First Artists, Then Land Sharks | Letters | Chicago Reader

First Artists, Then Land Sharks 

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Dear Editor:

This is in response to the belligerent note written by artist R. Keller, October 21st issue, concerning the displacement of poor Hispanics from Wicker Park. She dislikes Latinos but insists on living in their midst.

She claims to have moved in because the place was cheap and she needed to be close to downtown. Why then didn't she move to West Madison Street? They have what she needs, are even closer to downtown, and there she needn't worry about "intimidating stares from Hispanic young men."

What ultimately happens to a Latino community when artists choose to swarm there? By coincidence, there happens to be a precedent to offer a clue.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the oldest city in America and the cultural mecca for southwestern Hispanics. Unfortunately for it, artists discovered, and fell in love with, beautiful Santa Fe. With dreams of becoming the next Georgia O'Keeffe, these young, white, nomadic pilot fish moved in and formed an art colony.

Eventually, the land sharks took notice, recalling that wealth often follows cheap art. The realtors under-assessed the typical home in Santa Fe at $100,000, offered the unwary Mexican owners $300,000, and then watched them take the bait.

The realtors then advertised the historical value (plus affordable art), and sold the homes to wealthy Anglos from the west coast for one million dollars each. (The Anglos are now wondering how they can "Americanize" this historical landmark.)

Having sold their roots and collective political clout, the Mexicans and native Americans had to leave the downtown area.

But what happened to the artists? Did the realtors offer them attractive, affordable lofts as reward for their part in this historic coup? Hell, no! The new owners declared them riffraff because of their $20,000 annual salaries and ordered them to pack their tools and move well beyond the city limits.

So you see, there is justice in this world after all.

The point of Ms. Keller's letter was that artists will take over in Wicker Park because it is a case of "survival of the fittest." How presumptuous, if not premature, of her to assume she is a member of the latter.

Joseph Higareda

N. Lakewood

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