... enchanting ... offers a welcome narrative for our demoralizing political moment. As liberal alliances are torn apart by gentrification, isn’t it soothing to imagine a version of urban renewal that isn’t led by white tech workers who call the police for trespassing when neighbors of color enter their own homes? Picking up Barrio America, I was heartened by the largely upbeat argument Sandoval-Strauz puts forth ... It takes a full 160 pages of the book for Sandoval-Strausz to get to the part of the story where migrantes start showing up in large numbers—the book, until that point, is largely about what pushed white people out of the cities to begin with ... not the tidy narrative of immigrant exceptionalism we’re often offered: It’s something more disturbing, more interesting, and more important ... Sandoval-Strausz does a masterful job here of weaving together interviews with current and former residents of the barrios, along with language from newspapers and government reports from the past 60 years, to piece together how racial logic operates ... Sandoval-Strausz approaches Dolejs and others with enough patience to unpack how various threads of white supremacy evolved across time ... He goes on some especially long detours, and at times, it’s easy to get lost in the vastness of the narrative—not because the writing is dry, but because the ambition of the book is grand.
This essential, timely book recounts the history of urban America, often told in white and Black, through the wide lens of Latino immigration ... Sandoval-Strausz offers a fresh perspective on urban decline and revival ... the book goes beyond conventional history. It alternates between geographical scales, uncovering the links between community, city, nation, and hemisphere. In a dazzling chapter on Latino urbanism, Sandoval-Strausz shows how immigrants’ practices of daily life, brought from their hometowns, reshaped the physical structure of their neighborhoods. Deeply researched, full of insights, and with a powerful message, powerfully told, the story of American cities remains a story of migration.
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 ... Likely to become a staple in Latinx and urban studies.
By documenting the opportunities provided to Latino immigrants as a secondary effect of white discrimination against blacks, Sandoval-Strausz presents a helpful guide to understanding the mechanisms of systemic racism, and he reminds readers that the current immigration debate is grounded in decades of local and national policy. The vibrancy of Latino culture is somewhat missing, however, as Sandoval-Strausz focuses more on statistics than individual community members. This is a useful reference for readers interested in public policy and the history of Latin American immigration.