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Latinos and the Liberal City
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Latinos and the Liberal City
Politics and Protest in San Francisco

Eduardo Contreras

328 pages | 6 x 9 | 11 illus.
Cloth 2019 | ISBN 9780812251128 | $45.00s | Outside the Americas £36.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Politics and Culture in Modern America
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Winner of the David Montgomery Award, granted by the Organization of American Historians

"Contreras’s work has great importance in the fields of labor history, urban history, gender history, Latinx history, and many other subareas. His work refines our understanding of the roles of varying notions of liberalism and latinidad in motivating Latino political engagement from the 1930s through the 1980s. Without a doubt, Contreras demonstrates that San Francisco Latinos were politically active and helped shape this bastion of liberalism throughout the twentieth century through advocacy in arenas of labor, civil rights, government aid, and cultural politics."—Journal of Arizona History

"Eduardo Contreras tells an analytically sophisticated and archivally rich story of San Francisco and its Latino populations and traces in novel ways their engagement with the ideals and failures of twentieth-century democratic liberalism. This book will quickly become a standard bearer in the growing canon of Latino history."—Lorrin Thomas, Rutgers University-Camden

"Latinos and the Liberal City makes an original contribution to urban history, labor history, civil rights history, political history, and ethnic studies by successfully addressing the question of how the men and women of a diverse Latino population engaged with American liberalism as they encountered it in the San Francisco Bay area from the early 1930s to the late 1970s. This pathbreaking study is the first book to detail the distinctive ways in which Latino San Franciscans made themselves part of the liberal project in California during this important era in American political culture."—William Issel, San Francisco State University

The "Latino vote" has become a mantra in political media, as journalists, pundits, and social scientists regularly weigh in on Latinos' loyalty to the Democratic Party and the significance of their electoral participation. But how and why did Latinos' liberal orientation take hold? What has this political inclination meant—and how has it unfolded—over time?

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.

Eduardo Contreras is Associate Professor of History at Hunter College, City University of New York.

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