in the decades after. Then, it speculates on how that history has positioned Boyle Heights, as well as other neighborhoods across Los Angeles, toward gentrification.

The video interviews Anthony Solarzano, a local filmmaker whose hometown is El Monte. Solarzano articulates how shooting his film Varsity Punks was rooted in community engagement: “We wanted to shoot something in our local neighborhood that showed off our culture… trying to represent a culture that is under-represented. ”

After his interview, a woman from the video elaborates on how she understands the position of art in these areas: “As far as the role of the artist goes in the role of gentrification, we don’t have real estate developers that are looking at what Varsity Punks is doing in El Monte as a sign of whether they should come in and invest. What they’re looking for are communities where they are able to acquire cheap property because of disinvestment in these communities. They are looking to make money.”

Although the video sketches the history of Los Angeles as a way to cope with and contextualize the matter of gentrification, the line the video draws between ‘revitalization’ and gentrification seems muddled. Instead of clarifying the issue, the idea of displacement is naturalized to Boyle Heights’s narrative, and moving forward, like the metaphor of running that continually is used throughout the video, supersedes all.

All of this begs the question: Is the thesis of the video the futility of “fighting the forces of change”?