Briefly Noted

April 10, 2008


Edited by Enrique C. Ochoa and Gilda L. Ochoa, 2006, University of Arizona Press, 304 pages, $24.95 paperback.

Even before the massive mobilizations that took place around the country last year brought it to the world’s attention, Latino immigrants and groups were organizing for better working conditions, voting rights, and social justice in their communities. Indeed, as explained in Latino Los Angeles, immigrants in L.A. have been organizing since the late 19th century. This edited volume mounts an in-depth examination not only of labor organizing and political activism among Latino immigrants in Los Angeles, but also examines the construction of community and identity by the city’s many different immigrant populations, and perhaps most importantly, situates Latino migration to the United States in its historical context as a hemispheric phenomenon. Importantly, the analysis does not stop at the border, as is so often the case, but rather takes into account political and economic circumstances in Latin America in the context of neoliberal economic globalization.

This comprehensive look at what it means to be a Latino immigrant in Los Angeles employs a range of methodologies—statistical analysis, history, ethnography, and participatory anthropology—and paints a broad but nuanced picture of the role that Latinos have played in shaping both the city around them and their collective future in the United States.


Edited by Marina Sitrin, 2006, AK Press, 255 pages, $18.95 paperback.

With increasing frequency, global justice activists in the North are looking South for models for constructing alternatives to neoliberal globalization. But while the so-called pink tide of (center) left presidents garners much of the media attention, people’s movements in Latin America are building day-to-day alternatives that are re-framing their societies, from fighting privatization in Ecuador and Bolivia, to reclaiming land in Brazil, to reopening shuttered factories and building new systems of self-management (autogestión) in Argentina. It is this movement that is chronicled in scholar-activist Marina Sitrin’s powerful new oral history of the “movement of movements” that emerged in Argentina after the financial collapse of 2001.

The many groups that make up Argentina’s movement toward horizontalidad base their organizing on direct democracy, consensus, and what Sitrin calls “affective politics”—a restructuring of relationships that rejects hierarchy and is based in love and affection. This sense of compañerismo underlies the narratives of the book, which chronicles, in the voices of those who have participated, the progression from rebellion during the financial collapse, to the creation of people’s assemblies, to the coming together of the “movement of movements.”


by David Bacon, 2006, Cornell University Press, 248 pages, $29.95 paperback.

David Bacon’s stunning photographs, which have long graced the pages of this magazine, tell the stories of the people they capture in ways that words alone very often cannot. In this vitally important new collection, Bacon’s photographs are brought together with oral histories of migrant workers, former braceros, community organizers, and activists, as well as families living both here in the United States and in Mexico and Guatemala.

While the book very literally gives voice to dozens of immigrants, among them indigenous people from Mexico and Guatemala, it goes beyond simply providing a medium through which these voices will be heard; the book undertakes the expressly political project of deconstructing many of the myths built up by the right-wing anti-immigration movement in this country: that building border walls will stop “illegal” immigration; that denying work to undocumented immigrants will create more jobs for those born in the United States; and that “guest worker” programs, much like the bracero programs of the past, will solve the problems of “illegal” immigration. By situating his refutation of these oft-repeated claims in the stories of the people whose lives are directly effected, Bacon has provided a powerful document for the those involved in the struggle for immigrant justice.


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