Conflicting visions: Urban renewal, historical preservation and the politics of saving a Mexican past
AuthorOtero, Lydia R.
KeywordsHistory, United States.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIntegrating methods and sources from the study of Mexican Americans, urban history, and historical preservation this dissertation examines the interactions of race and space. In the late 1960's, Arizona's fast urban renewal project, the Pueblo Center Redevelopment Project, resulted in building a new civic center and government complex in Tucson. Construction of the new expansive structure required that the city's oldest barrio or neighborhood be destroyed. In an era when the local economy relied heavily on tourists' dollars, city officials and boosters used urban renewal as an opportunity to eradicate the barrio in order to diminish long-held national convictions of Tucson as too "Mexican." In the late nineteenth century, Anglo Americans moving to Tucson had displaced Mexican Americans, who moved to the southern edge of town. This demographic shift resulted in the barrio's creation. As a result of de facto segregation, the barrio grew to serve Mexican Americans' consumer and social needs. It became impossible to hide the city's large Mexican American population since the barrio spilled into the central business district. Boosters had constructed the barrio and its residents as obstacles to "progress," targeting it for destruction since the 1930s. Exemplifying the power of the politics of representation, boosters devised images in their widespread promotional campaigns that they hoped would make Tucson appear more modern and racially homogeneous so that they could attract more tourists. Cultural productions indicate that boosters highlighted the incongruity of a Mexican American space in the city that stood in opposition to the modernity that Anglo American space embodied. City officials avoided updating developmental services in the barrio and refused to enforce housing codes for decades. By the 1960s, the barrio fit federal standards that qualified it as a "slum." Two oppositional historical preservation movements emerged as a result the destruction of older and historic structures. Their failures and successes illustrate the process whereby particular histories are legitimated and disseminated while others are marginalized. Mexican Americans attempted to save sites that commemorated the city's Mexican American past, while Anglo Americans succeeded in preserving an exaggerated version of an Anglo past.
Degree ProgramGraduate College