The Chicano Suburb
Dr. Walter Greason
San Juan, Puerto Rico
18 November 2012
The Barack Obama re-election campaign set the template for twenty-first century political economy in the United States. At the most basic level, the campaign won its victory with a detailed analysis of the demographic composition of the nation, especially the variety of Latin American and Spanish-speaking people. States like Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona have reacted against this emerging reality with hostility and intolerance for many of the last thirty years. Now, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have the chance to chart a new course in shaping a new, inclusive future.
English speakers in the United States used to refer to Spanish speakers as “Hispanics.” By 1990, this term caused controversy among many people of the Spanish diaspora who chose other terms including “Latino,” “Boriqua,” or “Chicano.” Of these names, Chicano has sparked the greatest controversy because of the numerical size of Mexican and Central American migration sine 1980. Chicano migrants continue to fill into places like Norristown, Pennsylvania, and Freehold, New Jersey, changing longstanding patterns of residential displacement and dispossession between different ethnic groups.
Chicano suburbs have existed in the United States throughout most of the twentieth century and may have earlier antecedents, especially in Texas and California. These communities provide extraordinary opportunities to reimagine middle class prosperity before the era of federally subsidized housing after 1945. Furthermore, there is an entire global network of asset management and growth connecting Chicano towns, states, and nations that may provide alternatives to current, dominant conceptions about financial recovery and national productivity. In these systems, movement – specifically regional migration – provides the basis for innovation. This theoretical relationship relies on the importance of human capital as the driver for converting natural resources (wood, stone, ore) into physical assets (factories, transportation).
Metropolitan areas in several states have an immediate opportunity to take advantage of these historical trends. Private institutions like Tornetta Realty and K. Hovnanian must move immediately to bring Chicano leaders into their enterprises for commercial and residential development. Banking leaders like PNC and Sovereign Banks can use these same insights to accelerate the transition of migrant workers from day laborers to junior executives. The process will require lengthy deliberation, but the outcome will be a more successful discourse about economic growth in the future.
Dr. Walter Greason is a Visiting Professor of History at Monmouth University in Long Branch, New Jersey. You can follow him on Twitter (@worldprofessor1).