A La Mona from Magical Urbanism Alessandra Mociezuma Encuentro for Popular Education Our call to action is that you, student, labor and community artists and activists, join us in continuing our collective poptdar education. All are invited, EPE13 is free and’open to civil society. We are encouraging everyone to share -their talents, skills, histories and hearts. We are also accepting specific proposals for discussions and workshops that relate to three http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edui munkaj/encuentro.htm IEPEI [email protected] yahoo. cony. 512-708-9291 that the politics of anti-immigrant racism has crested. Davis’ account is rich and provocative, gracefully blending large-scale socioeconomic data and arguments with telling anecdotes and the stories of ordinary people. It bears the mark of his earlier works, innovative studies of United States labor history, the development of Los Angeles, radical politics and the surprising interactions of natural ecology and human institutions in Southern California. Where most academic historians and political scientists write for other specialists, Davis tackles big subjects, makes sweeping pronouncements and seeks and finds a wide audience. At times, though, his enthusiasm gets the better of him. Two years ago, a Los Angeles real estate developer, angered by what he perceived as Davis’ misrepresentation of the dark side of the City of Angels, launched a series of long missives questioning Davis’ research and exposing numerous factual errors and exaggerations. Subsequent examinations embarrassed Davis by confirming his occasional sloppiness. Together with his avowedly Marxist politics and his lack of a Ph.D., these accusations have made it difficult for one of the most widely published and read observers of California to find an academic job there. Davis has overreached himself in Magical Urbanism, but not by playing fast and loose with sources or facts. Although the book’s subtitle is “Latinos reinvent the U.S. city,” at times it seems that it should be “Latinos reinvent Southern California.” While his delineation of the national and hemispheric dimensions of the rise of the Latino population is graceful, Davis is at his most observant when on his home turf. There are important differences, though, between race relations in California and elsewhere that a book of this size cannot adequately explore. AfriCan American/ Latino relations are both more difficult and more politically decisive in Houston, Dallas, Miami, New York and Chicago. Minority elected officials often find themselves fighting with one another for control of central cities marginalized by suburban, white economic power. Some lighterskinned Latinos, particularly in Miami, may be following in the footsteps of European immigrants such as the Irish, by assuming the status of whiteness in order to gain full acceptance into the national community. The involvement of Hispanic cops in many of New York City’s appalling police shootings of unarmed black men gives some hint of the potential for a new racial animosity to overshadow what could be a powerful coalition. Similarly, the hope that labor organizing “is the most powerful strategy for insuring the representation of immigrants’ socioeconomic as well as cultural and linguistic rights” finds less confirmation outside the Golden State. Labor leaders elsewhere have been slower to organize immigrant workers, and more willing simply to enjoy their entrenched positions. In other places, Texas included, unions remain far too weak to fulfill this role. But nations, like people, are not slaves of the past. Davis’ compelling portrayal of an epochal transformation of the United States is a plea to seize the possibilities of the future as much as it is an effort to understand the present. He is equal parts prophet and observer. In the decades to come, perhaps the defeat of Mexico in 1848 will prove to be a watershed not because it helped catapult an Anglo-Saxon country to new heights of power, but because it eventually created a truly multi-racial nation. 0 Ben Johnson teaches history at the California Institute of Technology. Next year he will teach at UT-San Antonio. OCTOBER 6, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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