"The old guard doesn't want to get dumped. They don't want the Mission to turn into North Beach, which is just a farce of what an Italian neighborhood is. They're doing a much better job than North Beach of holding on," Maldonado says.


Maldonado may love the Mission and his Latino culture, but he's not blind to the issues they face.

"I get sad that Latinos in my generation aren't more progressive and proactive in terms of understanding that things are going to cost to make things better," he says.

Photo courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Erick Arguello, head of the Lower 24th Street Merchant’s Association, in his “makeshift office” at L’s Caffe on 24th Street.
Anna Latino
Erick Arguello, head of the Lower 24th Street Merchant’s Association, in his “makeshift office” at L’s Caffe on 24th Street.

If La Victoria is to remain a vibrant part of its community, it will have to change to meet the demand of the neighborhood's new mix of residents.

The business has gone from offering Mexican food to Latin food to, increasingly, "Latin-inspired" cuisine. Maldonado sees his white customers torn between their interest in the culture that surrounds them and their own tastes and habits. To meet their palates halfway, La Victoria is slowly introducing menu items such as tamarind beignets and chamomile teacakes with cassis glaze.

"They're flavors you already like, but you don't necessarily have in your home," he says.

Maldonado also hopes to redecorate the bakery's storefront and update the dark, old-world interior. Tables will go in, and La Victoria can begin offering a full-service dinner five nights a week for about $15. Maldonado hopes pop-up kitchens, such as the vegan Soul Cocina the bakery recently hosted, will cover the other nights.

In a volatile neighborhood, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades.

"People are on their way in and people are on their way out at the same time, so your business model has to change year to year, while you figure out who really is out there," Maldonado says.

It's not easy for mom-and-pop operations to change that quickly. La Victoria hired a pastry chef with foodie credentials and Latino roots as its first step toward a re-imagined menu two years ago.

Maldonado has just made a batch of terrones, traditional sweetbreads made of breadcrumbs, almost as if his hands were on autopilot. One sells for $1; a beignet, meanwhile, sells for $3.

"I know which way I'm leaning in the next few years," Maldonado says, handing over a terrón for the road. "I'm not an idiot."

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11 comments
carlos.chavarinjr
carlos.chavarinjr

Great article,  Jaime Maldonado  said it best when stating, "I get sad that Latinos in my generation aren't more progressive and proactive in terms of understanding that things are going to cost to make things better."  This is exactly how I feel!  I thank you for including it in this article.

skemptastic
skemptastic

I've heard that the swim is first so fewer people drown (as in, you'd be much more likely to drown if you swam last, after being exhausted from biking and running). Very sad news about Ehlinger, at any rate.

LibertyHiller
LibertyHiller

Late to the party, but...  One small detail: St. Peter's was NOT the first Catholic parish built for the Irish community of SF. That honor belongs to St. Patrick's in SOMA, which is about 16 years older.

eddie.ferrusquia
eddie.ferrusquia like.author.displayName 1 Like

Great article on gentrification in the Mission District.You say “evolution of 24th Street”, I say socio-economic Darwinism.As a Latino and exile of my once-beloved neighborhood, I generally sense in my people a great deal of defeatism towards gentrification that would have been unimaginable just 40 years ago at the height of the Chicano Power movement.Whatever the hell happened to us since then is beyond me, but if it’s anybody’s fault that Latinos are being shoved into the armpits of California (no offense, Stockton) it’s probably us.

But before us Latinos all stock up on Speed Stick, allow me to leave a few words of wisdom to the new (read: mostly white) residents of the Mission:

Dear hipsters and yuppies: (Is there a difference, really?  I’m not being sarcastic; we really don’t know.  We just call you yupsters for the sake of clarity.)

Every time you walk down our streets at night, point and snap photos in our store windows while we’re working late, and go “oooh”, and “aaaah”, and “hahaha, isn’t that funny”, it’s actually fucking obnoxious.  The Mission is not a zoo and Latinos actually resent being treated like exhibits in our own neighborhood.  (“See the endangered Chicano in its native habitat before it's extinct!)  When the class-cleansing that started with Willie Brown has finally finished its work in San Francisco and there’s not a single one of us left, then you can open the exhibit.  Maybe breed a few of us in captivity.  Turn the place into a wax museum.  Preserve the traces we left behind so that future generations can discover who we were.  (“Look, they left paintings on the walls!”)

