Gentrification? Try Gentefication.

Leo Reynolds / Flickr

Gentrification, the "G" word, can be a very loaded term.

We write plenty about gentrification here on DCentric, which can be a very loaded word. But what about “gentefication?” According to our sister blog Multi-American, gentefication is “the process of upwardly mobile Latinos, typically second-generation and beyond, investing in and returning to the old neighborhood.” The “gente” comes from the Spanish word for “people.”

Gentefication is being used to describe what’s happening in L.A.’s Boyle Heights neighborhood, where Latino investors are developing low-income areas, with businesses attracting second-generation and English-speaking crowds. Some low-income locals of Mexican descent are worried they’ll be displaced by all of this development, even if the business owners are Latino, too.

In D.C., gentrification has taken hold in working class black and Latino neighborhoods, and most of D.C.’s well-to-do newcomers are white; in a city that’s mostly black, 60 percent of households making more than $75,000 are white, according to census data. Therefore the word “gentrification” in D.C. tends to imply neighborhood changes have to do with class and race.

But gentrification, even in the District, isn’t always about race. Take Anacostia, where the gentrification that’s starting to occur is class-based; professional African Americans are settling in the predominately black, low-income area. And just as in L.A.’s Boyle Heights, some of these newcomers have roots in the city and are returning to the places they grew up. So is gentrification the best way to describe what’s happening in Anacostia, or do we need a new word, too?

  • one man’s opinion

     regardless of how many single words we use to differentiate things by race or ethnicities, it’s not going to cover it. neither is our focus on these tribalistic aspects.  we need sentences, paragraphs and discussions. we need ways for the marginalized, disenfranchised and the poor to be able to buy into gentrifying neighborhoods. we need a means for all to be able to call their neighborhoods home.  

  • Dan Reed

    I’d be curious to see if gentefication will happen/is already happening in DC area neighborhoods with a substantial Latino population, like Wheaton and Langley Park. I’m skeptical at how much outside investment the Purple Line will bring to Langley Park, and I’m wondering if it’ll be Latino businesspeople & homeowners that pour their money into that area.

  • OctaviusIII

    Gentrification is the right term if it’s going to mean anything other than racial displacement.  The origin of the term – replacement of the poor by the rich “gentry” – implies it’s a class and income distinction.  The problems associated with gentrification deal with neighborhoods being changed by rising rents and home prices.  That happens whether the rich folk are black or white.

  • Carlton Eley

    So is gentrification the best way to describe what’s
    happening in Anacostia, or do we need a new word, too?”

    When I lecture, I often explain to audiences that
    equitable development is not an anti-gentrification initiative. My reason is
    the incumbent residents who lived in urban centers before they became fashionable places to reside again,
    have always wanted improvements in services, infrastructure, schools, and
    environmental quality. All citizens want these things. It would be a grave
    error to presume that residents who didn’t abandon existing communities in an
    attempt to pursue suburban lifestyles were content with mediocrity.

    Instead of creating a new term to describe the process
    of neighborhood change, I would focus on strategies for managing the process.
    Including strategies for helping residents to guide the change process rather
    than react to it.

    Great question.