SPOTLIGHT: BEYOND BREXIT
The big day has arrived. Britons have begun voting to decide if their country should remain a member of the European Union, or go its own way. The latest polls all suggest the race is too close to call, with two surveys putting the â€œRemainâ€ camp ahead while two others say those opting for Britainâ€™s exit, a so-called Brexit, is leading. Voting stations will close at 10 p.m. local time and the final result is expected tomorrow morning.
While the thought of a member state leaving the EU is an alarming prospect for many, others argue that Brexit is merely the latest faultline in an already shaky institution.
Deep divides, such as those on the refugee and economic crises, betray a splintering Europe, whose members are unable to agree on even traditionally unifying matters. As Reuters points out, Europe is struggling to reach a consensus on how to deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin over Ukraine.
At a time when some are calling for a more unified foreign policy and a more integrated Europe, the Brexit rupture and the blocâ€™s weakening resolve toward Putin are signs that the EU may have overreached.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
Brexit vote in UK.
More protests in France against proposed labor reforms.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization holds summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan will join to become full-time members of the NATO counterweight.
Aung San Suu Kyi begins three-day visit to Thailand.
U.S. DEMOCRATS HOLD SIT-IN OVER GUN-CONTROL VOTE
Democratic lawmakers held a sit-in in the House of Representatives to demand a vote on gun-control legislation, leading to what The New York Times describes as â€œa remarkable scene of pandemonium.â€ Republicans voted to adjourn the House earlier than planned until July 5 to preempt the sin-in. But Democrat John Lewis, the protest leader and an icon of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, pledged to â€œcontinue to fight.â€
â€œAt times I don't feel like I should have the right to live for taking somebody else's life,â€ South African former athlete Oscar Pistorius told Britainâ€™s ITV in an interview due to be broadcast tomorrow.
â€" ON THIS DAY
148 years ago on this day, Christopher Latham Sholes invented the â€œType-Writerâ€. That, and more, in todayâ€™s 57-second shot of History.
BOKO HARAM REFUGEES STARVING
At least 188 Nigerian refugees who fled the Islamist group Boko Haram have died of starvation and dehydration over the past month at a refugee camp in the Nigerian northeastern state of Borno, Doctors Without Borders said yesterday. About 24,000 people, including 15,000 children live in that camp and the medical charity has warned of a â€œcatastrophic humanitarian emergency.â€
KIM JONG-UN THREATENS U.S.
After launching two intermediate-range missiles yesterday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un boasted his countryâ€™s â€œsure capability to attack in an overall and practical wayâ€ U.S. targets in the Pacific, Reuters reports.
Venezuela, a land that made 19th-century travelers marvel at its natural treasures, has become one of the last places any tourist would visit these days: â€œIt is difficult to understand that a country with so much potential to attract visitors should receive ever fewer and fewer every day because of insecurity and the socio-economic crisis,â€ America Economiaâ€™s Karelys Abarca writes. â€œIt is difficult to comprehend how an economy that used to enjoy such ample revenues from oil exports should now be in ruins. How can a country with so much, if not everything, to assure its citizens' welfare can now be one of the world's most inefficient, corrupt and impoverished economies?â€
Read the full article, Venezuela: Nation In Crisis, Land Of Unfulfilled Potential.
The solar-powered plane Solar Impulse landed in Seville, Spain early this morning, after a 70-hour flight from New York, as part of its historic journey around the world.
MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Walking In A Painting â€" Arles, 1969
ZIKA FEAR LEADS TO SURGE IN ABORTION REQUESTS
The fear of the Zika virus and of potential microcephaly in babies has led to a â€œhugeâ€ surge in abortion requests in Latin America, where it is sometimes illegal, the BBC reports. Demands have more than doubled in Brazil and Ecuador and have increased by more than 30% in other countries.
â€" MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH
Designer Doggy Bags In Italy, More Bark Than Bite? â€" La Stampa
This commentator from Iceland went absolutely wild when his national soccer team scored a last-minute goal to clinch its first win in the Euro championship.
In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.
SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.
What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?
But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.
An appetite for gentrification
I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.
In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.
This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.
Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.
Informal street vendors are casualties.
A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.
On paper, this all sounds great.
But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.
This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.
In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.
A call for food justice
Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.
Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.
It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.
In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.
Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.
Upending an existing foodscape
In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.
San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.
Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"
But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.
Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.
All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.
So what happens when new competitors come to town?
Starting at a disadvantage
As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.
My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"
San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.
When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.
Going up against the urban food machine
Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.
I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.
When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.
Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.
It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.
- The Perverse Effect Of Street Art On Neighborhood Gentrification ... ›
- Taiwan To Hong Kong To L.A., Birth Of Bubble Tea Culture ... ›
- How The Pandemic Is Helping Reinvent Food Production ... ›
- What's Chic Now In Paris Dining? African-American Soul Food ... ›