Planetizen Takes a Look at Latino Urbanism


Josh Stephens has written an interesting and intelligent article over at Planetizen entitled, "Out Of The Enclave: Latinos Adapt, And Adapt To, The American City."Intentionally or not, the article shows that Latino communities existing inside urban areas are way ahead of the rest of the curve when it comes to creating public spaces in the misdesigned urban areas we call home.  In short, while the rest of America was building cities around the car, they were fighting to reclaim public space in communities abandoned by Caucasians that weren’t built with public gatherings in mind.

To wet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from the article.  Now get to reading, there’s going to be a pop quiz on Monday:

Latinos are also prolific gardeners, especially in places where
community gardens are accessible, and they use temporary farmers
markets as community gathering places rather than just venues to buy
produce. And whereas homeowners association guidelines often dictate
what shade of paint a suburban house may wear, Latino neighborhoods are
adorned with murals, hand-painted storefronts, and other
“do-it-yourself design interventions,” according to Rojas.

Though it may look like idle loitering, Latino social life and even
commerce take place on streetcorners, strip-mall parking lots, and
sidewalks, many of which are cramped and narrow yet provide crucial
space in which day laborers find jobs and street vendors sell food and
wares from pushcarts and vans. And because their rates of car ownership
are relatively low, Latinos tend to use sidewalks for the novel purpose
of walking.

“Latinos are going to continue to take advantage of any open space
that’s available,” said Los Angeles City Council Member Ed Reyes. “We
come from a cultural tradition of mercados and central plazas.”

Photo: Planetizen

  • Damian you linked the wrong story. I think you meant to link this:

    I think this is great. One of the many issues I have with the sustainability/environmental movement is the almost purposely segregation of white and middle class and everyone else.

    The environmental movement seems to think it is above discussing race, but then seems to look exclusively like one group and then wonders why people find that problematic.

    I think the exclusion of Asian-American and Latinos in the urban homestead/sustainable movement in the major press points to a larger problem. Is this movement about selling or about really changing how we live, because if it is about the latter there have been people successfully doing this (as the article you pointed out) for years, without the benefit of grants, clubs or how to books and those people have a wealth of information that I know they would be willing to share.

  • Most immigrant groups are GREAT users of public space, but it’s too simplistic to just identify them by nationality/ethnicity; it’s more complex than that.

    For instance, older-generation Armenians are very good users of public space, if you go to Little Armenia, the sight of older Armenian men playing cards while sitting on milk cartons is not an uncommon one. The younger generation, though, is very pro-sprawl and more autocentric. The Korean community is similar, though it more has to do with the layout of business districts than where people converge.

    Also geography plays a role. For example, Filipinos who live in the central Los Angeles area (i.e. Historic Filipinotown) are generally good users of public space; but their suburban counterparts in the SFV and SGV are pathetic users of public space, to the point that they refuse to get out of their cars at all costs.

  • Militant I was reading a story in the New Yorker, I can’t remember the name of the story it was in the print edition. In it a woman told her story. She was African-American and upper middle class and some point in the essay she asked her father as a little girl why they couldn’t have roses and apples in their yard and her father essentially said that was what poor black people did. I am going to think that is probably similar to the thinking of many communities of color once they have “made it” and SGV you have to understand the Asian-Americans who came to the US after the 1960s are from larger cities (specifically the Chinese) and were middle class, so they have a mindset similar to middle class people in the US or Canada or the UK. I think Chinese-Americans in the SGV get a bad rap. I think people think they are “uppity”…lol….you know how dare they be just like upper-middle class “American” people, for god sake they are immigrants. They are suppose to be on their knees before they can dare to be full fledge marathon running consumption addicts.

    I had a Chinese-American boyfriend with an expensive car and the cops out there (SGV) seemed to have a hard on for him and it was purely out of jealousy, because he wasn’t doing anything.He had a Mercedes and he was young, that’s not against the law or is it?

    Cultures as you inferred are not monolithic, but there should definitely be a diversity in regards to coverage and I don’t mean diversity in regards to every ethnic group, but all of these sustainable stories read exactly the same.

    Grad student artist got bored and did blah, blah…

    The above linked story is a bit lacking in some aspects and it’s unfortunate that communities of color can’t get covered in a way that’s not about what they are (or rather a stereotype of what they are), but what they are doing maybe at some point we will get there, but in general the mainstream press the people who have the power to greenlight stories and get published interaction with people outside their class group and racial group has probably been minimal, so you get stories that seem like a person looking in on animals and thinking that they are neat.

    This is a step in the right direction, but it’s no where near the destination.


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