GENTRIFICATION, CULTURAL POLITICS & HOUSING JUSTICE IN MEXICO CITY
2019 - present
In 2017 two artists living in Colonia Juarez, a neighborhood in Mexico City’s historical center, created an effigy and altar to Santa Mari La Juarica, who they named the patron saint of gentrification, to raise awareness of the displacement of long-term residents in their neighborhood. Since my initial visit in 2019, when I learned of the fraught politics between the artists, housing justice activists, and Indigenous Mazahua and Hñähñu residents at risk of eviction, the pandemic has further accelerated gentrification as an influx of foreign remote workers to Mexico City’s downtown neighborhoods have sent rents skyrocketing.
This project thus explores the cultural politics of gentrifying neighborhoods in Mexico City, looking to how cultural producers are using art to organize against gentrification, in the neighborhood and via social media, as well as how the artists themselves inhabit fraught positions in housing justice movements in the city. I ask: how does the arrival of predominantly American remote-workers complicate the racial and class dynamics of Mexico City’s neighborhood politics and housing justice struggles? How is art utilized to draw attention to eviction and dispossession in the neighborhoods of Mexico City’s historical center, and how are these art forms taken up by organizers and in social media? And lastly, how is gentrification and displacement in Mexico City racialized within colonial ideologies of mestizaje, anti-Blackness and anti-Indigeneity?
Thinking in relation to my work on art and social movements in Oakland, this project investigates how anti-colonial and anti-racist cultural organizing unfurls differentially in cities across North America, and the role of race, Indigeneity and gender in the politics of these movements.
CITY AS BORDERLAND
art-activism amid racialized dispossession
2013 - present
Drawing from the theories of Gloria Anzaldúa, this project considers urban crises by using the borderlands as an analytic, superseding notions of colonial racial capitalist development and dislocating the narrative from one of gentrification’s stages of inevitability to connect urban struggles to struggles against empire. By using the borderlands as an analytic for a gentrifying city, I argue that urban space is understood not only as a shifting landscape upon which hegemonic and counter-hegemonic forces battle for meaning, but rather the borderlands implore a reckoning with the violent day to day struggles of those undergoing dispossession.
Complicating conventional social scientific and policy understandings of the role art and artists play in gentrifying cities, this project documents the ways that art-activists of color disrupt discourses of redevelopment and gentrification in Oakland, and insist that city governance recognize their geographies so they can determine their own futures. I find that the artists engaged in this work produce resilient counter-topographies of the city they call home. Their art-activist practices reveal how urban processes of foreclosure, excessive policing, and capitalist redevelopment function in tandem to disproportionately harm Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives.
I engage the performances, visual art and poetry that Oakland art-activists of color create to represent the spaces they inhabit so as to better understand the multiple topographies of the city itself. Ultimately, by placing art-activism in conversation with urban and cultural theory, I argue that the creative practices of resistance enacted in Oakland expand conceptions of urban space and urban life.
Publications: Ramírez, M.M. (2019) City as Borderland: Gentrification and the Policing of Black & Latinx Geographies in Oakland. Environment & Planning D, 38 (1), 147-166
Ramírez, M.M. (2020) Take the houses back/Take the land back: Black and Indigenous urban futures in Oakland. Urban Geography, 41(5), 682-693.
INDIGENOUS GEOGRAPHIES OF RESISTANCE
2017 - 2021
BLACK FOOD GEOGRAPHIES & RACIALIZED FOOD SPACES
2009 - 2014
In 2017 I began working with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, when Dr. Savannah Kilner and I were invited to edit the ‘Indigenous Geographies of Resistance’ chapter of Counterpoints: A Bay Area Atlas of Displacement and Resistance. We consulted with Corrina Gould and Johnella LaRose, who had recently founded the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, an Indigenous women-led organization that seeks to return land to Ohlone stewardship in the East Bay Area. Collaborating with Gould and LaRose, we designed a chapter that emphasized how the current moment of dispossession underway in the Bay Area’s housing crisis cannot be separated from long histories of colonial dispossession and Indigenous genocide on these territories.
In the atlas, we designed maps of the Indigenous territories of the Bay Area, of the waves of colonization first brought on by the Spanish Mission system, and of the East Bay waterways currently being renamed in Ohlone language by the land trust. The chapter features works by Indigenous scholars, journalists and activists, compiling stories of resistance that transcend the temporal and geographic frames through which housing crises are typically analyzed. This collaboration ensured that Indigenous presence and histories of resistance in the Bay Area are a central piece of analyzing how urban displacement and resistance are understood, mapped, and theorized in North American cities.
Counterpoints: A Bay Area Atlas of Displacement and Resistance was published by PM Press in 2021.
Placing the community food practices of two community food organizations in Seattle, Washington in the historical and spatial context of the plantation, this project considered how racialized processes rooted in the plantation continue to influence society, and how black food geographies resist and reimagine the present. By threading theories of racial viscosity with those of black geographies, this project offered a multifaceted theoretical foundation upon which to consider the ways that race and racial histories are embedded in food spaces.
Through a multi-year engagement with food justice organization Clean Greens Farm & Market, this project considered how Black food geographies produce distinct spatial practices of urban agriculture. I considered the ways that the site of the Black farm is used to envision plantation futures, where Black food justice projects use the land as a tool of liberation, drawing from practices of resistance that stem from plantation survival strategies (McKittrick 2013). I contend that the Black food geographies of Clean Greens also served to stake claims to urban space, so as to re-inscribe blackness onto the gentrifying Seattle landscape.
Lastly, this project troubled the use of urban gardening projects, considering how when white food spaces "revitalize" vacant land in what were predominantly Black neighborhoods such as Seattle's Central District, their whiteness adds value to the land and further fuels the dispossession of Black residents.
Publications: Ramírez, M.M. (2015) The elusive inclusive: Black food geographies and racialized food spaces. Antipode, 47 (3), 748-769.