George J. SánchezJul 6, 2021
How a Los Angeles Neighborhood Became the Future of American Democracy
University of California Press 2021
The vision for America’s cross-cultural future lies beyond the multicultural myth of the "great melting pot." That idea of diversity often imagined ethnically distinct urban districts—the Little Italys, Koreatowns, and Jewish quarters of American cities—built up over generations and occupying spaces that excluded one another. But the neighborhood of Boyle Heights shows us something altogether different: a dynamic, multiracial community that has forged solidarity through a history of social and political upheaval.
Boyle Heights: How a Los Angeles Neighborhood Became the Future of American Democracy (University of California Press, 2021) is an in-depth history of the Los Angeles neighborhood, showcasing the potent experiences of its residents, from early contact between Spanish colonizers and native Californians to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the hunt for hidden Communists among the Jewish population, negotiating citizenship and belonging among Latino migrants and Mexican American residents, and beyond. Through each period and every struggle, the residents of Boyle Heights have maintained remarkable solidarity across racial and ethnic lines, acting as a unified polyglot community even as their tribulations have become more explicitly racial in nature. Boyle Heights is immigrant America embodied, and it can serve as the true beacon on a hill toward which the country can strive in a time when racial solidarity and civic resistance have never been in greater need.
David-James Gonzales (DJ) is Assistant Professor of History at Brigham Young University. He is a historian of migration, urbanization, and social movements in the U.S., and specializes in Latina/o/x politics and social movements.