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Locked In, Locked Out

Gated Communities in a Puerto Rican City

By Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores

Publication Year: 2013

In November 1993, the largest public housing project in the Puerto Rican city of Ponce—the second largest public housing authority in the U.S. federal system—became a gated community. Once the exclusive privilege of the city's affluent residents, gates now not only locked "undesirables" out but also shut them in. Ubiquitous and inescapable, gates continue to dominate present-day Ponce, delineating space within government and commercial buildings, schools, prisons, housing developments, parks, and churches. In Locked In, Locked Out, Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores shows how such gates operate as physical and symbolic ways to distribute power, reroute movement, sustain social inequalities, and cement boundary lines of class and race across the city.

In its exploration of four communities in Ponce—two private subdivisions and two public housing projects—Locked In, Locked Out offers one of the first ethnographic accounts of gated communities devised by and for the poor. Dinzey-Flores traces the proliferation of gates on the island from Spanish colonial fortresses to the New Deal reform movement of the 1940s and 1950s, demonstrating how urban planning practices have historically contributed to the current trend of community divisions, shrinking public city spaces, and privatizing gardens. Through interviews and participant observation, she argues that gates have transformed the twenty-first-century city by fostering isolation and promoting segregation, ultimately shaping the life chances of people from all economic backgrounds. Relevant and engaging, Locked In, Locked Out reveals how built environments can create a cartography of disadvantage—affecting those on both sides of the wall.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: The City in the Twenty-First Century


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pp. c-ii

Title Page

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pp. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv-iv

Dedication Page

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pp. v-viii

Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

When I set out to do research in the gated communities of the poor and rich in Ponce, fear was paramount. I grew up in Puerto Rico in the 1970s and 1980s, when carjackings were frequent and yearly murder counts headlined the news. Spaces of the poor, and caseríos (public housing) especially, were envisioned as places to be avoided. What was being ingrained in me during...

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Prologue. The Native Outsider

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pp. 1-8

Roy Lichtenstein’s painting Interior with African Mask (1991) caught my attention from the first time I saw it, as a college freshman at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum. It depicted a modern living room in the front plane, a dining room in the background, with firm geometric lines, symmetric patterns and prints, and bright colors. But the furnishings seemed incongruous with ...

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1. Fortress Gates of the Rich and Poor: Past and Present

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pp. 9-27

On November 8, 1993, Dr. Manuel de la Pila, the largest public housing project in the city of Ponce in Puerto Rico (the second- largest public housing authority in the U.S. federal system), became a gated community. Up until then, gates had kept people out rather than keeping people in. Gates had become the exclusive privilege of the affluent communities; their residents, for...

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2. Cachet for the Rich and Casheríos for the Poor: An Experiment in Class Integration

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pp. 28-52

In Ponce, like the rest of the island, in the mid- 1980s, urbanizaciones (subdivisions) and private communities of the affluent and upper middle class organized neighborhood associations, collected dues, and pushed municipalities to establish the necessary infrastructure. In 1993, Extensión Alhambra was the first to bid successfully for controlled access. Many communities were ...

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3. “Precaution: Security Knives in the Gates”

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pp. 53-72

Ramiro explained to me on the phone how I was to get inside his house in the affluent gated community of Extensión Alhambra in order to interview him. His instructions were precise and seemed practiced: You drive to the gate. The community is in the shape of a U. You come in one gate and leave through the other. When you get to the gate, you will find a dial pad. You ...

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4. Community: Where Rights Begin and End

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pp. 73-97

When I interviewed Nelly at the upper- middle- class gated community of Extensión Alhambra, I knew I could not waste time. Nelly was very busy with civic endeavors. Her IKEA- like modern multipurpose den–family room–office served as a work headquarters. She was used to questions; her posture and articulate answers had a political flavor. What about the Mano Dura gating...

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5. The Secret Gardens

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pp. 98-122

Rexford Tugwell, the last American governor appointed for the island of Puerto Rico, a fervent New Dealer, wrote of the upscale area of Condado in the city of San Juan and its private gardens: “I thought it might be hard to leave so beautiful a neighborhood. . . . This, I could see, was the right side of the railroad tracks; . . . semi- palaces buried in the most resplendent foliage:...

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6. Neighbors More Remote than Strangers

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pp. 123-141

It is cleaning day in Doña Lucrecia’s house. Doña Lucrecia, a middle- aged, white woman in one of the larger homes in Extensión Alhambra, guided me through a maze of furniture to a back terrace garden crowded seating clusters, tables, and a tiny pool; it was the setting, no doubt, of many small social gatherings. An olive- skinned woman with a duster, a mop, a broom, and a bucket ...

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Epilogue. The Gated Library

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pp. 142-152

In 2010, Ponce’s municipal library— Biblioteca Municipal e Infantil Mariana Suárez de Longo y Archivo Histórico de Ponce— was finally finished. I was visiting family that January, and I was excited to find a place where I could write, with free wi- fi and silence. My mother, my aunt, and my cousin had been searching for alternatives for days: the McDonald’s in Santa Isabel, the ...

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pp. 153-168

When I began Locked In, Locked Out I was already an involved observer. Objectivity is highly valued in science’s gathering and production of knowledge, but, by the traditional definition, I was never, have never been, objective. By my own understanding of objectivity, the unobstructed, honest, clear understanding of research, I was and am subjective. This book and the research on...


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pp. 169-208


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pp. 209-216


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pp. 217-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780812208207
E-ISBN-10: 081220820X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245134
Print-ISBN-10: 081224513X

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 19 illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: The City in the Twenty-First Century
Series Editor Byline: Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 855706526
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Locked In, Locked Out

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Gated communities -- Social aspects -- Puerto Rico -- Ponce -- History -- 20th century.
  • Sociology, Urban -- Puerto Rico -- Ponce -- History -- 20th century.
  • Ponce (P.R.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
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