Things That Matter

A Chicano Community In San Diego Was Outraged Over A White Woman’s Attempt To Open A ‘Modern Fruteria’

Jenny Niezgoda clearly didn’t do her homework. The travel blogger and self-proclaimed “barefoot bohemian” released a now-canceled Kickstarter campaign and accompanying video for her next passion project – a “plant-based cocina” and “modern fruteria” she was calling La Gracia. And she would be opening this business in the center of Barrio Logan, a historically Mexican-American and Chicano neighborhood in San Diego with a long history of grassroots activism and fighting gentrification.

The backlash was almost instant, with community members and activists, along with a large chunk of the internet, calling this yet another signifier of gentrification in their community by a woman seen as the poster child for cultural appropriation. La Gracia is now being called La Desgracia.

Here is the video that sparked it all.


Niezgoda has all the markings of an Instagram influencer, branding herself as a “gypsy soul,” “chic nomad” and “a pure reflection of her world” while posting photos that are the product of someone with a clear savviness for marketing. She bears a resemblance to actress Blake Lively, appears to love a good flower crown and waxes about how “life is good in Me-he-co” in her blog.

In the video, she struts effortlessly through the neighborhood in an off-shoulder top, posing in front of murals of Frida Kahlo and Cesar Chavez while Latin-sounding guitar plays in the background. She turns in slo-mo, whipping her long, wand-waved locks around and dropping a toothy smile into the camera. Between poses, Niezgoda explains that she’s “spent the last couple of years traveling the world in search of the most vibrant, history-rich, artistic and food-centric neighborhood,” but it was Mexico that stole her heart. “And then I found it here in San Diego!” she announces excitedly. Niezgoda goes on to explain that a fruteria is a “Mexican-inspired juice bar,” however La Gracia “we will be so much more!” In fact, it will be “an integral thread in this community’s fabric.” In the end, she proudly shouts she is bringing “a heathy option to the barrio!” And this is just the video, which many didn’t believe was actually real. The Kickstarter page also has caused outrage over its tone deaf phrasing and what some call a white savior attitude.

CREDIT: Credit: La Gracia/Kickstarter

In her quest to create an “urban sanctuary” and a business of her very own, Niezgoda has enraged a community that is fervently protective of its identity and has fought tooth-and-nail for decades to preserve itself from outside influence. Barrio Logan has a long history of activism and grassroots organizing. It’s one of the epicenters for the Chicano movement, with Chicano Park, located just down the street from where La Gracia hopes to open its doors, earning the designation as a cultural landmark in the National Register of Historic Places.

“People who know its history know its resistance,” says Irma Patricia Aguayo, a Chicano Park muralist and longtime activist. For someone to come in thinking they’re going to save something they’re not part of is offensive. The way she’s representing her business, I feel colonized once again.”

In the last few years, as residents have built businesses that the “hipster” demographic (cool coffee shops, art galleries, tattoo shops, a craft brewery serving culturally-inspired beer and a taco shop covered in bright Chicano artwork, to name a few), they’ve seen the city and developers take notice. It’s resulted in new developments, one of which is a building that houses La Gracia, increased rent and an influx of newcomers that don’t fit the long-standing ethnic make-up of the community. Which is to say, white people. White people are coming, and the incredibly protective community is not happy with what that means. Niezgoda and La Gracia are certainly not the first sign of gentrification in Barrio Logan, and surely not to be the last. But it has sparked the outrage and hell no-attitude that bubbles constantly in the neighborhood by those who fear that Barrio Logan will be lost, though not without a fight.

“She didn’t start this,” says Antonio Ley, owner of the Corazón de Torta food truck, run out of Logan Heights. “Down the street there’s hot dogs sold out of a lowrider. She just made the dumbest video ever. It’s the most racially divisive business that’s hit Barrio Logan because she made it completely white. She was here to take what we made and tried to run with it.”

CREDIT: Credit: The Barefoot Bohemian

“For someone to come in out of nowhere and present herself in such a way as to be a savior was at best clueless and at worst completely disrespectful to an entire community and culture that has fought and struggled to survive in the face of great odds,” says Brent Beltran, vice chair of the Barrio Logan Community Planning Group (though he does not speak on behalf of the group).

