Global Cities of the North and South: Transnational Connections and Urban Development in the Americas

AHA Session 290
Conference on Latin American History 69
Monday, January 6, 2020: 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Bowery (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Andrew K. Sandoval-Strausz, Penn State University
Amy C. Offner, University of Pennsylvania

Session Abstract

Historians have long debated the origins of urban growth, with particular attention to the many actors whose interests and vision have shaped the built environment, as well as the effects of urban development on the socio-political fabric of the city. This panel takes up these enduring concerns with new perspectives. By approaching the histories of several cities in the Americas from a transnational perspective, the panel sheds light on the relationship between the circulation of ideas, people, as well as capital and urban development over the span of the 20th century. The goal of the panel is to explore how local and national governments, urban reformers, real estate interests, city boosters, and transnational actors grappled with these processes and, in doing so, turned cities into sites of modernization and struggle. The papers focus on the cities of Santiago, Manaus, São Paulo, New York, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires.

Andra B. Chastain traces the rise (and consequences) of two competing visions of urban development in Chile, one that put the state at the forefront and the other that privileged private actors. Chastain takes up these issues in relation to the construction of the subway in Santiago during the 1980s. Central to her paper is an investigation of how Chilean and French actors transformed the city of Santiago into a site of contestation. Adrian Lerner looks at the relationship between urban expansion, state-sponsored development schemes, and geopolitics from the perspective of Manaus. Central to the military’s efforts to attain the “Brazilian Miracle,” the regime sought to transform Manaus into a “development pole” by attracting industry and commerce to the city. But, as Lerner points out, fear of U.S. intervention in the Amazon was also a catalyst for Manaus’s urban development, as were the urban models associated with the Alliance for Progress. Marcio Siwi considers the renaming and revitalization of Manhattan’s Avenue of the Americas. Specifically, he explores how leading New Yorkers sought to enhance the profitability of the Avenue of the Americas while turning it into the “capital of the Western Hemisphere” – both physically and symbolically. As Siwi shows, São Paulo – and U.S.-Latin America relations more broadly – played an important role in shaping this lesser known post-WWII urban renewal project. Daniel Richter examines processes of suburbanization and spatial inequality in Latin America during the 1990s and 2000s through an exploration of two gated communities, one in Montevideo and the other in Buenos Aires. Driven by real estate developers who framed their urban interventions as both a private and a public good, Richter argues that these new spaces yielded new modes of citizenship and sociability.

Ample time for discussion with the audience will engage urban historians, historians of Latin America, and historians of the United States in the World around several important issues. These issues include transnational aspects of urban development, the dominant paradigms of development that shaped cities across the Americas, and how these models combine international factors with local knowledge and experience.

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