In Latinos and the Liberal City, Eduardo Contreras addresses these questions, offering a bold, textured, and inclusive interpretation of the nature and character of Latino politics in America's shifting social and cultural landscape. Contreras argues that Latinos' political life and aspirations have been marked by diversity and contestation yet consistently influenced by the ideologies of liberalism and latinidad: while the principles of activist government, social reform, freedom, and progress sustained liberalism, latinidad came to rest on promoting unity and commonality among Latinos.
Contreras centers this compelling narrative on San Francisco—America's liberal city par excellence—examining the role of its Latino communities in local politics from the 1930s to the 1970s. By the early twentieth century, San Francisco's residents of Latin American ancestry traced their heritage to nations including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, and Peru. These communities formed part of the New Deal coalition, defended workers' rights with gusto, and joined the crusade for racial equality decades before the 1960s. In the mid- to late postwar era, Latinos expanded claims for recognition and inclusion while participating in movements and campaigns for socioeconomic advancement, female autonomy, gay liberation, and rent control. Latinos and the Liberal City makes clear that the local public sphere nurtured Latinos' political subjectivities and that their politicization contributed to the vibrancy of San Francisco's political culture.
Pittsburgh reached its industrial heyday between 1880 and 1920, as vertically integrated industrial corporations forged a regional community in the mountainous Upper Ohio River Valley. Over subsequent decades, metropolitan population growth slowed as mining and manufacturing employment declined. Faced with economic and environmental disaster in the 1930s, Pittsburgh's business elite and political leaders developed an ambitious program of pollution control and infrastructure development. The public-private partnership behind the "Pittsburgh Renaissance," as advocates called it, pursued nothing less than the selective erasure of the existing social and physical environment in favor of a modernist, functionally divided landscape: a goal that was widely copied by other aging cities and one that has important ramifications for the broader national story. Ultimately, the Renaissance vision of downtown skyscrapers, sleek suburban research campuses, and bucolic regional parks resulted in an uneven transformation that tore the urban fabric while leaving deindustrializing river valleys and impoverished coal towns isolated from areas of postwar growth.
Beyond Rust is among the first books of its kind to continue past the collapse of American manufacturing in the 1980s by exploring the diverse ways residents of an iconic industrial region sought places for themselves within a new economic order.