In Search of the Mexican Beverly Hills: Latino Suburbanization in Postwar Los Angeles
(Rutgers University Press, 2018) by Professor Jerry Gonzalez
challenges conventional interpretations of postwar U.S. history by focusing on the hidden story of the central role Mexican Americans played in the suburbanization of Los Angeles. Examining the expansion of Metropolitan Los Angeles along its eastern fringe after World War II, Gonzalez explains how Mexican colonias
served as “stepping stones toward suburbanization” as real estate developers looked to these working-class ethnic neighborhoods as promising locations for their burgeoning master-planned communities in the 1950s and 1960s. Whereas Mexican colonias
had previously been ignored by local officials—functioning as de facto
segregated communities—theses spaces were desirable due to their affordability and proximate location to Los Angeles’ industrial corridor.
Capitalizing on the postwar economic boom that transformed LA into a center for aerospace and automobile manufacturing, socially mobile Mexican Americans also found opportunity in the suburbs of the Greater Eastside. However, as Gonzalez reveals, the Mexican American path to the American Dream of middle-class homeownership was fraught by a mixture of inclusion and exclusion that challenges the standard “white flight” narrative of postwar suburban history. Indeed, while some were either displaced by or excluded from suburban homeownership, others pushed backed by engaging in individual acts of resistance and local politics to claim their rightful place LA’s suburbs. In the process, Gonzalez argues, Mexican Americans forged nuanced ethnic and class identities that both transformed themselves and the new suburban communities they inhabited.
David-James Gonzales (DJ) is incoming Assistant Professor of History at Brigham Young University (Fall 2018). He is a historian of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, the development of multi-ethnic/racial cities, and the evolution of Latina/o identity and politics. His research centers on the relationship between Latina/o politics and the metropolitan development of Orange County, CA throughout the 20th century. You may follow him on Twitter @djgonzoPhD.