He adds: “For me the part that stands out the worst, beyond trying to appropriate our culinary culture, is the blatant willingness to gentrify this community. One of her responses to being called out was to claim that her business would help increase property values for homeowners. If she had done her due diligence she would’ve realized that Barrio Logan is a community of renters. If property values rise then the current working class residents will get pushed out.”

There’s a lot of history, too much to get into here, but a Google search and talking to business owners and community members would have been beneficial to Niezgoda. However, she doesn’t appear to have done much of the latter, from what a handful of business owners tell us. In her Kickstarter, she says says she’s “spent months getting to know the neighbors and surrounded myself with a team of people who know their sh*t,” but only one person out of the dozen interviewed for this story says she spoke to them about La Gracia.

“She’s a sweet girl,” adds Ley, who says she only mentioned her business, but never asked for input. “She told me about this months ago, and I thought ‘Damn, that sounds expensive and not for the neighbors that already live here.’ But I didn’t want to burst her bubble or tell her she’s culturally appropriating. I thought, ‘it’s fruit. People can do whatever they want with it.’ But if I saw that video, I would have told her it was offensive.”

“If she doesn’t take the time to get to know the neighbors, her fellow business owners, the history of the neighborhood, the history of Chicano Park and the local organizations, then she doesn’t understand the fabric of the neighborhood,” says Olympia Andrade Beltran, a nurse and activist who’s a member of the Barrio Logan Community Planning Group. “She can’t assume the role [of being part of the neighborhood’s fabric]. It’s not for her to define, it’s for the neighborhood to define.”

The video, and some of Niezgoda’s other online posts, is what the Barrio Logan community has to go off of when understanding who she is and, to put it in words many of them have used, what the hell she was thinking.

Here’s a break down of some of the video’s offenses, point by point.

CREDIT: Credit: La Gracia/Kickstarter

The Spanish guitar music throughout the video.

For Ley, the music used reminded him of Rick Bayless of the Travel Channel.

“The music itself sets the tone that it’s not from Barrio Logan, it’s from outsiders,” he explains. “It’s super cheesy and corny. It’s trying to identify that this is somehow Latino, and right away it sets the tone because it’s just stereotypical Latino music.”

The name, and use of the Spanish language and Mexican influences overall.

“I don’t feel she had bad intentions, or is intentionally racist against Mexicans,” says Andrade Beltran. “She’s a white woman born with privilege. She had the financial stability to travel and found beauty in Mexico that everyone can appreciate. I think that her idea to capitalize off that inspiration of indigenous traditions, an indigenous style of preparing food, and to bring that into an already culturally infused and rich community was her mistake.”

Calling Barrio Logan a “vibrant, up-and-coming neighborhood.”

This provoked outrage and concern in many, who see or hear this phrase whenever neighborhoods feel the effects of gentrification. It’s one of the first signs.

“It’s a classic case of Columbusing, or thinking that you are the first person ‘discovering’ something new or hip even though it has been part of the common everyday life and practices of the people from whom you are ‘discovering said phenomenon,” says Roberto Hernandez, a professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at San Diego State University. “In this case, both in terms of her doing the “modern” fruteria but also in terms of Barrio Logan and her being at the ‘forefront’ of the ‘up-and-coming’ neighborhood.”

Posing in front of murals of important Latinx figures.

CREDIT: Credit: La Gracia/Kickstarter

For Betty Bangs, a resident who also works as an on-air DJ at the local, community-powered radio station, Radio Pulso del Barrio, this hit a particularly sensitive nerve.

“How does she relate? Did those people fight for her? Does she know what those people really mean to us?,” says Bangs. “I’ve never seen her. I walk these streets every single day, and I’ve never seen her. How is she walking the streets like she’s part of it or made it a better place. What gives her the right? Because she has money?”

Niezgoda saying she’s “bringing healthy options to the barrio.”

This has been a major point of contention. While Barrio Logan is a food desert, healthy options do exist, even in the form of fruterias.

“She’s not innovating. She’s not the first person to do it,” says Andrade Beltran, who welcomes the idea of more healthy food options to the neighborhood. “I just would appreciate it if she would acknowledge the efforts already being made in the neighborhood.

