Friday, March 23, 2007

Plaza Fiestas Carolinas

An Atlanta-based company is buying a failing strip mall just over the border with South Carolina, and will transform it into “Plaza Fiestas Carolinas,” a “Latino-themed shopping mall with a bandstand, soccer fields and restaurants.” One such mall already exists in Atlanta.

This fascinates me in several ways. It is a perfect symbol of the phenomenal growth of the Latino population here. Ten years ago (maybe even five), such a thing would not have been contemplated.

Next, contrary to the popular image of Latinos simply being illegal immigrants with no money, this type of economic development shows very clearly that Latinos have significant buying power. There may be various attempts (especially legislative) to make immigrants feel unwelcome, but ultimately money talks.

In the Charlotte metro region, Hispanic buying power reached $2.3 billion, up from $135 million in 1990, according to the Selig Center. Hispanics now account for nearly 5 percent of the metro area's buying power, up from less than 1 percent in 1990.

But also, it will have a “traditional Latino marketplace with bright colors and cobblestone streets.” Of course, there is no such thing as a single “traditional Latino” marketplace, or anything else for that matter. Instead, it will be an amalgam of what developers think people believe such a marketplace would look like, stripped of anything remotely unpleasant. It recalls Disneyland’s Main Street, a beautifully bland, artificially clean and entirely fictitious re-enactment of what Walt Disney thought people wanted a main street to look like.


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