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Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the US City (Haymarket Series) [Hardcover]

Mike Davis
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

18 May 2000 Haymarket Series
Winner of the 2001 Carey McWilliams Award.
This paperback edition of Mike Davis's investigation into the Latinization of America incorporates the extraordinary findings of the 2000 Census as well as new chapters on the militarization of the Border and violence against immigrants.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books (18 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859847714
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859847718
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 14.3 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,523,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"A non-romantic, optimistic view of the role Latinos will play in revitalizing dead urban areas and a dying American Left."--"San Francisco Bay Guardian"

"Another contemporary classic of Urban Studies from Davis. A wake-up call for anyone who cares about the future of American cities."--"Kirkus Reviews"

"Fans of Mike Davis's slash-and-burn prose and take-no-prisoners credo will not be disappointed ... His new bo0ok about citified Latinos serves up more helpings of the elegant muckraking that thrilled the readers of "City of Quartz" and "Ecology of Fear.""--Andrew Ross, "Bookforum"

"Ricky Martin, Sammy Samosa, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera--something is happening to American popular culture. Mike Davis pulls together the startling facts, identifies the underlying trends and ... brings his characteristic energy, eye for detail and exhaustive research to bear on an important phenomenon that remains mostly unexplored."--Jon Wiener, "In These Times"

"This well-researched, well-written book is driven by powerful feelings of indignation at the hardships Latinos are suffering in the United states today."--"Washington Post"

About the Author

Mike Davis is the author of several books including "Planet of Slums," "City of Quartz," "Ecology of Fear," "Late Victorian Holocausts," and "Magical Urbanism." He was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He lives in Papa'aloa, Hawaii.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
"Magical Urbanism" is a study of Hispanic communities in the USA, their histories, and their effects upon their towns and cities.
The book points out that Hispanic communities are among the fastest growing in the USA, and are thus likely to become increasingly important economically and politically. Each chapter of the book deals with particular aspects of the broader topic, from the opening chapter outlining the demographic position of Hispanic communities in America's larger cities, through to chapters specifically about immigration, the built environment, economics, labour and cultural exchange, to name a few. It's a refreshing read, making a number of points that usually escape mass media debates on immigration and minority (although as Davis points out, in some cities, Hispanic residents actually form a majority) communities. Davis also writes eloquently about the problems these communities encounter, paticularly well in the chapter "The Puerto Rican Tragedy", pointing out that obvious solutions (the granting of citizenship to some illegal immigrants) don't always work as expected.
I'd recommend this book to anyone with an interest in immigration/minority community issues. It can be a rather dry read at times (there are paragraphs that seem to be composed entirely of densely packed percentages and figures), but this is a book that, in my opinion, is well worth your time.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Where's the Magic? 25 Jan 2008
By David Liebers - Published on Amazon.com
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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Limited Scope, Misleading Title 18 Feb 2007
By Jeremy Real - Published on Amazon.com
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.
28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hypothetical, Not Inevitable 23 Jun 2001
By Paul Frandano - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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!
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book 2 Feb 2013
By Jessica - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite book by Davis 21 Dec 2012
By Edot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
- 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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