Abstract Barrios

The Crises of Latinx Visibility in Cities

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 47 illustrations Published: September 2020

Author: Johana Londoño

American Studies, Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Sociology > Urban Studies

In Abstract Barrios Johana Londoño examines how Latinized urban landscapes are made palatable for white Americans. Such Latinized urban landscapes, she observes, especially appear when whites feel threatened by concentrations of Latinx populations, commonly known as barrios. Drawing on archival research, interviews, and visual analysis of barrio built environments, Londoño shows how over the past seventy years urban planners, architects, designers, policy makers, business owners, and other brokers took abstracted elements from barrio design—such as spatial layouts or bright colors—to safely “Latinize” cities and manage a long-standing urban crisis of Latinx belonging. The built environments that resulted ranged from idealized notions of authentic Puerto Rican culture in the interior design of New York City’s public housing in the 1950s, which sought to diminish concerns over Puerto Rican settlement, to the Fiesta Marketplace in downtown Santa Ana, California, built to counteract white flight in the 1980s. Ultimately, Londoño demonstrates that abstracted barrio culture and aesthetics sustain the economic and cultural viability of normalized, white, and middle-class urban spaces.


Abstract Barrios does a masterful job in moving beyond the hype of the ‘Latinization’ of US urban areas and instead offers a deeply historicized account of the rise of Latinx-majority cities.  Crafting a theoretical analysis of the role of Latinx brokers in the late twentieth century, Johana Londoño helps us understand how urban designers use everything from bright colors to ‘Latin’ architecture to domesticate the urban barrio and prepare it for gentrification and the passive inclusion of Latinxs in US urban society.” — George J. Sanchez, author of Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900–1945

“A captivating account of the everyday moments that produce the barrio, Abstract Barrios offers a unique view into the built environment of Latinidad. the book's ambition and vastness singularly fills gaping holes in the urban planning and architecture scholarship on Latinxs. Providing a wide-ranging view of how barrios are made and the actors involved in their making, this special and unique book is a crucial work of scholarship for Latinx studies, urban studies, and urban sociology.” — Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores, author of Locked In, Locked Out: Gated Communities in a Puerto Rican City

“Londoño employs an innovative multidisciplinary approach in her methodology in Abstract Barrios. She incorporates archival materials, interviews, visual texts (i.e. posters, photographs) and criticism from architecture, history, urban studies, Latinx studies, ethnic studies and cultural studies to provide a more complete portrait of Latinx urban barrios. By doing so, Londoño opens a critical dialogue to reconsider the gaps in these traditional disciplines and to rethink the emerging field of Latinx urban studies.” — Juanita Heredia, The Latinx Project


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Johana Londoño is Assistant Professor of Latin American, Caribbean, and US Latino Studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: The Trouble with Representing Barrios  vii
Acknowledgments  xix
Introduction. Brokers and the Visibility of Barrios  1
1. Design for the "Puerto Rican Problem"  23
2. Colors and the "Culture of Poverty"  70
3. A Fiesta for "White Flight"  112
4. Barrio Affinities and the Diversity Problem  143
5. Brokering, or Gentrification by Another Name  183
Coda. Colorful Abstraction as Critique  218
Notes  227
Bibliography  271
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0965-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0879-8