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South Tucson Opinion: South Tucson residents need the chance to stay in their homes

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The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer. Roxanna Valenzuela is a candidate for South Tucson City Council:

Two years ago, two unexpected crises shifted my life forever — the pandemic and the gentrification of my home. These crises forced me to change my perspective and my purpose in life.

I grew up in the South Park neighborhood, the barrio right next to South Tucson, in a Habitat for Humanity house where to this very day my parents still live. I’m a Tucson High School grad, class of 2005. Most of my family lived in this tight-knit community. I remember every street where each of my tias lived. I remember the local restaurants, the businesses where families would shop and hang out.

Our Mexican culture was everywhere — the Norteño festivals, the greyhound swap meet, mariachi bands and the lowrider cars shows.

One of our favorite customs was to attend the vigil for the Virgen de Guadalupe every year on Dec. 12, the gifts we got from Ramon Gonzalez’s Miracle on 31st Street Christmas party, and when our dad would treat us to brunch at Rigo’s when he had extra money. Our family did not have much money, but we held onto our Mexican values of respect for the family and our community. One of my biggest fears is that my daughter won’t have the chance to grow up in the same or better environment that I did because our culture will be stolen from us.

What I witnessed during the pandemic was alarming. Our people were evicted from their homes and there were no decent alternatives, no way to re-establish family stability, no way to help the family’s mental health after being uprooted.

Several months ago, I went with my colleagues from Casa Maria Catholic worker community (where I now work) and knocked on almost every single door in the City of South Tucson. Virtually everyone we spoke with was afraid of being displaced from their homes. They feared the landlords who were renovating would raise the rent, forcing them out. They saw the investors who were harassing them with postcards as threatening their home and their community lifestyle.

The people of South Tucson know that the laws protect realtors, landlords and developers and not low-income families. Our housing can be pulled out from under us, and with it our mental health, while the developers build and make a profit.

This displacement is part and parcel of gentrification. I am running for South Tucson City Council to promote policies that give people a fighting chance to stay in their homes. I plan to support an aggressive affordable housing plan and more programs that lead to homeownership for low-income families.

I’m running on a slate with my two friends, Cesar Aguirre and Brian Flagg. We are far from being your regular politicians. We stand independent and are ready to defend the people of South Tucson with all that we have.

Roxanna Valenzuela is a candidate for South Tucson City Council. She is a community organizer and former small business owner who grew up in the barrios of South Tucson.

Roxanna Valenzuela is a candidate for South Tucson City Council. She is a community organizer and former small business owner who grew up in the barrios of South Tucson.

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