You might think we don't understand when you make fun of us, but chances are we do.  (BTW, they’re called quinceañera dresses, they're supposed to be big and colorful, and they're designed for 15 year old Latinas, not a gaggle of snickering, siddidy, 30-something white girls already way past their prime.  Sorry ladies, you couldn't rock those dresses if you tried.  If you find them overly ornate and ostentatious, why don’t you slip into something more your style, like a tasteful Scandinavian-inspired evening gown, or a bedsheet with straps?)

As much as we all love organic patchouli burgers, not all of us can afford to eat at upscale “foodie” joints.  Latinos for the most part find it counterproductive to impress first dates with conspicuous displays of wealth – we save that for the wedding.  Nor do we feel the need to wow her with our extensive knowledge of the esoteric world of kelp-based Sri Lankan cuisine.  You’d be surprised what we can do with pupusas and a sexy Spanish accent.  Don’t you yupsters have your fill of pretentiousness in the art scene?  Now you gotta be bougie about food?  How about just thanking God for something to eat in a city where hundreds of homeless go hungry every day?  But I’ll tell you what: you stop judging us for walking around with a Popeye’s drink, and we won’t make fun of your knit sweaters and corny old-timey mustaches.  Anymore.

Some things are just better left to the pros.  There’s something not quite right when November creeps upon us and the only people not actually marching at Day of the Dead are Mexicans.  It’s because we now know how black people felt when Elvis came along.  Day of the Dead is a sacred Mexican tradition, not a Halloween after-party.  Those of us who observe Day of the Dead have a connection rooted in hundreds of years of Aztec and Mexican culture that gives us the right to honor our ancestors in this way.  The only connection yupsters have to Day of the Dead is a pasty, almost skeletal complexion.

You can have Cinco de Mayo, though.  It’s BEEN played out for a minute now and really, it’s all about the booze anyway.

Truth is, whatever armpit we Latinos end up shoved into, we’ll always bring the Mission with us.  By the time we’ve all made the move to the unholy perimeter around the Bay Area, we will have brought with us drink, tacos, music, dance, murals, horchata, bachata, chancletas, women, men, rolling r’s, poetry, culture, and cholos.  In short, we will infuse LIFE into those barren wastelands of 100 degree summers and meth.  We turn armpits into cleavage!  Pretty soon the Mission will be the new armpit of San Francisco and yupsters will once again be on the prowl for a new trendy area to gentrify.  But as much as you yupsters won’t be able to resist telling all your friends about the scene in Watsonville and decide you want to “slum it up” for the weekend, please, this time do us all favor and stay home.  Don’t come running to our new hood when you’ve turned yours into Whitebreadistan and it’s no longer cool anymore.  Latinos know all about what happens to our neighborhoods when they become “hip”, and we hate packing.

- Ed  (Mexicanus Chicanicus)

gringo.salad
gringo.salad

@eddie.ferrusquia Latinos who bought real estate in the Mission are doing great - either from the increased commercial rents they now receive or from the sale of their properties.

tomkirvin
tomkirvin

Neighborhoods change over time. Just as Latinos moved into the Irish/Italian neighborhood and built 24th St. as we know it now, others will move into the Latino neighborhood and establish their cultures.

HIstory
HIstory

@tomkirvin  The Irish and Italians left on their own for the American dream in the suburbs.  Track homes were being built by the thousands and where cheap after world war two. They left not just from the Mission but from the Castro and other parts of the City. Housing in the city was abundant and inexpensive at one point.

Today people are being pushed out by developers, investors, realtors. They are being evicted for higher rents. Ellis Acts are on the rise again with the promise to move in and they don't or have family move in until they could rent again at higher rents. Tenants and business's are being harassed and bullied. The murals that made our neighborhood colorful are now being deemed ugly and removed.

Its a big difference.

tomkirvin
tomkirvin

@HIstory @tomkirvin My Mexican family left the Mission on their own, too, for the suburbs. I watched it happen in the '50s and '60s. I came back. You cannot legislatively create a neighborhood and certainly you should not do so by race or ethnicity. Neighborhoods evolve. They go away and return as something else.

eddie.ferrusquia
eddie.ferrusquia like.author.displayName 1 Like

@tomkirvin - the key difference this time around is that while the Irish and Italians moved out of their own accord (white flight into the suburbs), Latinos are being displaced by good old fashioned capitalism.

 
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