Living in San Francisco, one becomes familiar with the variety in culture, each one seeming to have its own neighborhood. For Hispanics and Latinos, this neighborhood is the Mission.
If you haven't been to Mission Street in a while, there have been many changes. The biggest change is in the people – Latinos. It seems that the percentage of Latinos has decreased while a new culture has moved in. Most of these movers are the so called Hipsters. Hipsters are seen as a kind of people that set their own trends, instead of just following pop culture. But in the Mission, being a hipster is very trendy.
It's easy to spot hipsters on the Mission's streets. They're usually riding bikes, filling up coffee shops, or buying jewelry from the street vendors by the BART, to wear with something like a suit or a cocktail dress.
My friend Raquel Barajas's parents are Mexican, and she grew up in San Francisco. Like any other Mexican kid, she spent a lot of time in the Mission with her parents. But when I asked her what she thinks about hipster culture, I got an unexpected answer: she likes it.
I was surprised by her response because to me, hipster culture could easily be seen as a threat to the Latin population in the Mission. Many of the things I remember from growing up around Mission Street just aren't there anymore. Where I used to see Mexican bakeries; now there are expensive cafes that many people can’t afford. There used to be a CD store called Ritmo Latino, where everyone would go and hang out – music was always blasting. Now it's a cell phone store.
When I go to the Mission now, it feels empty. People used to hang out on the street; now they're all inside dark music venues. The Mission I remember was loud, full of life, out on the street. And now all that feels like it's gone. What's worse, people don't even seem to notice – even some of the Hispanics who still live there. For example, my friend Raquel told me she didn't really notice any difference. She also said that the changes in the neighborhood didn't affect her identity. "Even if I did dress like a hipster, I'd still be Mexican," she says.
Hearing this made me sad. To me, the Mission was one of the only places where I could experience Hispanic culture in the United States. My parents are Mexican, but they don't follow a lot of cultural traditions. At school, no one really listens to Mexican music – it' all Top 40 hip hop. But when I went to the Mission, Latin music was all I heard. People were always out on the street speaking Spanish. It was full of life, different than most of the places I was in. Being there felt like walking outside at night and feeling the cold on your cheeks.
Hipster culture is different. To me, it seems like the people who live in the Mission now are quieter. They sit in cafes. They don't have kids, and they don't play loud music. I see a lot more people in suits, with office jobs. I don't have any problem with hipsters, but they've changed how the Mission looks, and sounds, and feels. It's almost a completely new area.
I know that cities are always changing, but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter if a culture is isolated. Latin culture made the Mission what it is, and I hope that people who live there now don't forget that – whether they're Hispanic or not.