Evolving East Austin

Photo by Peter Williams

Photo by Peter Williams

This week East Austin lost another local landmark the Jumpolin Piñata store on East Cesar Chavez. It's not the first, and certainly not the last, but it has sparked renewed debate about the effects of gentrification on the city. I used to live a block away from Jumpolin, and have fond memories of buying balloons and piñatas there. You can read more about the demolition, and how it was done with all of the store owners products still inside the store here, here, and here. I'll let you come to your own conclusions. For me, the last straw is the fact that it appears the demo was all part of an application to have sufficient parking for a SXSW event.

Living in East Austin I've always felt a little guilty. I'm pretty much the exact definition of gentrification on paper. I'm a white guy with a college degree moving into what was a historically low income area, buying a house, tearing it down and building an architect designed home that is sure to drive up prices in the neighborhood. Ouch. 

That being said, I do my best to know my neighbors and be a part of my community. I enthusiastically support local business, both new and old, and most importantly I try to educate myself. It's sad to see how quickly the face of East Austin in changing. Long time businesses like Arnold Oil and El Lago are have already been torn down and will be replaced by more condo units. (The Arnold & Saltillo Station) Countless houses have been torn town only to be replaced by poorly designed duplex units that fill up every legal square foot of the lot. What is even more sad to me however is losing the history of the area. Buildings can come an go and there isn't much we can do about it, but the history and traditions of the community, those are all things we can be a part of preserving. 

If you live in East Austin, or are even thinking about it, I strongly encourage you to check out the series that the Statesman recently did on the history of social inequality in Austin. It gives a lot of context to the current state of affairs in Austin. Perhaps ironically the owners of Jumpolin are featured in a segment titled "How Austin isolated Latinos with a unique form of segregation". 

Below are some quick video overviews done by the Statesman on the issues at hand that are well worth a watch.