Culture Scan

At the intersection of real estate, media, and pop culture.

'Netflix and Chill' With Gentrification

The series "Gentefied" digs deep into how a community deals with major change.

Gentrification (n), the process of renovating and improving a house or neighborhood, is a double-edged sword in real estate. We love the rising property values but bristle at the impact on current residents and businesses. Now, a Netflix series, “Gentefied,” takes on the issues of class, race, and inclusivity. The series centers on a local Mexican restaurant’s struggles to survive as neighborhood tastes, and rents, rapidly change.

Joaquin Cosio at Gentefied Premiere

© Shannon Finney/Getty Images for Netflix

Joaquín Cosío (Casimiro Morales) attends the Netflix premiere of Gentefied in Washington, D.C. on February 26, 2020.

Long-time owner Casimiro Morales (Joaquín Cosío) is in denial that his family-run business needs an adjustment. With the help of his grandson Chris Morales (Carlos Santos), sous-chef at an upscale restaurant in Los Angeles, Casimiro confronts the need to introduce new taco ingredients, such as curry chicken, in hope of drawing in the neighborhood’s new, more affluent residents.

Boyle Heights, a real neighborhood in east LA, is home to a majority Latino population. The fictional Mama Fina’s Tacos struggles to pay rent and retain its authenticity.

Long-time residents now have to fish out more cash from their pockets to remain a loyal customer. Meanwhile, Chris’s cousin Erik Morales (Joseph Soria) starts serving free tacos to needy children in exchange for reading books. It’s bad for the family’s bottom line, but how can you argue with the kind gesture?

If you’ve experienced gentrification, either as the long-time resident of a changing neighborhood or the real estate professional bringing in new development and residents, you know what a tricky balancing act it can be to ensure residents get along.

In the spiciest way possible, the show is a terrific guide for any community dealing with the clash of cultures, ages, social classes, lifestyles, and beliefs. For a broad discussion on the topic, “The Gentrification Conversation” from REALTOR® Magazine breaks down the ways to address this change in your area.

For a real estate investor, like the show’s Tim (TJ Thyne), —who’s young, gay, affluent, and white—gentrification means buying property and then refashioning it to your vision. In Tim’s case, that means commissioning artist Ana Morales (Karrie Martin) to paint a wall mural celebrating brown, queer love.

The elderly woman who runs a convenience store in the building is not amused. Ofelia (Laura Patalano) tries to get the mural (picturing two men kissing) covered up, but Tim chooses to see the beauty of different cultures emerging. “Imagine an artist hub where people from all walks of life come together to share our passions.”

“Gentefied” is a study of the downside of gentrification, but there’s something there for real estate investors to learn: Change is uncomfortable, but it’s not absolute. Current residents and new residents, equally committed to a community, can come together to blend cultures...

“I’m in my hood, and here, I’ll stay until I die,” Casimiro promises himself in episode one. And that he does—all the way to the tenth and a final episode of Season 1.

As Lupe (Alma Martinez), another local business owner, says, “Nobody likes changes. But if you align with it, change can be good.”


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