Since Dec. 24, small piñata houses have begun appearing around building sites and vacant lots in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood. The colorful creations with sad — sometimes disaffected, sometimes stunned — facial expressions are the work of Oak Cliff-based artist Giovanni Valderas, and they’re meant to recall the area’s Latino residents who are being priced out.
“All the places I grew up going to, like the apartment complexes my cousins lived in, they’re no longer there,” Valderas recently told WFAA. “They’ve been knocked down and replaced with luxury apartments.”
Valderas is known for guerrilla projects that utilize traditional piñata techniques, the Advocate Oak Cliff reports. This informal installation, called “Casita Triste” (Sad Little House), calls to mind the bright cottages that have long housed the area’s Latino residents, according to the paper. Bags on the houses’ sides carry postcards addressed to Dallas City Hall asking for more affordable housing.
While many cities face housing crisis, Dallas has a particular problem with supplying affordable units, the Advocate reports. HUD is currently investing Dallas after the agency found that the city couldn’t account for about 30 million in federal funds that were supposed to go toward affordable units. And as Next City has covered, the Texas Department of Housing has also been accused of awarding its low-income housing tax credits in a way that perpetuates segregation.
All that’s to say, Valeras’ project couldn’t be timelier. And he’s not the only one turning his brush (or card stock and glue, as the case may be) toward gentrification and displacement. Artists like Janelle Dunlap in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Daiquiri Rene Jones, Mariama Eversley, and Michael “Quess?” in New Orleans have recently subverted upscale housing ads and loaded real estate terms to send messages about the legacy of white supremacy embedded in their cities’ housing markets.
See more of Valderas’ work here.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian