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Fronteras: 'Barrio America' Explores How Latin American Immigration Revitalized U.S. Cities

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A.K. Sandoval-Strausz's "Barrio America" explores how Latino immigrants revitalized the nation’s cities after decades of disinvestment and white flight.
A.K. Sandoval-Strausz's "Barrio America" explores how Latino immigrants revitalized the nation’s cities after decades of disinvestment and white flight.

The growth of American cities in the post-war years was quickly followed by a steep decline, partially fueled by the phenomenon of white flight. Suburban areas suddenly became populated by white residents who fled their urban areas, particularly after the neighborhoods became more racially diverse.

While young, well-educated urban professionals are credited for revitalizing cities in the 1990s, historian A.K. Sandoval-Strausz argued Latino immigrants are also responsible for stemming the tide of population loss.

In his book, “Barrio America: How Latino Immigrants Saved the American City,” Sandoval-Strausz weaves together oral histories from barrio residents and housing and immigration policies to explore how American neighborhoods were transformed by the presence of Latino immigrants.

While “Barrio America” takes focus on two particular neighborhoods — Chicago’s Little Village and Oak Cliff in Dallas — Sandoval-Strausz believed the cities portray the shifts in urban landscapes.

“Those two kinds of cities have different sort of chronologies and morphologies in terms of when and how they grew up,” Sandoval-Strausz explained. “One more of the industrial age, the other a little bit more of the automobile and post-industrial era. And so I thought that was a good way to represent the two main kinds of urbanization in the country.”

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren