Claudia Alvarez: Where to Begin?


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As everyone knows by now, Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez has dealt a blow to herself and to those opposed to ongoing gentrification in the city with her jaw-dropping stupidity. During yesterday afternoon’s council meeting, the future of the PBID was discussed – an issue central to many of the mostly Latino owned small businesses along fourth street. Alvarez seemingly came out of nowhere to situate herself on the right side of the issue last month taking Downtown Inc. to task unlike the other DINOS in local government.

She continued on during Wednesday’s meeting asking property owner/gentrifier Irving Chase about Downtown Inc.’s  enjoyment of favorable rent in one of his buildings – a valid question not just for them but for many of the preferred new businesses under Chase in the newly-minted “Rear End Promenade!” (Oops, I mean East End) Then, she done fucked up. Big time. As the Reggie and Voice of OC have it, Alvarez uttered “So if Hitler rents you a place, gives you a great deal, you take it?” Not only is invoking Hitler in an argument a sign of political stupidity, it becomes downright anti-Semitic when you lob it at someone who happens to be Jewish as Chase is. It didn’t take long for the Anti-Defamation League to weigh in as the Mayor Pro Tem now finds herself in hot political water.

With one idiotic rhetorical question, Alvarez has dealt a severe blow to the moral soundness of the anti-PBID cause and its proper line of hard questioning. She should also apologize to them too for the damage that has been done and it’s already apparent. Alvarez’s Hitler comment has been stretched to them whether they know it or not. In the Reggie, Chase accused her of whipping them up into a “mob of hate.” They have indignation with cause. Let’s not paint with broad brushstrokes now.

I don’t know if all of Alvarez’s criticisms stemming from last month came from a deeply anti-Semitic soul, but legitimate critiques of a venture capitalist hopefully wont be reflexively deflected as “century’s old anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews as financially exploitative” as the ADL puts it. Venture capitalists, no matter what ethnicity or gender they come in, are financially exploitative. Downtown Inc. has operated as a form of redevelopment that is so painstakingly obviously in its disinvestment from many 4th Street businesses. The Board recently lost its only two Mexican immigrant members to resignations in a Voice of OC story that went under reported as if to only underscore the point. (Michele Martinez in the same meeting stated her desire that Downtown Inc. find new token Mexicans! – but not in those words)

And then there’s ‘ethnic cleansing.’ Alvarez put that one out there too. Scholars such as Mike Davis and Bill Quigley have used the term in its economical sense in relation to gentrification with specific regard to post-Katrina New Orleans. (People seem to think its sole definition is that of violent expulsion — although that is what more immediately comes to mind, seen any indigenous people lately?) Is the term applicable to what’s happening in Santa Ana? Not really. Keep it in your pocket folks. If there is to be a theoretical construct, then British colonialism’s ‘Divide and Rule’ playbook is much more applicable. Read up on it and you’ll see the parallels for yourself, especially where it pertains to the necessity of favored natives to carry out colonial administrative tasks and aims (with the added bonus of being brown!)

Gentrification, in the end, is internal colonialism after all.


About Gabriel San Roman