Denise Garcia’s Story

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Denise Garcia (04/13/16)

Denise Garcia is a 19-year old university student at NYU. She commutes to university daily from her house in Williamsburg--the place she grew up in and the place she calls home. Her parents moved into Williamsburg from Mexico in the 90’s in search of the American Dream and in hope of a better life.

A young couple having just moved to the states, Denise’s parents made a living for themselves from her father’s minimum wage job and her mother’s job at a coat factory. Denise’s father soon became a construction worker, but after an accident in 2006, he began living on 100% disability income. Though her mother’s factory job pay was good, it required late hours, so she ended up quitting that and working at a clothing factory for the next 10 years, becoming the primary bread winner of the family. Her mother regrets having had to leave her children in daycare when Denise and her brother were just 3 and 8 years old. That isn’t to say, though, that they did not have a happy childhood.

When her parents first moved into Williamsburg, they found community in the Mexicans around them in the neighbourhood and in their church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, on North 8th and Havemeyer. Denise grew up playing in the backyard of her first apartment building on Union Street, attending neighbourhood parties, and spending a lot of time in Mccarren Park while it was still “rusty”. She talks fondly of her childhood, of the way everyone in the community used to know each other and how everyone used to congregate in the park or church. Denise’s mother placed great importance on making sure that Denise and her brother knew and were familiar with their Mexican heritage, so they often celebrated Mexican festivals with other members of the community and spoke Spanish. Denise animatedly describes the “spanglish” that she grew up around, calling Mccarren Park “El Parke Maccaria” and Graham Ave “El Gramham”.

Having lived her whole life in Williamsburg and having done all her schooling there, she is able to describe the clear geographic divisions between the Hispanic, Italian, Jewish and black communities in Williamsburg like the back of her hand, and talks of the comfort that came with knowing where to buy the best Italian meats or the best Mexican food - before the “blanquitos” infiltrated the community. Denise laments, amongst many other things, the skyrocketing prices that have driven many of her family and friends out to places like Knickerbocker and Ridgewood, the hipster-ization of her community so much so she detests walking down Bedford Ave, the loss of dear Mexican stores and “the Brooklyn version of Bed, Bath and Beyond” to new cafes and restaurants, and the increased prices even at the local bodegas.

Denise Garcia’s Story