Jenny Niezgoda, a blogger and travel Instagrammer who goes by "the barefoot bohemian," just learned the hard way that sometimes, you really don't want your Kickstarter campaign to go viral. At least, not in the way hers did.
The entrepreneur's idea to open La Gracia, a "modern fruteria," in San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood came under heavy criticism after the campaign's video—which, unfortunately, is not a parody—went live. And though the Kickstarter has since been taken down, you can still view the video here.
It's not just the stock-music Spanish guitar strumming in the background or her cringe-worthy posing in front of murals dedicated to Latino heroes: Niezgoda (who incorrectly equates a frutería to a post-yoga juice bar in the video) exclaims how she fell in love with Mexico and then found it in Barrio Logan, which she goes on to describe as San Diego's "most vibrant, up-and-coming neighborhood" while sashaying through its streets.
Anyone familiar with the area, however, including Latino publication Mitú, can attest that its Mexican American residents have had a history of battling gentrification and homelessness, long before Niezgoda came in with what many have described as a clueless, "white savior complex." Community members have particularly called out the video's closing message: that by donating to Niezgoda's glorified juice bar, backers can help improve San Diego and bring a "healthy option to the Barrio."
But as culturally ignorant as the campaign is, Niezgoda isn't the first to try to spin a profit off the neighborhood's heritage. "She didn't start this," local business owner Antonio Ley tells Mitú, referring to a street vendor selling $13 hot dogs from a lowrider. "She just made the dumbest video ever. It's the most racially divisive business that's hit Barrio Logan, because she made it completely white."
It seems the feedback has reached Niezgoda, as she's posted an apology on Facebook announcing her "modern fruteria" will no longer be opening in Barrio Logan. And while it's painfully clear she didn't do enough—or any—research on the culture she was trying to make a living off of, the fiasco poses a bigger question that's haunted many a burrito cart, bodega start-up, $8 chopped cheese and bullet-hole-decorated restaurant: At what point does appreciation become appropriation?
Please check your inbox to verify your email address.