"The Truth and White Bullshit": Examining Urban Renewal, Gentrification, and the Pandemic

Authors: Renee Moreno*, California State University, Northridge
Topics: Cultural Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography
Keywords: Gentrification, Urban Renewal, Pandemic
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation focuses on Denver’s “urban renewal” in three working-class Latino neighborhoods, with a topical focus on the effects of the pandemic, subsequent lockdowns, civil protests against high profile killings by police. Denver has been in the midst of a boom, as the city looks for ways to stem congested roadways. One plan, currently underway, is widening a “10-mile section of [Interstate] 70 that runs between [Interstate] 25 and Chambers Road,” just east of Denver. The proposed expansion of the Interstate “runs through, [and] will most directly affect,” the communities of Swansea, Elyria and Globeville—traditionally, working class, ethnically diverse, predominantly Latino and Mexican/Mexican American neighborhoods, making these neighborhoods ripe for gentrification. The irony is that the attempt to undo the separation and disconnection created by the original freeway routing (which marginalized communities) will open the doors to unmitigated gentrification and will wipe out these neighborhoods—fears expressed in the passionate, unsuccessful effort to stop the expansion. The concept of “palimpsest” relies on previous layers “bleeding through” the surface layer, rendering erasure incomplete. White folks’ attempt is to make that erasure complete or to replace substantive neighborhood history with idealized versions. Like a record being scratched midway through a tune, COVID-19 and lockdowns happened. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain (ad infinitum) were murdered at the hands of police, setting off massive uprisings. Arundhati Roy suggests that the pandemic is a “portal.” We can choose to “walk lightly through this portal” imagining a new world worth fighting for or not.

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