“That’s why you want to be here,” says Bangs. “Because it’s already good. You want to come here and feed me my own culture on a plate? No, white girl. I don’t think so.”

Insisting it’s “appreciating” not appropriation.

CREDIT: @lagraciasd/Instagram

Later, in a response posted on the La Gracia Instagram page, Niezgoda or someone on her team posted a response to a comment insisting that the company has “so much love and respect for the culture and a love for Mexico.” She describes doing her yoga training in Puerto Vallarte and spending “many winters” in the resort fishing village of Sayulita as proof, which many have called problematic in itself as is shows a lack of understanding of the culture beyond a vacation mentality.

“This is not appropriation or gentrification, it’s APPRECIATION,” she writes.

CREDIT: A still from de La Gracia video showing Niezgoda and her friends vacationing.

But as Andrade Beltran points out, that’s not really how appreciation works.

The the problem with cultural appropriation is that people with privilege are defining appreciation without asking the people they’re inspired by how’d they’d like to be appreciated,” she says.

Beltran likens Niezgoda’s version of appreciation to native figures being used by sports teams like the Washington Redskins, who then argue that they’re not disrespecting the cultures but showing appreciation for them, despite the outcries from people of that culture.

“Instead, to just say it is Mexicans that just do not understand and that they need to be taught by presumably them as more enlightened beings just exacerbates the most basic aspects of it, such as their belief that their presence should be appreciated because after all they are helping raise property values of homes,” he explains.

While the backlash has been aimed most loudly at Niezgoda and the concept of La Gracia, it’s the product of a larger problem the community sees. In a statement sent to mitú, the local political organization Unión de Barrio says, “As long as we limit our understanding of this struggle to individual Beckys or isolated barrios, we will forever be easy targets [of gentrification].”

Some believe “hipster” businesses, like coffee shops, restaurants, breweries and galleries, brought this on.

“We can’t deny that it is those same galleries and shops that attract outsider culture vultures, affluent folks and developers to the hood,” says David Morales, who grew up in the neighborhood. “When this happens, rent prices go up and people who have lived in Logan for many many years are displaced. My own family was displaced from Logan. The house we were renting was bought by a young white couple looking into moving close to the ‘vibrant, up-and-coming’ community that this White lady from La Gracia describes.”

Many of those businesses, however, were built by Chicanos and Mexican-Americans from the community or with close ties to it through their work. When these businesses began long ago, it was a sign of ‘gentefication,’ a term coined by Latino Los Angeles business owner Guillermo Uribe to describe the process of improvements to a community from its own people. It’s not a case of this is why we can’t have nice things, as some argue, so much as it is a case of blaming those with the power.

“Blame should not be placed on [local business owners] for trying to make their community better,” says Beltran. “It’s the greed of the property owners. They are the ones to blame. These property pirates that are trying to capitalize on the cultural caché created by the people who built this.”

Aguayo believes that while Niezgoda is a misguided, privileged white woman, the problem doesn’t completely lie with her. The property manager, Hector Perez, is a longtime community advocate and professor at the nearby Woodbury School of Architecture. It was his decision to lease the space to Niezgoda.

“I’d like to know the science behind the decision, what Hector was thinking then and what he’s thinking now,” says Aguayo. “The reason it’s so hard for people to come into this neighborhood is because there’s gatekeepers, and they’re here for a reason. In this case, Hector is the gatekeeper. I don’t know how he has allowed this to happen.”

Both Perez and Niezgoda were reached for comment, but did not reply.

In the meantime, Barrio Logan community members have made their thoughts on La Gracia well-known, and continue to fight this and other white-owned businesses encroaching on the neighborhood. Because for them, protecting the soul of the community is essential to preserving their own identity.

Update: In a statement posted on the La Gracia Facebook page, Niezgoda announced she will not be opening La Gracia.

CREDIT: La Gracia/Facebook

READ: The Artist Behind ‘Veteranas y Rucas’ Talks About Her Place In Boyle Heights’ Battle Against Gentrification

Is gentrification a concern in your community? Then share this story with your followers!

