Barrio America


How Latino Immigrants Saved the American City

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The compelling history of how Latino immigrants revitalized the nation’s cities after decades of disinvestment and white flight.

In his new book, Barrio America: How Latino Immigrants Saved the American City, award-winning historian and son of immigrants A.K. Sandoval-Strausz challenges the idea that the so-called “Creative Class” was most responsible for reviving the city, arguing instead that it was actually Latino newcomers who most dramatically transformed entire city neighborhoods. Drawing on dozens of oral histories with migrantes themselves, Sandoval-Strausz illuminates how Latin American immigrants imported three distinctive urban traditions – a preference for walking over driving, a penchant for public space, and small entrepreneurship – that have reshaped American cities into the thriving metropolises they are today. Sandoval-Strausz argues that although urban barrios are regularly portrayed as decaying districts plagued by crime and disorder, in reality, areas with growing immigrant populations have become some of the most dynamic, stable, and safe neighborhoods in their cities. At a time when Latin American migrants are being demonized and scapegoated, we should remember their indispensable role in solving one of the greatest crises of the twentieth century.
Sandoval-Strausz focuses on the largest immigrant barrios in two of the nation’s largest cities: Chicago’s Little Village and Dallas’s Oak Cliff. These neighborhoods were once classic examples of urban crisis: they reached their peak prosperity around 1950, afterwards losing residents, jobs, and opportunity, which destabilized urban public order. But after 1965, when Lyndon Johnson and Congress overturned the restrictive 1924 immigration act and a major agricultural crisis was convulsing Mexico, these neighborhoods saw a record number of incoming Latin Americans.
Barrio America places immigrant voices at the center of the narrative, emphasizing the choices of Latin American newcomers, the motivations that brought them to the United States, and the hopes that lay before them, their families, and their communities. Sandoval-Strausz tells the compelling story of how migrants have used their labor, their capital, and their culture to build a new metropolitan America.