Gente-fied, a seven-episode web series dealing with the hot topic of gentrification in Boyle Heights, puts a human face on the effects of gentrification on the residents of L.A.'s oldest neighborhood.
The bilingual show from Macro Ventures was shot on and around Boyle Heights' historic 1st Street; Marvin Lemus created and directed the series and co-wrote it with Linda Yvette Chavez.
The show’s title, which combines the Spanish word "gente" (people) with "gentrified,” personalizes the issue, co-star Yareli Arizmendi told Curbed.
"It humanizes an issue that otherwise ... if it doesn't touch you directly, then you wouldn't turn to look at it and to think about it," added Arizmendi, who is perhaps best known for a role in Like Water for Chocolate and for starring in the 2004 film A Day Without a Mexican, which she co-wrote and produced with her husband, Sergio Arau, who directed it. "And this is the way to start to think about it."
The show focuses on 1st Street, which has seen the neighborhood shift from the shops of the area's original immigrants to those of the more recent Mexican-American residents. The New York Times described it like this in 2013:
It is just down the block from Mariachi Plaza, which for years has attracted musicians looking for jobs at weddings and quinceñeras — special 15th birthday celebrations.
Boyle Heights has historically attracted immigrants from Eastern Europe, Russia, Japan and Mexico. In the 1960s, it became a hotbed of Chicano activism, and many of the colorful murals over dozens of walls are a vivid reminder of the era. For those moving back now, the idea that they are pushing others out is the source of much consternation.
Gente-fied deals with those who are struggling with and adapting to the changes that come as new, more affluent people move in and long-term, less affluent residents are displaced.
"Gentefication" is also a term that refers to the "process of upwardly mobile Latinos, typically second-generation and beyond, investing in and returning to the old neighborhood, " according to KPCC's Leslie Berestein Rojas.
In "Gente-fied," Arizmendi plays one of these residents: a woman who sells licuados, traditional Latin American blended beverages. "Licuados have always been here in Mexican culture," she said. "But she's ready to go juicery and smoothie. Fine, whatever. ... It’s not a bitter thing. She goes, like, 'OK, we've got to transform. We've got to evolve. We've got to change.'"
The show may be a step closer to finding an audience, Arizmendi said. Both ABC and Netflix have expressed interest in the serio-comic show, which features an all-Latino cast and crew and counts America Ferrera (a star of NBC sitcom "Superstore") among its executive producers, Arizmendi said at a community meeting earlier this week.
"I did just get an email yesterday from the director, saying they're finishing up," said Arizmendi, who plays a Boyle Heights merchant adapting to gentrification by catering to new residents while hanging on to her roots. "It's gotten way bigger than what they thought, because there's a lot of interest."
Curbed reached out to both Netflix and ABC for comment and will update this story when we get a response.
Arizmendi, a longtime LA resident and activist, spoke at a community meeting of concerned residents opposed to gentrification at Un Solo Sol, a restaurant on 1st Street. The meeting was sponsored by w.e.LA, a collaboration between grassroots organizations People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER) and Union de Vecinos.