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Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the U.S. Big City
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on February 2, 2013
Needed to have this book for my History class. This was the first one we read. I enjoyed the true life stories however reading about how society and human beings treat one another was a little disturbing. Great book and very insightful! Thanks.
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on February 28, 2015
I got it for my son since he took a class which he need it this book and it looks like it's helping him
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on December 29, 2014
Controversial and eye opening
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on December 15, 2014
Good read
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on December 21, 2012
- as usually well researched and elegantly stated
- for a more substantiated read I recommend City of Quartz or Ecology of Fear
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on June 23, 2001
Mike Davis is our premier bare-knuckled Marxist-savant polemicist, doing prodigious amounts of research on important topics and writing in a molten style that literally pulls your eyes down the page. For these reasons alone, attention must be paid. (This is difficult advice to a nation of "comfort readers," who--far from being provoked by their nighttime reading--love to curl up with a good Danielle Steele until the Sandman comes.) Whatever other functions a Davis book serves, it's an in-your-face test of the reader's mettle. ...

Davis paints what seems to me a more than plausible vision of a Hispanic/Latino future that I'll bet you haven't given much thought to (unless you live in SoCal or along the southern border). One useful thing about demography is that a simple extrapolation will get the analyst to several plausible hypotheses about things to come. This is one service Davis has performed. One of the useful mental exercises Davis sends you off on once he makes his preliminary case (of a Latino/Hispanic plurality by 2050) prompts you to comtemplate the coming contours of national level politics, immigration policy, relations with Central and Latin America--in other words, this book can rattle your mental universe. And his chapter on "transnational suburbs"--in which he analyzes bilocated Latino communities that, in our internet and cheap-transportation age, retain a deep involvement in both their native and immigrant communities--is, for me, worth the price of the book.

This is a useful tutorial about the drift of our demographic destiny in a "globalized" world, but the picture Davis paints is by no means inevitable. Second and third generation immigrant communities tend to assimilate to the dominant culture through a variety of means (although Davis tends to argue that contemporary immigrant communities are driven by walls of discrimination back upon themselves in ways earlier immigrants in the second and third generations were not). The future is seldom, in any significant respect, a straight-line extrapolation of any trend. And Davis's great hope for the mobilization of the heretofore inchoate political might of the new immigrant communities--a revivified labor movement--seems, at best, a pipe dream, but one that more than a few commentators see well within the realm of possibility, as income differentials widen and a pronounced underclass sentiment proliferates among the have-nots.

In all, a quick, stimulating, worthy read. And for those parents who wonder which language little Johnny should study in high school, or in his language immersion pre-school, David would probably say--and I'd have to agree--Spanish is a good choice. Venceremos!
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on February 18, 2007
Davis' prose certainly lives up to the hype, keeping me turning the pages. Unfortunately, I never quite found what I was looking for. The book has little to say about Latinos reinventing the U.S. big city, and more to say about how Latinos are being systematically victimized by U.S. big cities (all three of 'em). It deals almost exclusively with the Latino experience in Los Angeles and, to a lesser extent, in Chicago and New York. Although cursory mention is made of other cities with large Latino populations (Houston, San Antonio, Denver, Miami), they are given no in depth treatment.

I expected some discussion of how Latinos are influencing urban forms and the built environment in the U.S. The closest Davis comes is in noting that L.A. doesn't have enough public space to meet the needs of the Latino Community.

There were some high points, the chapter on 'Transnational Suburbs' was fascinating. I also enjoyed the chapter on 'Tropicalizing Cold Urban Space', although its 6 pages seemed too brief.

In short, if you're looking for an unabashadly pro-immigration polemic about the social ills associated with Latino immigration in the U.S., you will love this book. If you want to know about how Latinos will reinvent the U.S. big city, you're sure to be disappointed as only ~25% of this book deals directly with that topic.
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on January 25, 2008
Davis dedicates precious little space to the cultural dynamism that the monograph's title suggests is so important. How has the American city changed how Latinos approach their own cultural memories in a new place, and how have American cities changed accordingly? Davis briefly mentions "the great community murals of [East Los Angeles]," (Davis, 55) glosses over the use of tropical colors on homes, and mentions that the North American metropolis leaves no physical space for the survival economy of the poor." In other words, he hints at issues that deserve attention but doesn't expand on them. The fusion of music brought over from la patria and how it melds with music from other Hispanic nations and with American urban music, or how Latinos have superimposed their ideas about urban space on the American city, would have been interesting topics. This "tropicalization" and "genius for transforming dead urban spaces into convivial social places," (Davis, 55) is central to his argument but is not adequately explained.

His treatment of the border is also unsatisfying. The paradox of increased security and increased trans-border economic fluidity, and the relationship between Mexican corporations and Asian corporations in border cities, both challenge the assumptions of the reader. Evidence shows that the current form of border policing is in place to "assure voters that the threat of alien invasion is being contained," (Davis 27) and only encourages more criminal and complex ways of finding paths across the border. However, being published in the year 2000, Davis escapes thorough assessment of the potential of the border as a means for trafficking biological, chemical or nuclear weapons into the United States that would have been essential if published post 9/11.

Overall, the book has shortcomings in important areas but sheds light on the Latino-American experience and stresses important role this population will play in shaping the future of the United States.
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on November 22, 2002
Although each chapter takes on a different topic--bilingual education, anti-Latino violence, the politics of school funding and the staggeringly high Latino drop-out rate, and labor divisions and income discrepancies, to name a few--a unifying theme is present throughout. Essentially, the book describes the Latino influx, particularly that of the past ten or so years, the effects it has had on U.S. cities, and the Anglo backlash to this "Latinization." Obnoxious back-cover review excerpts not withstanding, the "Magical Urbanism" is not about Jennifer Lopez and the new Anglatin popular culture; it addresses more substantial issues than such reviews give it credit for. The numbers Davis presents are disturbing, but the reasons for finding them so will depend on your perspective: For those who seek to preserve the current Anglo power stucture, the degree of Latinization that the country is undergoing (or simply the sheer number of Hispanics it is absorbing) will be terrifying. To those more sympathetic to the plight of people of color seeking to gain a foothold in this country, the details about the poor living conditions and antipathy toward Latinos will be equally disturbing. The book focuses primarily on New York, Miami, Chicago, and especially southern California, but it provides a good overview of the Latino Condition--though it is worth noting that Davis never loses sight of the heterogeniety of the various peoples encompassed by the term "Latino"--nationwide. Don't let the gravity of the subject matter throw you, though, if you're simply looking for a compelling read; Davis is a master of his art, and "Magical Urbanism" is as hard to put down as a good novel.
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on May 9, 2004
Mike Davis's political writings focus on Latinos in Los Angeles in this book. Of course, this book NEEDED to be written given how Latinos were largely absent in his CITY OF QUARTZ. I agree with the reviewer who says there is nothing really new here; Davis repeats a lot of what Latino scholars have already said (check out his footnotes). On the whole, a decent introduction to Latinos in urban contexts.
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