Located just south of Downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, the historic community of Barelas is a revered place of culture, tradition, and identity, described as a one-of-a-kind Heart of Aztlan, by authors like Rodolfo Anaya. Throughout its history, the neighborhood has undergone significant periods of development, investment, disinvestment, distress, revitalization, strengthening and uncertainty. Though one of Albuquerques poorest neighborhoods in average income, Baraleños love the neighborhood's many long-time families, vibrant cultural festivities like the Christmas Posadas, and places of the heart. Those places include the Barelas Community Center with its murals, the Barelas Senior Center and its weekly dances, 4th Street and its many small local businesses, the Barelas Coffee House as a regional attraction, Sacred Heart Church and its annual fiestas, the formerly vacant and now revived Coronado Elementary, and the National Hispanic Cultural Center with its aim of celebrating and preserving the area's culture. The neighborhood has a long history of community activism and many of the positive results of that mobilization remain today. The development of the Barelas Community Center, for example, resulted from organizing among Barelas residents, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Youth Administration Center during the 1940s. Many streetscape improvements and business façade improvements were made possible by local business organizations during the 1990s. During the first decade of the millennium, the neighborhood has also played successful defense against blights on the neighborhood, including a fight to close the former A&P Bar on 3rd Street and an effort to prevent the gas station at 8th and Avenida Cesar Chavez from expanding its liquor sales. In 2010, the neighborhood successfully achieved the removal of a long-abandoned and dilapidated apartment complex at 7th and Iron that had served as a magnet for criminal activity and a nuisance for surrounding neighbors (Rodriguez, 2010). The property is now being developed as a site of permanently affordable housing with the Sawmill Community Land Trust. However, today and in light of many aligning external pressures, the community stands at a crossroads. 'Gentrification,' has begun to become visible in the neighborhood and this paper will provide insight on how that trend is occurring. Barelas neighbors are working hard to defend the neighborhood's extraordinary sense of place and desirability for long-time Barelas families. This paper will both highlight those efforts and provide technical support to the neighborhood's strategies. To better understand gentrification and to identify how its dynamics are impacting Barelas, I begin with a study of peer-reviewed literature on the topic to provide a definition of the gentrification trend. I then examine several case studies of communities in other cities said to be 'gentrified,' followed by an assessment of how economic indicators have changed in Barelas over recent years. With mostly anecdotal information suggesting gentrification is happening in Barelas, this paper provides data to verify whether those suggestions are accurate. With neighborhood activists striving to prepare the neighborhood for significant changes to come, it also provides recommendations for how they can most effectively address the consequences tied to the trend of gentrification. The paper provides two matrices to help with this understanding. One identifies the symptoms of gentrification in the neighborhood according to traits identified by literature and data in Barelas from the United States Census Bureau and other research. The other provides a template Kellogg Logic Model which, given the Kellogg Foundation's significant support of Barelas' community organizations, provides neighborhood leaders with one methodology in which to measure, evaluate and fortify their hard work to defend the Heart of Aztlan.
Latina o planning, Barelas, gentrification, community organization, Albuquerque Rail Yards, Barelas, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Benavidez, Javier. "Defending the Heart of Aztlan." (2012). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/arch_sp/4