Just 6 miles from downtown Tucson is La Doce, a 3 mile stretch along 12th Avenue South from 44th Street to Drexel Road with a population of 9,000 of which 90% identify as Latino.
The cultural diversity of the region and the pride of the neighborhood were on display on Saturday July 16 at the event “La Doce Space Activation”, organized by the Southwest Folklife Alliance in partnership with Regeneración, with performances by Nihil Escapism, YMP and Ballet Folklorico Tapatio, plus food, artwork and live music.
“We want to strengthen community identity,” said Nelda Ruiz, event organizer.
The event served as a space to share with the neighborhood the efforts of some community members to improve the south side.
“I would like (people) to leave knowing that this south side community is a proud, joyful, loving and caring community but also super capable of being able to harness and execute power and I mean that ‘being the decision-makers and deciding how their community is designed, and what goes in and what goes out,’ Ruiz said.
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In 2018, Regeneración, a grassroots organization, partnered with the Southwest Folklife Alliance in a project called “La Doce: Barrio Foodways” to listen to people’s stories and traditions of food waste that existed in homes, while doing research and talking to the community, Regeneración mapped approximately 65 city blocks and green spaces in La Doce.
“Food was the vehicle that brought us to many important conversations,” Ruiz said.
During these conversations, some of the issues raised were the lack of green spaces, gentrification and the informal economy.
Data from the Pima Association of Government reveals that the area has the lowest tree equity score in the city, meaning the shade canopy is one of the poorest in Tucson.
“There’s more cement, there’s more construction and less parks, less attractions for young people, less attractions for children and families,” said resident Miriam Rojas.
The community has been affected by gentrification, where large corporations buy up vacant land to build homes and resell them at higher prices, prices that residents of the community cannot afford, Rojas said.
Three years ago people could find properties under $100,000 and now you can’t find anything under $150,000, Ruiz said.
Additionally, there are abandoned properties often owned by people who live out of state. This led to an increase in taxes and property values.
A work in progress
Regeneración works with an intergenerational cohort of South Side community leaders who meet every other Saturday to discuss issues that affect the community and how to address them.
According to a 2016 report by the UA College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, La Doce has a higher youth population (30.7%) than Metro Tucson (23.3%) .
“It’s a place of diverse communities with different traditions and cultures,” Rojas said.
Regeneración received a Vitalyst Spark grant to support the development of a new City of Tucson Community Land Trust Policy designed to help low-income residents with affordable housing.
Other ongoing initiatives include creating recreation areas for families to gather; outdoor areas where kids, teens and young adults can ride their bikes, skate or just hang out; reclaim existing parks and turn empty properties into community centers.
“It’s not a project, okay, it’s our life’s work and it’s the work we do for the seven generations ahead of us and for the seven generations behind us,” Ruiz said.
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