Latino City

Immigration and Urban Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1945–2000

By Llana Barber

340 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 7 halftones, 2 maps, 1 chart, 1 table, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3134-9
    Published: May 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3133-2
    Published: May 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3135-6
    Published: March 2017

Justice, Power, and Politics

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Latino City explores the transformation of Lawrence, Massachusetts, into New England’s first Latino-majority city. Like many industrial cities, Lawrence entered a downward economic spiral in the decades after World War II due to deindustrialization and suburbanization. The arrival of tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in the late twentieth century brought new life to the struggling city, but settling in Lawrence was fraught with challenges. Facing hostility from their neighbors, exclusion from local governance, inadequate city services, and limited job prospects, Latinos fought and organized for the right to make a home in the city.

In this book, Llana Barber interweaves the histories of urban crisis in U.S. cities and imperial migration from Latin America. Pushed to migrate by political and economic circumstances shaped by the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America, poor and working-class Latinos then had to reckon with the segregation, joblessness, disinvestment, and profound stigma that plagued U.S. cities during the crisis era, particularly in the Rust Belt. For many Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, there was no “American Dream” awaiting them in Lawrence; instead, Latinos struggled to build lives for themselves in the ruins of industrial America.

About the Author

Llana Barber is assistant professor of American studies at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury.
For more information about Llana Barber, visit the Author Page.


“Passionately examines the painful transformation of Lawrence, Massachusetts, from a declining post-WW II industrial city into a majority Latino city with its own distinctive identity and challenges in the 21st century. Recommended.”--Choice

“Beautifully written and brimming with insights, Latino City captures the remarkable story of New England’s ‘Latinization’ in the late twentieth century. Chronicling how Dominicans and Puerto Ricans reanimated Lawrence, Massachusetts, after World War II, Barber foregrounds the ways in which U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean drove new demographic changes in that city and elsewhere. A terrific exploration of Latino struggles against deindustrialization, racial violence, and welfare reform as well as the creative ways in which residents of Lawrence remade urban spaces and fashioned new local and transnational politics, Latino City deserves wide attention by scholars and the general public."--Stephen Pitti, Yale University

“Llana Barber offers a welcome addition to the growing literature on Latinos/as in the urban North. Drawing on vivid oral history interviews and rich data, she gives readers an intimate view of how Latinos/as in Lawrence encountered the urban crisis, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. Barber presents an ideal model for interethnic Latino/a urban history, one that reminds us that Latinos/as have lived among one another in ethnically diverse communities and that they migrated to smaller cities beyond New York, Chicago, and Miami in the postwar years.”--Lilia Fernandez, Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago

Latino City offers an essential lens for understanding the national and global histories of immigration and of U.S. cities in the second half of the twentieth century. In recounting the history of Lawrence, and the stories of the Dominican, Puerto Rican, and other Latino migrants who saved it from abandonment and decay, Barber emphasizes the disjuncture between the revitalization that these Latinos brought to the city and the appalling racism, abuse, exclusion, and brutality that they faced in everyday life.”--A. K. Sandoval-Strausz, University of New Mexico