Oct 11, 2016
When Julio Guridy proposed adding Calle Siete signs to 7th Street, he was somewhat surprised by the reaction. Although, he might have expected opposition from what Bill White calls the Emma Tropiano people, he didn't expect it from the Hispanic merchants of 7th Street. More unexpectedly, the opposition was lead by Pete Lewnes, quasi government official and manager of 7th Street. The merchants expressed the opinion that it was a diversion from more real problems, such as litter. Lewnes stated that it discriminates against other minorities. Bill White felt that the proposal was divisive. Julio himself got defensive, and stated that Hispanics are now a majority, and deserve a piece of the recognition pie.
Leave it to this blogger, a plain talker, to articulate the real issue. One must understand that the recent attempted gentrification of Hamilton Street intentionally relocated the Hispanics to 7th Street, including the merchants that cater to them. In that sense, it's already a Hispanic ghetto. Peter Lewnes and the merchants want as large of a customer base as they can attract. For that reason, substantial funds have gone into the 7th Street facade program. This isn't some large cosmopolitan, sophisticated area where an ethnic sign will attract suburban curiosity. Unfortunately, the cultural divide and prejudice are real obstacles that Lewnes and the merchants are trying to overcome. The last thing they want to do is brand 7th Street as Hispanic.