SOCIAL SCIENCES

Barrio America: How Latino Immigrants Saved the American City

Basic. Nov. 2019. 416p. illus. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9781541697249. $32; ebk. ISBN 9781541644434. SOC SCI
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For decades, beginning in the 1970s, Hispanic immigrants and their descendants sustained and revitalized American cities experiencing blight. As urban populations shrank and infrastructure crumbled amid deindustrialization, disinvestment, and white flight, Latin American immigrants kept neighborhoods vibrant. Sandoval-Strausz (history, Pennsylvania State Univ.; Hotel: An American History) rejects the conventional wisdom that young professionals saved the cities. From Chicago’s South Lawndale to Dallas’s Oak Cliff neighborhoods (barrios), working-class Latinos have moved in, purchased homes, improved public health and safety, and revived commerce while enduring discrimination and threats of deportation. Cultural tendencies such as socializing outdoors rather than indoors, or walking rather than driving, aided urban revitalization. Sandoval-Strausz builds on pioneering treatises such as David Diaz’s Latino Urbanism and Davis Mike’s Magical Urbanism, blending statistics and oral history to make his points. Sometimes Sandoval-Strausz stretches a point; he argues, for example, that higher rates of immigration caused the nation’s falling crime rates. Overall, this is a thoughtful, provocative, and well-written study of why Hispanics have been and continue to be vital to the health of American cities.
VERDICT Likely to become a staple in Latinx and urban studies.

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