Tuesday, March 21Welcome

A Year of Immigration, Small Businesses and Many More Reports

On paper, Ricky Rodas deals with immigration and small businesses in The Oaklandside, but over the past year he’s written on many other topics, from Lake Merritt ecology to gun violence to sports.

The Oaklandside news editor Darwin BondGraham spoke with Rodas about his work in 2022, and one big theme emerged. Many articles about The Town are actually stories of global migration and culture.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Ricky, I was looking back on your story this year. The first story you did was about a cafe owned by a queer/transmasculine Filipino who is fighting xenophobia through art etc. Then you have the Yiu Mien elders gardening in Flutevale After I wrote about the Bolivian tailor in North Auckland. Many of your stories feature immigrants and show how essential they are to our city. What role do you think immigrants play in Auckland?

As long as migrants have been in Auckland, they have contributed vital services. You mentioned the story I wrote about Penny Baldado, owner of Cafe Gabriella. They do things as simple as serving sandwiches to workers in downtown Oakland, but this is very important because a lot of people go there and need something to eat. is a Filipino-owned and queer café, and Penny sees the simple act of running their shop as a way to combat xenophobia. Penny also named the cafe after an 18th-century Filipino revolutionary, so there’s that added element.

Penny Baldard, owner of Cafe Gabriella. credit: Amir Aziz

I recently told a story about Arth & Son, a 145-year-old auto repair shop started by German immigrants from France. The original owners started out fixing horse-drawn carriages, and subsequent generations continued to fix automobiles. Immigrants play many roles in Auckland, but others may choose not to.

I have unfortunately seen many of these businesses closed during this pandemic that we are still living through. For example, the beloved cafe downtown Anura’s. Anura, a Sri Lankan who ran the shop, built up a large base of loyal customers who dined there for lunch. Well, these customers came out in droves to support her last week. Her café was not just a place to eat, it was a place where community and friendships were formed.

You have been writing about this one restaurant, La Perla, for several years now. Most recently, we covered a fundraiser held to help rebuild Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona. Is this common in Auckland, a company with strong ties to communities in other countries?

Whenever someone leaves their hometown, be it Puerto Rico or Sri Lanka or Afghanistan, they try to stay connected in some way.

I was recently working on an article about human rights abuses taking place in Iran and Iranians in the East Bay trying to help protesters back home who are literally risking their lives. Well, I used to be a business owner here in Auckland.

For La Perla, 2017’s Hurricane Maria was tragic, followed this year by Hurricane Fiona. These storms deepen the historic inequalities that exist on the island. People like La Perla owner Jose Ortiz and the band Sazon Libre created these fundraiser to do everything they can to help people.

Chef Jose “Cheo” Ortiz in front of La Perla’s upcoming new store in Auckland’s Dimond district. credit: Courtesy La Perla

When you are connected to your community, when you are connected to the diaspora, wherever you are, you will feel the pain that the diaspora feels. You’re going to do your best to improve it from anywhere, and I think that’s what I’m trying to do the best I can through my work.

Let’s talk about another story you worked on that highlighted how Auckland stands as a hub in a globalized world. I am writing about the conflict in What made you want to continue this report?

First, I would like to give credit to Daniel Hagos, one of the main sources of information covered in this article. He has lived in Auckland for several years. Through Daniel, the cafe owner was able to connect with Adey Hagos and other locals rallying against the genocide taking place in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

It’s a really complicated story that took a long time to report. But I’m also part of a diaspora familiar with state violence, so I wanted to write this story. I know what it’s like to have to live each day with physical and psychological consequences.

Seeing what was happening in Ethiopia, I knew immediately that this was a local story. Global conflicts affect where communities choose to settle. There are so many different types of ethnic groups in Ethiopia, all of them have different opinions about this war that we have seen it play out in Auckland.

Adi Hagos at her Auckland restaurant, Cafe Romanat. Hagos receive daily messages from other Tiglayans suffering in the civil war in Ethiopia. credit: Amir Aziz

Again, I would like to give all credit to the sources. I think the reason we can give ourselves credit as the Auckland side is because we thought there was value in telling a local story, even without a clear news peg attached. This article was still timely as the community is silently dealing with this immense pain.

Another project you worked on this year is this series that focuses on small businesses in specific geographies. In the Laurel District, I wrote about salons, bike shops and craft stores. What have you learned doing this type of hyper-local business reporting?

