IN THE SHADOWS OF THE FREEWAY:
GROWING UP BROWN & QUEER
Released on November 23, 2019 by
Selected one of
"Twenty Good Reads of 2019" by the
Raised in an adobe house built by their mother, the author takes readers to a mid-20th century barrio that existed on the social margins of Tucson, Arizona despite sitting a little more than a mile away from the central business district. Born in 1955, and nicknamed La Butch by their family, Lydia Otero knew they were queer the moment their consciousness had evolved enough to formulate thoughts.
In addition to growing up fighting assigned gender expectations, a new freeway greatly influenced formative aspects of Otero's childhood. The author witnessed how the steady expansion of Interstate 10 (I-10) separated and isolated a barrio of brown and poor residents from the rest of the city. Growing up 200 feet from the freeway meant more than enduring traffic noise and sirens for barrio families. It introduced environmental hazards that contributed to the death of family members.
The construction of the freeway also realigned school boundaries. Although able to attend the same the same schools as white children, the author details how Americanization policies and programs worked to racialize and separate brown students such as Otero as late as 1961.
This book, which combines personal memoir and family history with historical archives, offers more self-disclosure than Otero's previous works, as the author's experiences of childhood take center stage. Otero reveals the day-to-day survival mechanisms they depended upon, the exhilaration of first love, the love of reading and the support the author received from key family members as they tried to gain a sense of belonging in a world mired in dislocation.
Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwest City
Released in 2010 by the
Winner of a Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association
2019 "40 Essential Arizona Books"
On March 1, 1966, the voters of Tucson approved the Pueblo Center Redevelopment Project—Arizona’s first major urban renewal project—which targeted the most densely populated eighty acres in the state. For close to one hundred years, tucsonenses had created their own spatial reality in the historical, predominantly Mexican American heart of the city, an area most called “la calle.” Here, amid small retail and service shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, they openly lived and celebrated their culture. To make way for the Pueblo Center’s new buildings, city officials proceeded to displace la calle’s residents and to demolish their ethnically diverse neighborhoods, which, contends Lydia Otero, challenged the spatial and cultural assumptions of postwar modernity, suburbia, and urban planning.
Otero examines conflicting claims to urban space, place, and history as advanced by two opposing historic preservationist groups: the La Placita Committee and the Tucson Heritage Foundation. The author gives voice to those who lived in, experienced, or remembered this contested area, and analyzes the historical narratives promoted by Anglo American elites in the service of tourism and cultural dominance.
La Calle explores the forces behind the mass displacement: an unrelenting desire for order, a local economy increasingly dependent on tourism, and the pivotal power of federal housing policies. To understand how urban renewal resulted in the spatial reconfiguration of downtown Tucson, Otero draws on scholarship from a wide range of disciplines: Chicana/o, ethnic, and cultural studies; urban history, sociology, and anthropology; city planning; and cultural and feminist geography.
"Otero is re-voicing the silenced and examining the role of power and voice in creating an imagined history. She offers a rich understanding of how resistance exists in everyday practices by individuals and how such resistance continues in the face of powerful--and disempowering--institutional and social relations."
--Gabriela F. Arredondo, author of Mexican Chicago: Race, Identity and Nation, 1916-1939
"Based on meticulous research and oral histories, Lydia Otero's La Calle documents the Tucson Mexican American community's tragic experience with urban renewal during the the l960s. It is an indictment of the politics, greed, and racism that led to the destruction of the Mexican American economic, historical, cultural, and architectural heart of the Old Pueblo. It is also an elegy and a eulogy honoring those who fought city hall, often in vain, to preserve Tucson's Mexican past. We owe them, as well as Lydia, our profound gratitude for telling their stories."
--Patricia Preciado Martin, author of Beloved Land: An Oral History of Mexican Americans in Southern Arizona