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eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
File size5.9 Mb
Release date 01.08.2001
Pages count202
Book rating4.36 (261 votes)
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It opens with the best quote ever from Diego Rivera in 1931:
When you say "American" you refer to the territory stretching between the icecaps of the two poles. So to hell with your barriers and frontier guards!

Much of this I really liked as I like Mike Davis. It is a quick read, a survey really. It describes the changing face of America, the next few decades in which Latinos will become majorities...and it even breaks down some of the divisions in this blanket term that so many wield as though it were a united group: Carribeans, Mexicans, Central Americans, South Americams: 1st generation, 2nd and 3rd. The hybridity along the borders, the dual identities and chicano identities and straight nationalisms in exile always looking back towards the old country. It might not do this enough.

Nothing can capture Tijuana, but it tries. It might not do this enough.

It recovers a history of violence against immgrants along the border that is chilling, and rarely reported on in mainstream news. This I liked the best.

So given all this, given how the growing numbers of latinos in cities not along the border have not been enough studied (though I don't know if he is counting New York, Philly, Miami), there is this call to understand how latinos are transforming these cities. He creates a typology of settlements - primate barrio with satellites (LA 1960), polycentric barrio (Chicago), mosaic (NY), and city within a city (LA 1990). I needed more detail, wanted this set into conversation with other settlement patterns, how does this fit into African-American and Asian grographies? There is a little, but not enough.

Of course, this 'latinoization' of the city is where I feel we move onto problematic ground. He has a chapter called 'Tropicalizing Urban Space'. Uh oh, I think to myself. He writes:
Here, in teh aftermath of the 1965 Watts riot, bank "redlining," civic indifference and absentee landlordism accelerated the decay of an ageing, poorly built housing stock. Yet today, even in the historically poorest census tracts, including most of the Central-Vernon, Florence-Firestone and Watts-Willowbrook districts, there is not a street that has not been dramatically brightened by new immigrants (61)

He describes this restoration of neighborhoods to 'trim respectability', a process that has allowed 'older African-American residents to reap unexpected gains in homes sales: a serendipitous aspect of "ethnic succession" that has been ignored by analysts who focus only on the rough edges of Black/Latino relations' (62). There are no rough edges in this account, but the amount I have studied the embattled history of these neighborhoods, this sentence pains me greatly. South Central has always been a mosaic of trim respectability and beautiful gardens alongside absentee owned rentals falling down from neglect. Sadly many African-Americans have felt this dynamic as a push, not serendipity.
He writes further:
In the most fundamental sense, the Latinos are struggling to reconfigure the "cold" frozen geometries of the old spatial order to accomodate a "hotter," more exuberent urbanism...a rich proliferation of public space (65).

This essentialising a widely divergent group of people into binaries of hot and cold, private and public is so strange to me. That new immigrants should bring different conceptions of space with them, yes...that all of them should want to recreate the old in a new country I balk at, that their children should want to continue with this, layered onto Latinos that have lived here generations, that are as much part of these 'frozen geometries' as any other ethnic or racial group apart from WASPy whites, who undoubtedly had the most power, money, and ability to define the shape of the city. This is more complex, no?

And then we are back to a survey of anti-immigrant sentiment, the highlighting of representative setting up of checkpoints, the activities of immigration, the bulldowzing of encampments, the dangers faced by workers. Some lovely stories of solidarity, villages moving en masse, buying up buildings. I wish this were more representative, but in all my years of neighborhood work I never came across anything like what he describes. Networks and remittances yes. Property? No.

There is some acknowledgement that where immigration does affect workers is at the very bottom, though he says it is not significant. But there is not enough here to help me imagine this escaping that zero sum game that people of colour have always been forced to play in America, one group rising at the other's expense. The intersections of race and ethnicity are also not explored, how much a third generation Black Puerto-Rican's experience (and 'tropicality') differs from the African-American experience, particularly of racism.

One important point I liked near the end, was how the new Latino majorities are winning bittersweet victories, taking political control of suburban cities, but with their high debt, high taxes and looted infrastructues, 'In the most extreme cases Latino majorities simply inherit wreckage' (155). But not enough about the work needed to turn this around, the colaition building that has to happen...

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