Hispanics are quickly transforming the United States both through sheer numbers and their culture, according to Mike Davis. "Salsa is becoming the predominant ethnic flavor--and rhythm--in major metropolitan areas," he writes, and Spanish surnames are growing at five times the rate of the general population (José is now the most popular name for baby boys in California and Texas). Davis, the author of City of Quartz
and Ecology of Fear
, says the United States is undergoing what he calls "Latin Americanization." In Magical Urbanism
, which is short by comparison, he doesn't traffic in tired rhetoric about the magic of multiculturalism or the wonders of ethnic diversity--but he does come down hard against those who resist Latin Americanization. He writes of "an INS police state with sweeping powers away from the border," blasts the opponents of bilingual education, and hopes that Latino immigrants will rejuvenate the American labor movement. The book lacks a strong central thesis; it's more a collection of 15 essays, rich with anecdotes, on topics such as U.S. demographic trends, transnational neighborhoods, and "the Dickensian underworld of day labor." Old fans of Davis will definitely want to check out this latest offering, as will readers interested in a quick look at the face of America's future. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
SUNY sociologist Davis (Ecology of Fear, etc.) predicts that the many national origins denoted by the term "Latino" will become less distinct as U.S. Latino identity undergoes its own melting pot process through intermarriages between different Latino nationalities. The "cosmopolitan result is a rich, constantly evolving" Latino culture that may become a "new American counter-culture" or a "new hegemonic global culture." Because U.S. cities boast the most "diverse blendings of Latin American culture in the entire hemisphere," Davis foresees these metropolises reshaping "hemispheric as well as national U.S. identities." Much of this concise and insightful book explores not only cultural syncretism, but the practical aspects of a huge shift in American identity. Even if all immigration stopped short, Latinos would still be destined to become the largest "ethnic" group in the U.S. by mid-century because of their high fertility rate (for women born in Mexico, it is twice that of North American Anglo women) and the younger median age of the U.S. Latino population. Davis examines the "Dickensian underworld of day labor" in New York, the "interpenetration... of national temporalities, settlement forms, ecologies and levels of development" along la frontera (the borderlands), as well as the shifting realities of labor and lifestyles in the Midwest. He portrays all of this as an unfolding epic drama leading toward a "Latino metropolis that will... wear a proud union label," one in which equal opportunity in education and affirmative action policies will become myths of a long-gone 20th century. No matter the ethnicity of the reader, this is a disquieting book, not because of the demographic shifts Davis envisions, but because of the social upheaval that seems inevitable. (June)
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