Boyle Heights, a neighborhood just east of downtown Los Angeles, is the epicenter of a gentrification battle that shows no signs of letting down. For years, the tight-knit community has fought tooth and nail against developers who they believe are only interested in installing high-priced residences and businesses in the area, which would lead to higher rents and a more expensive cost of living, resulting in the displacement of many people who live currently there. Activists have protested against the development of luxury apartments, a trendy coffee shop and retail/medical buildings near Mariachi Plaza.
Some activists have also taken a hard-line stance against art galleries for laying the groundwork for gentrification. One of the galleries visited by protestors was Self-Help Graphics, a Latino-founded art gallery that has served the community since the ‘70s. The decision to protest Self-Help Graphics didn’t make sense to Guadalupe Rosales, the Boyle Heights artist behind the popular Veterans and Rucas Instagram. A new mini-doc, “The Town I Live In,” captures Rosales’ struggle with being an artist who supports the fight against gentrification but also has ties to artists and galleries that were the target of activists. “This issue — it’s not just black and white. And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do as an artist from Boyle Heights,” says Rosales.
Rosales, who co-directed the film with Matt Walsh, doesn’t proclaim to have any answers. Instead, she wonders if there are spaces where Latino artists and their work can reside while battling gentrification is the priority in her neighborhood. Rosales: “I want to be able to make art in my neighborhood, and not [be] seen as someone who is enabling gentrification.”