One of the problems with talking about evictions and displacement is the tendency to examine it on a case-by-case basis: a series of individuals making logical decisions about where they want to live, buying property, and forcing those who were renting the property to leave. The problem with evictions is not found at this level but rather at the systemic level, when we examine who is coming in and who is being forced out, and notice that this is a problem that disproportionately affects seniors, people with disabilities, low income population, queer people, and people of color. While anyone losing their home is tragic, it is particularly upsetting when those being evicted are responsible for putting their neighborhood on the map, as with the Yañez family evictions currently happening in the Mission.
René Yañez and Yolanda López, two prolific artists whose contributions shaped the Mission into a destination for locals and tourists alike. Yañez is responsible for making the Día de Los Muertos celebration in the Mission the citywide, show-stopping spectacle it is today, and is an accomplished visual artist, as well. López’s work has garnered international acclaim, especially for her Virgen de Guadalupe series depicting working-class chicana women in a bold, positive manner.
López is making the best of her eviction by putting it on display: she is selling off her possessions in garage sales that happen in art galleries. Her goal is to publicize what is happening to her and to her beloved neighborhood. Her other goal? To find somewhere else to go, as she acknowledges that living in San Francisco on Social Security will likely be impossible. It’s cruelly ironic that two of the people responsible for making the Mission district synonymous with arts and culture are now being forced out to make room for those who can afford to pay a premium for a place in a trendy neighborhood.
They’ll have to content themselves with the the decorative Día de Los Muertos themed tree grates left behind on Valencia Street as a testament to their legacy while they depart for destination unknown.