Latino Studies Latino Urbanism
by
Jesús J. Lara
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0099

Introduction

Latinos are assuming prominence in our social, political, and economic systems, and they are having a growing impact in shaping and revitalizing the built environment: from inner-city neighborhoods to suburban commercial corridors in large cities and small-town America. This force is driven by a continuous growth in population. Evidence of this can be found in the changing demographic landscape of the United States. According to the US Census, the total US population reached 309,000,000 in 2010, an increase of 8.8 percent since 2000. If we eliminate the Latino population numbers, America’s population growth would have been 4.9 percent. Without Latino growth some states would have shown a decrease in population. There are some counties in the Midwest where the Latino population grew 500 to 700 percent. The Latino population expected to grow by 29.2 percent and make up 53.3 percent of the total population by the year 2050. As Latino populations grow, the need for resources to support them creates new stresses that are manifested at an international scale and are more predominant in towns and cities. In the early 21st century Latinos have been impacting the built environment and public realm in dynamic ways that are conducive to cultural (re)adaptations while contributing to the social and economic development of neighborhoods and commercial corridors. Latinos contribute to the urban revitalization process by (re)appropriating space for their own use, turning downtrodden areas into vibrant commercial and residential centers to suit the needs and cultural preferences of transnational immigrants. This movement is known as “Latino Urbanism,” an emerging approach to planning, design, and development that responds to Latino lifestyles, cultural preferences, and economic needs that is reflected in the built environment. Latino Urbanism is reflected in the way Latinos bring key qualities that are essential to revitalization processes in our cities, including socialization, leisure activities, and commerce. It is a design and planning concept based on how Latinos organize and use space. Proponents of this movement argue that Latino urban living in modern American towns and cities can incorporate many of the principal tenets of new urbanism: compact urban form, pedestrian activity, public transportation, sustainability, recycling, and active use of public and private spaces. Latino Urbanism strategies show designers, public policymakers, academics, and business owners examples of enabling approaches for how Latino communities can revitalize suburban neighborhoods and obsolete and underutilized retail corridors, improving both local economies and the quality of life for residents.

General Overviews

Scholars have focused on implications of the growing Latino population in the United States and its impacts on the dynamics of our built environment. The literature highlights the increasing presence of Latinos and their role in shaping and incorporating cultural needs in the development of American metropolises (Davis 2000, Diaz 2005, Diaz 2012, and Fernandez 2012 [cited under Latino Places, Urban Spaces]). Key areas include emerging new geographies and sociopolitical constructions in cities and regions (Odem and Lacy 2009 and Valle and Torres 2000). Specific topics that define Latino Urbanism include the appropriation and (re)adaptation of physical space for new purposes based on cultural expression and the emergence of multiethnic coalitions. The second through fifth sections (Latino Places, Urban Spaces, Appropriation of Space and Everyday Urbanism, Revitalization and Latino Placemaking, Uncovering the Reinterpretation of Place, Contesting Space and Struggle for New Meaning) each tackle specific aspects of placemaking practices in Latino Urbanism, with case studies used to illustrate major points.

  • Agius, Vallejo J. Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804781398.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    Provides an in-depth investigation of how Mexican immigrants and their descendants, who are seen as a threat to American society by mass media and politicians, achieve upward mobility and enter the middle class. Offers a new understanding of the Mexican American.

  • Arreola, Daniel D. Hispanic Spaces, Latino Places: Community and Cultural Diversity in Contemporary America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.

    E-mail Citation »

    Presents Latino cultures and their linkages to place and goes beyond the common approaches to the study of demographic, racial, political, and cultural issues, instead focusing on Latinos’ different geographies and social adjustments to diverse places. Chapters contain explicit field survey methodologies from diverse case studies.

  • Davis, Mike. Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the US City. London: Verso, 2000.

    E-mail Citation »

    Explores the Latinization of the American urban landscape and discusses the impact it has had on society, the economy, and politics. The author argues that Latinos are bringing redemptive energies to the neglected, worn-out cores and inner suburbs of many metropolitan areas.

  • Diaz, David R. Barrio Urbanism: Chicanos, Planning, and American Cities. New York: Routledge, 2005.

    E-mail Citation »

    Traces the movement of Latinos (primarily Chicanos) into American cities from Mexico and then describes the problems facing them in those cities. It then shows how the planning profession and developers have consistently failed to meet Latinos’ needs because of both poverty and racism.

  • Diaz, David R. Latino Urbanism: The Politics of Planning, Policy and Redevelopment. New York: New York University Press, 2012.

    E-mail Citation »

    Provides a national perspective on Latina/Latino urban policy, addressing a wide range of planning policy issues that impact both Latinas and Latinos in the United States, as well as the nation as a whole. Traces how cities develop, function, and are affected by socioeconomic change.

  • Lara, Jesus J., ed. “Special Issue: Latino Urbanism: Placemaking in 21st Century American Cities.” Journal of Urbanism 5.2–3 (2012): 95–275.

    E-mail Citation »

    This issue expands upon the growing literature on Latino Urbanism, focusing on its role in shaping and incorporating Latino needs in the development of American cities. The contributors highlight the important role that Latinos play in shaping the built environment and what that role implies for the future.

  • Odem, Mary E., and Elaine Cantrell Lacy. Latino Immigrants and the Transformation of the U.S. South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    Unveils the dramatic demographic changes in the ethnoracial landscape of the southern United States in the early 21st century. Covers diverse topics such as the impact of Latinos in small communities and the role of religion, which has often been overlooked in immigration scholarship.

  • Rios, Michael, Leonardo Vazquez, and Lucrezia Miranda. Diálogos: Placemaking in Latino Communities. London: Routledge, 2012.

    E-mail Citation »

    This volume situates placemaking in Latino communities in the context of contemporary planning practice and provides insightful analyses of the roles of designers and planners in Latino placemaking. Essays describes how Latino communities produce, appropriate, and sometimes resist placemaking discourses and practices.

  • Suro, Roberto, and Audrey Singer. Latino Growth in Metropolitan America: Changing Patterns, New Locations. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy with the Pew Hispanic Center, 2002.

    E-mail Citation »

    Provides a comprehensive analysis of the US Hispanic population across the 100 largest metropolitan areas. It provides evidence that the growth of the Latino population is no longer limited to just a few regions.

  • Valle, Victor M., and Rodolfo D. Torres. Latino Metropolis. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

    E-mail Citation »

    Offers important insight into the social and political construction of large cities throughout the United States. It reveals ideas about ethnicity and Latino identity and provides penetrating analysis of the social, economic, cultural, and political consequences of the growth of the Latino working-class populations in Los Angeles.

  • Villa, Raúl. Barrio-logos: Space and Place in Urban Chicano Literature and Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.

    E-mail Citation »

    The author explores how California Chicano/Chicana activists, journalists, writers, artists, and musicians have used expressive culture to oppose the community-destroying forces of urban renewal programs and massive freeway development and to create and defend a sense of Chicano place identity. He also provides an overview of how Chicano communities and culture have grown in response to conflicts over space ever since the United States’ annexation of Mexican territory in the 1840s.

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