Your World Changing Around You 

Interview by Sophie Pollock

Bianka has lived in the Washington Neighborhood of San Jose all of her life. She has watched the area change dramatically over her 23 years here. She is a teacher at Sacred Heart, the community center she attended as a child. Feeling privileged to have completed her college education, Bianka says it is rewarding to work with the kids who attend the after school programs. 

"This neighborhood has changed a lot in the 23 years of life that I've had. When I was young we could never play outside. I mean where I live there's a house between my house and the corner market and my mom would like never let any of my sisters or I walk there alone. Not even just with her. It was like pretty scary. I used to remember I'd see like groups of younger guys like walking on the sidewalk and at the time I was so young I didn't know what it was. But looking back they were always wearing red shirts and I am like oh those were all the gangs that just used to walk around like super openly and freely. And then as I got older this area started developing a little bit more. So I'm not sure if maybe people had more access to a job or something or what the change was but slowly but surely the gangs started to disappear. I think it's still an issue on the east side, but around here not so much anymore. However with Sacred Heart being here and living so close to this non-profit you do have a lot of people experiencing homelessness who would camp out on the sidewalk. And we have an empty lot across from our house so there would always be some kind of drama going on over there or people using drugs and things like that. But speaking about now just in the last four years there's been a huge shift. I mean part of it is the gentrification and tech companies coming in like Google. So now it's totally different. I mean, I rarely see people experiencing homelessness who stick around. I'm not sure if it’s because the police presence has increased around here. A lot of things have changed. I mean the police used to not care about us, like you could call the cops and they wouldn't come. But now it's like they're patrolling the areas because you know you have all these fancy businesses here who want to be protected or I don't I don't really know why but it's changed."

 

"They call it the San Jose beer walk or they're going to call it. Because I think in the last year like all these mom and pop stores right here on South 1st have closed and they've opened like five or six breweries with them like a few blocks. And I'm like you know that's the same place where prostitutes used to walk around all the time. That used to be a big issue when I was young too. I remember people would like do protests in the neighborhood right here because the cops wouldn't do anything about the pimps or the prostitutes and give them resources to help them get out of those situations. But I think as horrible as gentrification is and the fact that it's displaced a lot of my neighbors-that's the bad part. But then I guess there is also that kind of okay part where it's becoming a little bit safer and slowly but surely things are kind of like disappearing. But I just hope that the culture doesn't disappear with that. As weird as that sounds. But a lot of the families that are leaving are Mexican-American or other from other places in Latin America. So seeing a bunch of white people move in on my street is really weird to me because I just remember all the history behind the neighborhood. So that's that's kind of what it was like growing up and how it is compared to now. It's very very different."