Tucson’s Urban Core Fifty Years After Renewal: Celebrating Barrio Histories, Gentrifying Barrio Residents

Authors: Samto Wongso*, Colgate University - Hamilton, NY
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, United States
Keywords: Gentrification, urban renewal, Tucson, Mexican-American Studies,
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 1967, Tucson demolished 80-acre of predominantly Mexican American barrios (neighborhoods) in its downtown area, replacing them with new governmental, commercials, and public buildings. Fifty years later, as a result of persistent efforts of local activists who have been sharing stories of barrios, Tucson seems to be embracing anew its erased and silenced Mexican-American history. A new museum of Mexican-American history will be located right next to the infamous Tucson Convention Center; The city is preserving barrios that had survived from the urban renewal period. At the same time, many new residential development projects in Tucson seem to mimic and celebrate the architectural characteristics and cultural identity of Mexican barrios. Ironically, the gentrification process of Mexican-American households in the remaining barrios also has accelerated lately. A literature review in Fall semester 2018 informed the development of an interview guide, which was used in interviews with long-time Tucsonans in January 2019. The focus of this research is on understanding the past, present, and future of the urban core as a contested space among different city dwellers. In this poster, I share the results of our field observations and interviews related to the ways Tucson is celebrating its Mexican-American cultural identity and history, patterns of current development in downtown Tucson, and its future development trajectory. I aim to provide a critical perspective on the way Tucson is engaging its history and residents in the 21st century.

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