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October 25, 2015

SESAH Article Prize Announced at 2015 Annual Meeting

1013bIt is a commonplace of two generations of scholarship about urban history that the center city has declined in the face of unending suburbanization.  Andrew Sandoval-Strausz resoundingly contradicts this by arguing that recent changes in urban status call for a new urban history accounting for transnational population shifts and many regenerated urban centers.  Directly responding to Kenneth Jackson, author of the influential 1985 Crabgrass Frontier, Sandoval-Strausz notes “of the twenty-five most populous cities in 1950, eighteen had lost residents by 1980; but if we refer to that same measure today, we find that of the twenty-five biggest cities in 1980, seventeen gained residents over the subsequent thirty years.”  He goes on to note, “The single largest factor in this reversal has been a rapid increase in the population of Latinos, whose numbers have reached 50 million—one out of every six people in the United States.”  For those of us familiar with some of the famously decimated cities of the United States now experiencing a regeneration such as “Pilsen–Little Village in Chicago; the North Corona section of Queens, New York; the Mitchell Street area in Milwaukee; Barry Square in Hartford, Connecticut; vast stretches of Central, East, and South Los Angeles; and practically all of Miami,” this thesis is persuasive.

Notably, the strength of this article is in its fine balance between broad historical argument, and local field research.  Many lengthy informational notes cite the great depth and breadth of developing transnational research, however the article focusses on one neighborhood, Oak Cliff in Dallas, Texas.  Telltale signs of Hispanicization include aspects such as the adoption of a Mexican-inspired kiosko or open pavilion in a newly established plaza, an enhanced urban character based on walking, and notable changes in the “ownership, scale, and location of businesses” usually supporting a dense downtown to the exclusion of the autostrip.  Ultimately, these and other characteristics indicate a rich reinvestment in this Texas city.  Sandoval-Strausz ultimately shows this is more than just an American phenomenon, but rather a hemispheric one where “between 1950 and 2000 more than a quarter billion people moved to or were born in Latin American cities.”  In all, Andrew Sandoval-Strausz has richly evoked the vitality of a single urban settlement in the SESAH territory, but his suggestive work echoes far beyond, earning his work the Award of Excellence.