Since around 1980, some of Pennsylvania’s classic industrial cities went from overwhelmingly white Anglo to predominately Latino at the same time as they lost working-class job opportunities. Toward the end of that period, there arose an anti-immigrant — especially anti-Hispanic — political tendency that brought figures like Lou Barletta and Donald Trump to nationwide notice and national power. The basic historical raw material here is Allentown, Reading, Lancaster, York and Hazelton, and their highly political bellwether counties of Lehigh, Berks, Lancaster, York and Luzerne — four of the ten biggest cities and five of the ten most populous counties in Pennsylvania. There’s an existing narrative of blue-collar disenchantment that seems to explain this, though that narrative has been largely debunked by political scientists and other observers. If we’re going to understand political change in deindustrializing Pennsylvania (and other similar Rust Belt areas), we need to know exactly what happened in these smaller metropolitan areas.
Director of the Latinx studies program at Penn State University, and former Princeton Mellon Fellow, Andrew K. Sandoval-Strausz specializes in urban, legal, architectural and Latino history. His first book, Hotel: An American History (Yale University Press, 2007), won the American Historical Association-Pacific Coast Branch Book Award and was named a Best Book of 2007 by Library Journal.
His second book, Barrio America: How Latino Immigrants Saved the American City (Basic Books, 2019), is a transnational history of urban revitalization and was a finalist for the Victor Villaseñor Book Award. It tells how, counter to the popular press narrative that a “creative class” of young professionals revived a moribund urban America in the 1990s and 2000s, the stunning reversal of fortune owes much more to another, far less visible group: Latino and Latina newcomers.