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Monday, March 15, 2010

All That Glitters: Commentary on McDonalds in Our Community

There’s a new McDonalds at the corner of Navigation Blvd. & Lockwood Dr. on the East End of Houston. When I saw the sign and the beginning of the building structure actually taking shape, I got queasy. I have a few things that caused this less than desirable reaction. And this article is my attempt at exploring why.

1. I thought about the fact that the food sold at McDonalds is some of the most unhealthy, yet affordable available. It’s a fast food chain. Sure, they’d like you to think they are health conscious (They have salad, right?) and they’d like you to trust they wouldn’t be feeding you harmful things (Not Roland McDonald! He couldn’t!) – Yet still- They are a fast food chain. Their food is over-processed, made up of several different cows, chickens, and what nots, from all parts of the animal from several factories, soaked in Chlorine, and salty. It’s not going to be healthier than going to a sit down restaurant, or better yet, eating homemade food. Yet, in a neighborhood that bridges the thin line between old and new age, where 3rd and 4th generation Mexican Americans are now the key holders of the fate of the neighborhood, and while we are going through a recession silently becoming a depression, it will become one of the most convenient and affordable places to eat. So, what will it do to the people living in that community? We are already battling obesity*, cancer, and other maladies that can be linked to this type of food – these things are sold to us as Original people. Why?

2. Along those lines, I also wonder how this will affect the locally owned restaurants that line both of these major streets. Will places like Dona Marias or La Silla see a drop in customers? Can they compete with a fast food dollar menu? McDonalds is an international company and will only benefit the community by offering low wage jobs. Where is the self determination, personalization, and community building -that local eateries provide- in that? Is it coincidental that this fast food chain has taken shop here as gentrification also moves in to 2nd Ward? Which brings me to…

3. Location. Location. Location. Navigation Blvd. and Lockwood Drive are two of the oldest streets that make up 2nd Ward – the Historically Hispanic Neighborhood- and the entire East End for that matter. Navigation Blvd begins closer to downtown Houston at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church- the first Hispanic Church (Ethnicity in the Sunbelt), from which the entire neighborhood grew. At the other end you find a bridge leading towards Manchester- the Ship Channel community where many newly migrated Mexicanos settled for work close to the inception of the City of Houston. Lockwood Drive runs parallel and connects the UH community, 2nd Ward, and causes a median between 5th Ward and my/our neighborhood Denver Harbor- All Black and Brown Communities. In mere passing to many of us with the knowledge of our history, it has causes remembrance and silent pride in what we built as a gente. Now, when people pass it they will awe at the fact that yet another Micky D’s/ Gas station has taken over a corner in Houston.

With all of this going on in my head, at the end of it all- whatever the answers to these inquiries & assessments are- I write so that we can understand it as something that has been steadily happing to our communities**. Is this okay? Do we not have the means or the want to use land we grew up on for our own use, businesses, and well-being? I'll miss the old Navigation and Lockwood once it's gone.. if it's to be gone.
McDonalds brings a whole lot more to us than just a Dollar Menu. The changes that come with the glitz of modernization are not always as glamorous as they seem at face value. In other words, not all that glitters is gold.


**An example in 3rd Ward- When the people (community, artist, activists) realized gentrification was taking over their neighborhoods, they moved to create programs and centers that would help the community continue to provide a bridge connecting young and old. Places like Project Row House, Our Park, and the SHAPE Community Centers, still stand around the incoming gentrification, although they are suffering in many ways by the incoming mindsets, focused on Materialism/ Capitalism/ and Individualism, that- while taking over land- are also taking over the psyches of our youth.

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