New York was not just a leading American metropolis in the nineteenth century, it was a forum for independence movements that facilitated political activism for revolutionaries working and writing throughout the Caribbean. Racial Migrations charts the actions of Caribbean-born artisans and journalists who came together in New York as part of La Liga education society. These men and women, from writers to midwives to cigar makers, discussed and debated anti-colonial movements and, through their education and cultural associations, circulated those ideas back throughout the Caribbean world to turn into political organizing and to fuel nationalist independence movements. As they did, they worked to untangle the system of racial hierarchy that organized European influence in the Caribbean and undermined nationalist ideals, illustrating the challenging racial entanglements of anticolonialism.
Imperial Metropolis offers a new look at American city building as imperialist development. In this history of urban development and international capitalism, Kim examines the border-crossing web of financial and political relationships between Los Angeles and Mexico at the turn of the century. Mexican minerals, oil, and real estate helped fueled the rise of Los Angeles from a modest western city in the late nineteenth century to a leading global metropolis in the twentieth century. Investors like Griffith, Bradbury, and Chandler, whose names are inscribed on the Los Angeles landscape, built their fortunes with Mexican resources. Kim argues that the resulting inequality and exploitation of workers and rural farmers in Mexico helped give rise to the Mexican revolution that deposed Porfirio Diaz. This process severed the financial ties between Los Angeles and Mexico and forced Angeleno investors to redevelop their networks and business connections to Mexico. They did this through the revision of international agreements and institutions such as the United State’s Good Neighbor Policy and promotion of the International Monetary Fund, recruiting national and global institutions to structure the web of international investments and markets.
It can be daunting to tackle a city as well studied in urban history as Chicago and convey something not just entirely new, but that powerfully recalibrates long held understandings. Mike Amezcua’s “A Machine in the Barrio: Chicago’s Conservative Colonia and the Remaking of Latino Politics in the 1960s and 1970s” does precisely that. Through lively prose and convincing evidence, Amezcua takes a well-known case–the rise, consolidation, and evolution of machine politics in Richard J. Daley-era Chicago–and offers a novel interpretation that highlights unexpected racial politics and alliances, in turn presaging under-examined tensions at the heart of national level politics in the United States today. Amezcua’s extensive gathering and meticulous use of oral sources are especially compelling. They offer ample sense of how laborious, emotionally and empirically, it is to do work outside the archive, tracking down people and evidence often left out of written records but that hold rich historical treasure, much of it requiring deft navigation of urban space, habitation, and community. In its argument, style, method, and impact, “A Machine in the Barrio” is urban history at its best.
In “The Politics of Filth,” Tasha Rijke-Epstein describes how residents of Mahajanga, Madagascar, responded to French colonial impositions of sanitation technology while developing their own waste management strategies. Rijke-Epstein’s article is theoretically ambitious and methodologically rigorous, telling a compelling century-long history of an often-neglected topic using ethnography, oral history interviews, and archival research in multiple languages. Rijke-Epstein evaluates conflicting responses to the changing regimes of waste management as residents negotiate differences along the lines of gender, class, and citizenship. Ultimately, the article clarifies how a history of sanitation points urban planners today towards more fruitful solutions to the problems and politics of filth. The article is an essential read for all urban studies scholars.
Regalado traces the ways Latinx workers forged urban visions for post-1945 New York City. Analyzing a broad range of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants as they moved across greater New York City, with fine-grained research and clear writing, he reveals the resilience and creativity of Latinx New Yorkers who took on the challenges of a declining city, contested postwar capitalism, and forged communities, politics, and identities that modify our understandings of urban decline as well as urban revitalization. Regalado reveals how Latinx workers in the garment industries and electronic manufacturing defy simplistic narratives of a “postindustrial” city, entrepreneurs in bodegas and other neighborhood-based enterprises carved a political space for themselves while pursuing elusive economic mobility, bankers strategized for racial capitalism, and drug workers engaged in housing battles, each repurposing racist housing containment into resilient communities with consequences for national urban policy.