LOS ANGELES — When Juan Romero was a boy in the 1980s, people talked about his neighborhood, Boyle Heights, as a place to escape. The area was besieged by gangs, public schools were struggling, and a vast majority of residents were barely above the poverty line.
These days, the crime rate has plummeted. And while many residents in the largely immigrant neighborhood on the eastern edge of Los Angeles are still struggling to get by, there are signs of rapid change. Primera Taza, a coffee shop Mr. Romero opened, is one of them, evidence of what some local residents call gentefication, as more well-to-do and younger Mexican-Americans return to the neighborhood their parents fled.
The transition has provided a jolt of energy and a transfusion of money, but it has also created friction with working-class residents here. And tensions over just whom this neighborhood belongs to are a clear sign that Latinos have come of age in Los Angeles, where they are expected to become the majority this year. The changes highlight strong class divisions that continue — or are even worsened — among immigrants.