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FYI This Gentrification Vending Machine Will Never Replace The Bodega

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A start-up founded by two ex-Google employees drew a heck-load of criticism on Wednesday morning for angling to replace the mom and pop corner stores (AKA Delis or bodegas) that are neighborhood staples with an app-controlled vending machine that can monitor what people take (and reportedly use its AI robot magic to anticipate what people will need.) They even called it Bodega and, to add insult to injury, there's a cat as their logo.

Rest assured, Twitter was having none of it — given the cultural significance of bodegas in urban areas (particularly for Hispanic people and, more recently Yemeni immigrants), their position as valuable community resources and a gateway of economic opportunity (especially for immigrants.) 

TL;DR: Bodegas are a beautiful, irreplaceable part of city culture and history, especially for New Yorkers who will be the first to praise them. For critics of the Bodega app, the erasure of that history (and the lack of consideration put into a product out to "replace them) is extremely messed up. 

While Fast Companyreports that the founders said they were not "particularly concerned" about their name — in a business run by two non-Hispanic or Latino men — being considered offensive or appropriative, their critics disagreed. 

"We did surveys in the Latin American community to understand if they felt the name was a misappropriation of that term or had negative connotations, and 97% said ‘no,’" Co-founder Paul McDonald told Fast Company in their initial profile. "It’s a simple name and I think it works.”

However, Fast Company noted that some members of the Hispanic community and advocates for the local neighborhood economy took issue — calling to mind existing conversations about gentrification and cultural appropriation

“To me, it is offensive for people who are not Hispanic to use the name ‘bodega,’ to make a quick buck,'” Frank Garcia, the chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said. “It’s disrespecting all the mom-and-pop bodega owners that started these businesses in the ’60s and ’70s.” 

And if those very real economic benefits and the humanity-affirming arguments in defense of the human proprieters bodegas don't sway you (somehow), I raise you: Bodega cats.

These furry pals are responsible for catching rodents, looking regal AF and giving side-eye from atop a throne of Natty Ice cans. They are my heroes and they are there for you. They are also there for head pats, photo-ops and for the late-night morale you so desperately need as you buy three cartons of OJ before sprinting to catch your last train home. 

If you can't manage to show some love for the awesome humans running those neighborhood institutions (which, like, come on), do it for the bodega cats. 


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