Wilmer Valderrama And Amanda Pacheco Are Engaged And He Proposed In A Special Place In San Diego

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Wilmer Valderrama And Amanda Pacheco Are Engaged And He Proposed In A Special Place In San Diego

seaweanie / Instagram

People in the United States aren’t getting married like they used to. While fewer people are getting married, more people are getting divorced. Yet, there is always the belief that love exists. Many like to go by the scripture of “Sex and The City” in which the great Prophet Miranda Bailey once said, “Men are like cabs. When they’re available, their light goes on. They wake up one day, and they decide they’re ready to settle down, have babies, whatever. And they turn their light on. The next woman they pick up, boom, that’s the one they’ll marry. It’s not fate, it’s dumb luck.” Call it what you will because one of the hottest bachelors in Hollywood is officially off the market. Guess the right crab came along. 

Actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama proposed to his girlfriend, Amanda Pacheco after less than a year of dating.

Credit: seaweanie / Instagram

The 39-year-old (soon to be 40!) got down on one knee on a La Jolla beach in San Diego and, in an Instagram-perfect kind of way, asked the model to marry him. She said “yes,” of course. Would you expect anything else?

‘It’s just us now,'” he wrote on Instagram, “01-01-2020.” What a way to kick off the New Year, right?! She posted the same picture and caption and also a closeup shot of her new diamond ring. 

According to E! News, Valderrama and his 28-year-old finance began dating in early 2019. They were seen out on dates and “shopping sprees.”

“Wilmer always opens the door for Amanda and pays the bill,” a source told E! News last year. “He definitely wants to make sure she feels taken care of. Even if they are just doing simple things, they have a lot of fun and are always smiling.”

The actor, who’s currently on “NCIS,” was clearly smitten over this Latina beauty who’s also a certified diver. 

After further Instagram investigation, we know exactly why Valderrama proposed in La Jolla. That beach holds a very special place for her.

Credit: seaweanie / Instagram

In 2017, Pacheco shared that not only was she born in San Diego, but it’s also where her parents met, and sadly, where she remembers her late mother as well. 

“32.8190•N 117.2781•W the coordinates to my wanderer bracelet lead me to a city that will always feel like home. It’s where my mom and dad fell in love, and it’s the city I was born in, but more specifically, it leads to the exact place my mom and I shared a truly amazing day together,” she wrote. “We picnicked on the beach, ate a delicious lunch, drank some cervesas, and met up with her best friend, and we laughed a lot! Oh, and of course, we watched the sunset. To me, I could not have asked for a better day. A few years later my entire family and I gathered at this same spot after my mom passed away and shared a moment in her memory, It’s my favorite place to ‘just breathe’ as my mom would always tell me, and to let go of the sadness of not having my mom and remembering how lucky I am that she lived, loved, and laughed-a lot.”

It’s so touching that Valderrama chose this spot to bring some more wonderful memories into their lives. 

Of course, with any great news such as this, people will, of course, remember Valderrama’s longest relationship that he shared with singer Demi Lovato.

Credit: Lovatics820 / Instagram

The couple broke up in 2016, and it seemed that for a while, the two remained close friends even through Lovato’s overdose. 

“After almost 6 loving and wonderful years together, we have decided to end our relationship,” their breakup statement read in 2016. “This was an incredibly difficult decision for both of us, but we have realized more than anything that we are better as best friends.”

People are still worried about how Lovato will take the news, especially more because she recently split with her boyfriend, model Austin Wilson.

Credit: @sololovato / Twitter

“Wow, Wilmer really proposed to his girlfriend,” someone tweeted, “I’m happy for them but at the same time worried for demi. I hope she’s ok.

“demi and wilmer we’re together for 6 years and she wrote songs begging him to propose, wilmer has been with his girlfriend for a year and just popped the question. moral of the story is these n****s know what they want and it ain’t YOU,” another said. 

We do hope she takes the news in a positive way. 

READ: Things Get A Little NSFW In Maluma’s Latest Video Featuring Wilmer Valderrama

San Diego State University Student Dies After Being Hospitalized Following Frat Party

Things That Matter

San Diego State University Student Dies After Being Hospitalized Following Frat Party

Carly Bernado / GoFundMe

San Diego State University has announced that freshman student Dylan Hernandez died over the weekend. Hernandez, 19, reportedly attended a ‘fraternity event’ Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, Hernandez’s body “was found pulseless and apneic by his roommate in their dorm room,” according to San Diego’s Medical Examiner’s report. Hernandez was transported to Alvarado Hospital on Thursday and died Sunday, surrounded by family from his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.

All 14 fraternities affiliated with San Diego State University (SDSU) were placed on suspension upon Hernandez’s hospitalization and will remain suspended until further notice. 

Dylan Hernandez is described as an “outgoing, light-hearted and goofy person who had so much love to give to everyone he met.”

Credit: Bart Hernandez / Facebook

Dylan was an outgoing, light-hearted and goofy person who had so much love to give to everyone he met,” writes GoFundMe organizer Carly Bernado. “He never failed to make everyone in the room smile and his laugh was infectious. He was a first-semester student at San Diego State University. This is being created to raise money to help to create memorials for family and friends as a way to grieve, and remember Dylan for all the lives he was able to touch.”

A GoFundMe for funeral and memorial expenses has raised nearly k at the time of publication.

Credit: Carly Bernado / Facebook

The fundraiser was seemingly started by Hernandez’s girlfriend, Carly Bernado. Over 800 donations have come in, many of which from SDSU classmates or alumni, seeking to support the family during this difficult time. 

“This young man, Dylan, was my daughter’s next-door neighbor in the dorm at SDSU. He died suddenly this past week,” Maria Bernal Toretta shared on Facebook. “He was a nice, respectable young man who was helpful and kind to my daughter. Please pray for him and for his family; they will be needing many prayers. If you feel inclined to donate to the go fund me account, the link is below. I am truly sorry for this family’s loss.” 

San Diego State’s University Police Department is currently investigating the cause of death.

Credit: Carly Bernado / GoFundMe

“UPD is investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident,” University Police said in a statement. “Although the investigation is preliminary, UPD is taking this matter very seriously. As this is an ongoing investigation, UPD cannot provide additional details at this time.” The medical examiner’s office could invite San Diego Police to investigate the case if it rules Hernandez’s death a homicide.

Hernandez reportedly fell off his bunk bed after returning home from a frat party.

Credit: Julia Hernandez / Facebook

The following morning, Hernandez’s roommate returned to find him unconscious and without a pulse, after suffering a head injury from his fall. His roommate called 911 at 8:49 a.m. Thursday to the sixth floor of Tenochca residence hall. Hernandez was in the midst of pledging to Phi Gamma Delta, one of the fourteen fraternities associated with the Interfraternity Council (IFC). Six of those fraternities were already under suspension and an additional four were under investigation.  SDSU President Adela de la Torre suspended all fourteen IFC fraternities effective Friday, November 8. 

The following day, de la Torre emailed the entire student body urging students with any information to come forward, after university police “uncovered information which alleges that a fraternity was involved in possible misconduct.” Several students told CBS News that Hernadez “over partied,” alluding to overconsumption of alcohol. Hernandez, 19, was below the legal drinking age. Many are demanding an alcohol ban on fraternity property, referring to the injuries and deaths caused by “hazing.”

SDSU President Adela de la Torre said the university will continue offering mental health support to those who are affected.

Credit: Carly Bernado / Facebook

In a statement, De La Torre addressed the SDSU community to say, “It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to say that Dylan Hernandez, the student who was hospitalized last week, has passed away. His family gave their goodbyes late Sunday night.” She also acknowledged that Hernandez’s impact on the community was felt and that therapists with Counseling and Psychological Services will continue offering their resources for students, faculty, and staff.

Our hearts go out to the Hernandez family during this difficult time.

Credit: Sylvie Laporte Hernandez / Facebook

Dylan Hernandez, 19, is survived by his sisters, Julia and Kayla Hernandez, and his parents, Sylvie Laporte Hernandez and Bart Hernandez. “Love you forever buddy,” his sister Julia commemorated on a social media post.

READ: Kelly Ripa Tried To Make A Joke About Her Son Experiencing Extreme Poverty After College But Not A Lot Of People Laughed