Gangs and Cupcakes: Violence and Sugar Go Together

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Plotting gang territory and cupcake territory on a San Francisco map reveals the strangeness of gentrification

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This map, created by UC Berkeley undergrad Danya Al-Saleh, overlays bakeries in the Mission district of San Francisco with Norteño and Sureño gang territory (for a larger PDF version, click here).

As Al-Saleh writes, cupcakes and gangs, violence and sugar, "are perceived to exist in separate worlds." And yet, as the Mission Local blog reports, a recent homicide, followed swiftly by a lunchtime gunfight, "offered Mission District residents a reminder that the hip neighbourhood where they feast on everything from the latest doughnut recipe to cupcakes and artisan pork rinds is also a place where gang violence still exists, and where a 2007 gang injunction is still in place."

I have written about the insights to be gained from a spatial analysis of cupcake proliferation before, on Edible Geography, in a post inspired by Rutgers Urban Policy lecturer Dr. Kathe Newman's theory that "cupcake shops can provide a more accurate and timely guide to the frontiers of urban gentrification than traditional demographic and real estate data sets."

But whereas Dr. Newman's students mapped cupcakes to track the flow of capital investment into previously depressed parts of the city, Al-Sayeh's map is designed to draw awareness to the uncomfortable socio-cultural overlaps that occur in such transitional neighbourhoods.

"Next time you bite into your cinnamon horchata cupcake," concludes Al-Sayeh, "reinterpret your surroundings."


This post also appears on Edible Geography.
Image: Danya Al-Saleh, courtesy of Edible Geography

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Nicola Twilley is author of the blog Edible Geography, co-founder of the Foodprint Project, and director of Studio-X NYC, an urban futures network run by Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning.

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