This is my opinion, not my employers or any other group I am affiliated with, and it probably won’t win me too many new friends, but it needs to be said. Everyone knows that mining has irreversible devastating effects on the environment. Still, everyone doesn’t know that gentrification brought on by elitist recreational sports can have an irreversible and catastrophic impact on any community’s culture and working class people. Patagonia is no exception.
According to the article “When Nowhere Becomes Somewhere” by Mat Payne, there are three factors of gentrification in rural communities. The first factor is “occupier developer” types move in with a mindset to change the existing community physically and culturally. The new occupiers then create an economy based on serving their needs. As I have witnessed, traditional or meaningful rural jobs like agriculture and small business ownership disappear, replaced by the frequently dead-end jobs of the catering/service industry. If the pandemic has taught us anything, people don’t rush back to these types of jobs, and for a good reason. The final factor is the want and ability for the new gentrified population to buy into the fantasy they perceive as rural life. As this fantasy becomes a reality, multigenerational families are pushed out of the area, and the previous culture is effectively erased.
I am a passionate person, and those who know me know I care deeply about many things, but this topic hits me in the heart. My family was pushed out of Colorado by gentrification. I know the feeling of having to sell a home and say goodbye to a place you used to love because it no longer welcomes the working class. Luckily for me, my original home of southern Arizona was there to catch me and welcome me home. It is heartbreaking to imagine the multigenerational and tri-national culture here being erased. The kindness and family feeling tight-knit communities cherish fades away when gentrification destroys and divides communities. That hasn’t happened quite yet, but the occupier developers are here, clearly stating their intentions on their website. They saw this community as their goldmine. Only they’re not mining for minerals; they are mining for a change in culture that would directly benefit their bank accounts and upper-class lifestyle.
I urge the people in power in this community to take this as seriously as a physical threat; we owe that to the working-class people of Patagonia and the multigenerational families who will inevitably be erased if we do nothing to mitigate the coming shift.