Auckland is a fascinating city with so many different microtowns. You can experience this “town within a town” when you go to certain business districts such as Laurel, Montclair and Fruitvale.

I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that these Auckland neighborhoods offer a very unique experience. These unique experiences are often focused on small businesses as they serve as cultural hubs. To tell these stories, you need to focus on putting the spotlight on your neighborhood through your business.

In 2022, violent crime continues to be a concern for Aucklanders. Can you talk about how this impacted the business world?

Attendees pay tribute to Artgel “Jun” Anabo at an all-night altar in front of his restaurant, Lucky Three Seven. credit: Ricky Rodas

Many of Auckland’s shops are prone to robbery, break-ins and vandalism. Store owners tend to have a more police-focused perspective on public safety issues. They advocate for more policing, but I think that comes from wanting to protect their assets and property. Many of these places are family-run shops, literally trying to make a living. I am deeply concerned about the safety issues of

Shopkeepers have also been victims of violence. One of his partners at Lucky Three Seven, his Artgel Anabo, or “Jun” as he was affectionately known, was shot dead just outside his restaurant. His death hit the Fruitvale-Dimond community hard. Jun was connected to the small business community, so his death was felt throughout the city.

Some business owners want a more militarized version of policing, including cops and very strict patrols all over Auckland. Some want to focus on hiring cops from Auckland, others want neighborhood police and foot patrols. Some of the complaints I’ve heard are that they don’t want a cop who just walks by and doesn’t say hello to anyone.

The World Cup is being held now. I also reported a bit on this. What are the Auckland diaspora communities that support the national team?

World Cup fans line up outside the Auckland Athletic Club for the match between Mexico and Argentina on November 26, 2022 credit: Amir Aziz

In my almost three years of covering Auckland SMEs, I have come across so many different diasporas. Unfortunately, several of the countries represented by Auckland failed to qualify for this year’s Men’s World Cup. increase. Auckland has a large Mexican community, but their team just couldn’t get there.

Our World Cup coverage was an attempt to find these diasporas, including those from countries that do not have as large a community in Auckland as the Mexicans and Ethiopians. wrote about finding community through this year’s cup.There are no large Moroccan communities in Auckland or the Bay Area. There are fragments of people spread across the bay. The story was interesting because it was about creating a community. Everyone in the Moroccan diaspora here in Auckland and the Bay Area understood that there was no clear connection. But the World Cup gave them the means to find each other. Because their country was literally making history for a variety of reasons.

Despite losing to France, Morocco made history by becoming the first African team to reach the semi-finals since the men’s World Cup began in 1930. The national team also scored an iconic victory by beating Belgium in the round of 32. They beat Spain in the round of 16 and then Portugal in the quarterfinals. These are her three European countries that have invaded and exploited Africa for hundreds of years, including Morocco.

The way the cup helped connect different diaspora communities was evident in another story I wrote, which focused on Argentinian business owner Javier Sandis. When Sandis moved here due to the economic crisis in Argentina in his 2001, he had never heard of Oakland, but he came here to play football on a scholarship .

Over time, he realized he was investing in the community and started setting up restaurants. He created a space for himself to work and earn a living. He even made parklets because he wanted to celebrate the World Cup while selling empanadas. He inadvertently created space for Argentines from all over the Bay Area to come. I think the World Cup story was a very special one. Because they shed light on creating a community for people who didn’t know they were here.

On a completely different note, you’ve written some interesting stories about Lake Merritt over the past year. First he covered salmon sightings in January, then he had poisonous algae flowering in August. Why do Aucklanders love their lakes so much?

A pile of dead anchovies Monday night rang Lake Merritt on Tuesday. credit: Amir Aziz

These are examples of stories that want to branch out from their usual beats. Covering the immigrant community and writing articles on business policy issues is my bread and butter, but I’m a nerd in general and interested in all sorts of things, especially nature.

Aucklanders really care about the lake for many reasons. For one, it’s a beautiful and scenic place that serves as a gathering place for everyone in the city. Second, lakes are diverse ecosystems that have existed for thousands of years. This is the first wildlife sanctuary in the United States and I think biology enthusiasts are proud of it.

I became an unofficial fish reporter for the Auckland side.I am playing the role because I am really interested in how the people of Auckland care about the city’s natural environment and its unique ecosystem. I don’t know how many articles I’ve written on Lake Merritt since I started working in Aucklandside almost three years ago, but there are many.

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