Four years after Jorge Gomez, a multimedia artist from Los Angeles County, fell in love with the city of San Jose, his adopted home — one he calls “another Whittier” in part for its lowrider culture — he’s now running an online community Instagram page built off of the city’s culture, with more than 70,000 followers.
“I don’t feel like an influencer. I think that the city itself is the real influencer. I think the city shines and I’m just showing it off,” Gomez said. “This feels like home to me.”
From Japantown to Santa Clara Street to his downtown studio where he creates memes, community posts and news items for the hit Instagram page San José Foos, Gomez, 23, roams his favorite San Jose spots to see what’s happening there. As the creator behind the page, he has control of one of the largest social media platforms in the city.
Started as an outlet to post memes about San Jose culture and videos of protests over the May 25, 2020 police killing of George Floyd, San Jose Foos now helps local businesses and followers keep in touch with local news and community happenings.
His viral posts include contests about best food spots in town, news headlines like “Pink Elephant Panaderia Now Accepts Card” and “San Jose to Permanently Close San Pedro Street for Outdoor Dining.” His memes his, like one that reads “Can I put IE $$ J in my bio” with the response “No son, we live in Evergreen,” resonate with native San Jose residents and people who ‘ve relocated to the Bay Area.
The page has become a full-time gig he runs himself, and one he “doesn’t make any money from,” he said with a laugh. “If anything I spend a lot of it.”
In an interview, Gomez talked about the page, views on media in the Bay Area and what’s next for him and @San Jose Foos:
Q: What’s it like to be a content creator in the Bay Area?
A: I don’t think I’m one. I’m just a dude that just wanted to post about the city I live in and love, and it just kind of grew bigger than that. And I’ve been responsible for using this in a way to do good by the city of San Jose and the community. So I try my best to always put my best foot forward and represent.
Q: Why did you move to the Bay Area?
A: Growing up in LA, I actually had no idea about the TV and film industry. It wasn’t until I turned 16 that I realized that there was anything at all. When I started working in it, I found really quickly that it was very pretentious and not what I liked at all.
My good friend that lived up here in San Jose said, ‘Hey, you should come work up here with me. There are some jobs, and also you can start working on your production company … I came and checked out San Jose, didn’t really know about it, but I fell in love with it almost immediately. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m moving here.’
San Jose is just another Whittier to be honest … There’s like two places in the world for lowriding, and it’s like Santa Clara street here in San Jose and Whittier Boulevard. My grandpa was in the lowriding scene back in the seventies. And he was featured on Lowrider magazine. He had come up to San Jose … It’s kind of like full circle.
Q: Which posts do you credit for your viral following?
A: The community posts, like the ones of ‘Best Pizza?’ don’t really get more of a following. But they are one of the more highly engaged ones because everyone has their opinion on what they think is the best… . But I think the most viral stuff is probably news and memes. And the one time we gave away Bad Bunny tickets, I got an extra 8,000 followers. That was pretty crazy. It had 15,000 comments.
Q: Are you creating all of the posts on your own?
Like 95% of the posts are original thoughts and then another 5% are probably inspired from someone else or someone suggesting a post.
It definitely at first took up a lot of my time. What really got me into it was the lockdowns in March,… now I try and spend less and less time on (the internet) every day, but I’m still spending so much time on it.
Eventually I think a bigger vision or goal would be to get some grants or something and then pay someone or a group of people to… have full-time journalism jobs and actually go around and promote the city. And it’s beneficial for everyone. So that’s kind of an idea, but I don’t know if I have the time to do that at the moment.
Q: What do you think the local media is lacking that has attracted people to your page?
A: Maybe the rawness. And I think there’s a general lack of trust in news. When I see something that the news posts, I’m typically like, ‘Oh, okay.’ But when I see it’s like a local community person that posts about it, it’s a little more believable. We also post more than just news so it’s complex — like the city itself. I feel like a lot of news is just political, and I’m rying to stay away from that really. I think that’s what attracts people to it. Like when I posted ‘Pink Elephant now accepting card’. That’s real news in my opinion. I know some people would disagree.
I feel like a lot of people look at the news, and it’s just bad things. This person shot this person, stabbed this person, ran over this person. And I think people are just so over it. I know I am for sure. So to have something a little more lighthearted, something a little more close to the ground, I feel like people connect with that a little more especially since like with big news media companies or whatever you never really know like what the intentions are.
Q: What’s next for you and the San José Foos?
A: I’m trying to do more community event stuff and just keep promoting businesses. Like anything on the internet, this page has to keep evolving. Otherwise it’ll just get lost. … I’m trying to utilize it as it is now: a good popular page that gets a lot of impressions and engagement… . But hopefully it will still start reaching an even wider audience.
And with all the new people coming to San Jose, I’m trying stay tapped in with all the natives… And want try and do more stuff like the toy drive we had. Something that’s real involved, and actually get out there in the community, and more nonprofit work. That way we can actually provide stuff to people out here as opposed to just providing entertainment and information. We can provide them with actual resources and tools for them to better themselves.
Title: Creator of San Josê Foos, self-proclaimed multimedia artist
Residence: San Jose
Hometown: Whittier, California
Five things about Jorge Gomez:
- He moved to the Bay Area when he was 19 years old.
- He worked for the Emmys for a year when he was 18.
- He met his girlfriend at Roy’s Station Coffee and Tea. This year, he said he’s mostly frequenting downtown or staying home.
- His favorite pizza joint in San Jose is Slice of Homage.
- About 90% of his friends are native to San Jose.