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On the Plaza: The Politics of Public Space and Culture Paperback – April 15, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0292747142 ISBN-10: 0292747144 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1st edition (April 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0292747144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292747142
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is one of the best accounts of a place's history and meaning I have ever read. Low's work should be widely used in courses in architecture, urban design, planning, landscape architecture, and historic preservation, as well as Latin American studies and anthropology. What a wonderful book!" Dolores Hayden, Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and American Studies, Yale University "Combining ethnography, history, and spatial theory, this interdisciplinary book brings the Latin American plaza to life as a spatial expression of culture and politics. A paean to the plaza as democratic public space, it is as absorbing as it is unconventional." Neil Smith, Department of Geography and Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture, Rutgers University

Review

This is one of the best accounts of a place's history and meaning I have ever read. Low's book should be widely read and used in courses in architecture, urban design, planning, landscape architecture, and historic preservation, as well as Latin American studies and anthropology. What a wonderful book! (Dolores Hayden, Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and American Studies, Yale University)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Hamlow HALL OF FAME on March 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Professor Setha M. Low's book On The Plaza-The Politics of Public Space and Culture discusses the interrelationship of public space and culture. She primarily focuses on two plazas in San Jose, Costa Rica, the Parque Central and the Plaza de la Cultura, while also making references to other places such as Tenochtitlan in Mexico. Using ethnographic, ethnohistorical, microgeographical, and statistic sampling methods, Low argues that "these culturally and politically charged public spaces are essential to everyday civic life and the maintenance of a participatory democracy."
Low describes the background of Costa Rica, going into its population, ethnic, religious, and urban proportion distribution. She explains the rise and fall of consecutive monocultural economies, such as cacao, tobacco, bananas, and coffee, its tradition of democracy, and the economic nadir in the 1980's. She then goes into the history of San Jose from colonial times to the present, including the devastating effects of the economic downtown and the trade vacuum created by NAFTA.
She then explores the history of the two plazas. Parque Central dates back to 1761, and is the larger and more densely populated of the two. It became a center for merchants, grocers, lottery ticket sellers, and sundry vendors, as well as shoppers and customers. Also, the trend of regulars sitting in the same benches over time gives Parque Central an ambience of traditional social life and hence less contested space between various social groups.
The Plaza de la Cultura, constructed between 1976 and 1982, was built as a contrast to the closed nature of Parque Central, as a more open space for the middle and lower classes. Central to the plaza was the National Theatre with a museum housing the country's Precolumbian gold.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Jimenez on February 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read this book mainly because as a Tico (Costa Rican) I was very surprised somebody would write a whole book about a couple of places that for me are part of my everyday life. Besides having been to the Plazas of Europe and seen on TV the huge plazas that some other Latin American countries (Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, etc) have I was curious to find out the reason behind her choosing of the Parque Central and the Plaza de la Cultura for this work.
I really liked what I read, she has the benefit of having seen these two public spaces in the city of San Jose, Costa Rica evolve over the last 30 years, from the days we used to consider the Plaza de la Cultura not a nice place to go to, the days when we were outraged by foreign musicians and artist taking over a ground that was supposed to be for the display of our culture till nowadays that the Plaza has turned the city into a sort of fish-tank from where the tourists and US retirees can leisurely watch Costa Ricans as we go about our daily lives.
I truly recommend this book.
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