Race, Place, and Reform in Mexican Los Angeles:
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by Stephanie Lewthwaite
Beginning near the end of the nineteenth century, a generation of reformers set their sights on the growing Mexican community in Los Angeles. Experimenting with a variety of policies on health, housing, education, and labor, these reformers—settlement workers, educationalists, Americanizers, government officials, and employers—attempted to transform the Mexican community with a variety of distinct and often competing agendas.
In Race, Place, and Reform in Mexican Los Angeles, Stephanie Lewthwaite presents evidence from a myriad of sources that these varied agendas of reform consistently supported the creation of racial, ethnic, and cultural differences across Los Angeles. Reformers simultaneously promoted acculturation and racialization, creating a “landscape of difference” that significantly shaped the place and status of Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans from the Progressive era through the New Deal.
The book journeys across the urban, suburban, and rural spaces of Greater Los Angeles as it moves through time and examines the rural–urban migration of Mexicans on both a local and a transnational scale. Part 1 traverses the world of Progressive reform in urban Los Angeles, exploring the link between the region’s territorial and industrial expansion, early campaigns for social and housing reform, and the emergence of a first-generation Mexican immigrant population. Part 2 documents the shift from official Americanization and assimilation toward nativism and exclusion. Here Lewthwaite examines competing cultures of reform and the challenges to assimilation from Mexican nationalists and American nativists. Part 3 analyzes reform during the New Deal, which spawned the active resistance of second-generation Mexican Americans.
Race, Place, and Reform in Mexican Los Angeles achieves a full, broad, and nuanced account of the various—and often contradictory—efforts to reform the Mexican population of Los Angeles. With a transnational approach grounded in historical context, this book will appeal to students of history, cultural studies, and literary studies
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