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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

A Community Paper Takes on Gentrification

from the June 15, 2022 Bulletin

social movements Media immigration and border issues Chicanos/Mexicanos

For eight years now, journalist Alexis Terrazas has been working as the editor-in-chief of El Tecolote, the community newspaper that's been serving the San Francisco Mission District since 1970. Published biweekly, El Tecolote currently rates as the longest-running Spanish/English bilingual newspaper in California. El Tecolote’s core mission: to reflect and serve its community, and no one brings more dedicated to that mission than Terrazas.


What led you into community journalism?

I’m Mexican-American, my mother from Jalisco, my father and his parents all born in the Mission. I have strong connections to my mothers family in Mexico, but also, as a child, my mother took me to this San Francisco Mission neighborhood all the time to go to the Western Union to send money home.


I learned journalism at San Francisco State, but basically considered myself a sportswriter when I got this job. I was really nervous because I saw I was following in a long line of amazing forward-thinking editors. An intimidating feeling — it took a whole year before I got comfortable! But I found I was where I belong: in community journalism.


Your paper has been serving Latinx for fifty years. But is the Mission still Latinx? Hasnt it been gentrified?


Before WW II, the Mission was a neighborhood of mainly European immigrants — Italian, Irish, Scandinavian, and German. After the war, these immigrant families got loans and moved into more affluent areas, leaving all their Mission homes vacant. Mexican immigrants living in the South-of-Market area moved in. Later came Central-Americans, Caribbeans, and Puerto Ricans. But when these immigrants tried to get loans for businesses, the banks turned them down.

Then speculators moved in, after the Mission become known as a hip, artistically beautiful neighborhood. The Latinx population that made the Mission beautiful — without the help of loans from racist banks — is now viewed as disposable. One study commissioned by city hall has looked at the Mission from 2005 to 2015. Those years saw 8,000 Latinx displaced, and that would only be the beginning.

Photo: Chris Carlsson, 2016. After a fire burned the old Mission Market,
trendy condos would replace the existing housing.

What can the Latinx community do to stop gentrification?


During the pandemic we had programs to help people with their rents. But we found that a lot of Latinx, as immigrants, thought the programs didnt apply to them. Yet interestingly enough, many of these immigrants had zero rent debt. One single mom had saved $20,000 just from restaurant work. How the hell did she save $20,000! You have to be creative to do that, very creative. But then she used up all her savings when she became unemployed.


In México, Los Topos — the moles — got started right after the 1985 earthquake, not a government agency, just ordinary people who came together voluntarily to dig. We see that same spirit alive and well here in the Mission. During Covid, this community right away organized a food hub and a Covid testing site at 24th and Capp Streets. People in our community have persevered through earthquakes, civil wars, and the pandemic. Many will find creative ways to survive gentrification too.

How does El Tecolote serve the community?


We can tell the truth about what we see. We refuse donations to our nonprofit from companies that harm our people. We let people know their rights. In March, for example, San Francisco eviction protections expired. We have new ones, but you have to apply by a certain date.

Photo: Vicky Hamlin, El Tecolote at a 2018 immigrant rights demonstration.

Thats a problem for our monolingual Spanish-speakers. So what did we do? We collaborated with a multicultural housing justice organization, Causa Justa, and did a podcast with a housing rights coordinator, targeting Spanish-speaking renters. Our podcast explained everything you need to know, with contact information to housing rights organizations.


We want people to avoid evictions that will lead to more gentrification. And we participate in demonstrations and actions that demand justice, in things like immigration reform.

We use our paper as a platform, identifying what our people need and what they can do. To do that, we see listening to the people as the most important thing we can do. With 10,000 readers, I guess that people after fifty years still feel that El Tecolote — “the owl” — serves as their ears and eyes.