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Latino Urban Ethnography and the Work of Elena Padilla

Merida M. Rua

Publication Year: 2011

This study reclaims and builds upon the classic work of anthropologist Elena Padilla. The volume includes an annotated edition of Padilla's 1947 University of Chicago master's thesis, which broke with traditional urban ethnographies and examined racial identities and interethnic relations. Weighing the importance of gender and the interplay of labor, residence, and social networks, Padilla examined the integration of Puerto Rican migrants into the social and cultural life of the larger community where they settled. Also included are four original essays that foreground the significance of Padilla's early study about Latinos in Chicago. Contributors discuss the implications of her groundbreaking contributions to urban ethnographic traditions and to the development of Puerto Rican studies and Latina/o studies._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Nicholas De Genova, Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores, Elena Padilla, Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas, Merida M. Rúa, and Arlene Torres.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. vi-vii

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pp. viii-9

First and foremost, my thanks go to Elena Padilla, whose willingness to publish her master’s thesis and contribute to the project made editing this collection possible and an incredibly rewarding experience. Since 2002, when we first met at the Puerto Rican Studies Conference in Chicago, Dr. Padilla has supported this endeavor and welcomed the...

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pp. 1-22

Elena Padilla was at the crossroads as a scholar undertaking community studies in order to develop theories about social change in a rapidly changing urban landscape in the mid-twentieth century. She was asking questions about the utility of ethnographic method to address...

Part One

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pp. 23-24

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pp. 25-30

The study comparing Puerto Ricans in Chicago with Puerto Ricans in New York was, in effect, an effort by a then young graduate student to find out if anthropological methods and techniques could be applied to learn how a population of migrants of common backgrounds (who for all practical socioeconomic and cultural purposes...

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pp. 31-32

This study is about comparative acculturation and assimilation. It is an attempt to depict in general terms processes by means of which ethnic1 groups become integrated into the social and cultural life of the larger communities where they settle, with particular reference to what has happened to some of the ethnics in American...

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Chapter One

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pp. 33-46

Present sociological knowledge on the phenomena and the implied processes undergone by ethnic groups in American communities has received a momentum through intensive accomplished research. The onset of scientific production along these lines was marked...

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Chapter Two

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pp. 47-49

The material on the Puerto Rican immigrants in Chicago was obtained in the field through observation, participation, and the recording of verbalizations. Formal and informal interviews were an important aspect of this part of the research. In relation to the field work, a point to be discussed is that of the native investigator. The field material was collected..

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Chapter Three

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pp. 50-66

The island of Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles with an area of 3,435 square miles. It lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea at a distance of 950 miles from the coast of Florida and 500 miles from the coast of Venezuela. Seismically the island is in the earthquake and hurricane belts. Climatically...

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Chapter Four

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pp. 67-75

The picture presented by the Puerto Rican migrants in New York City is similar to that of other ethnic groups who have migrated to American industrial communities in search of better living conditions, as these are generally understood—by the acquisition of higher-paid jobs...

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Chapter Five

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pp. 76-96

This chapter summarizes data on the acculturation and assimilation of Puerto Rican migrants in Chicago. The story of the Puerto Ricans in this city is different from that presented by the Puerto Ricans in New York City in two ways: (1) the number of migrants, and...

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Chapter Six

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pp. 97-102

The main problem of this study has been to analyze the processes of acculturation and assimilation with particular reference to the double factor of size of the immigrant group and its ecological distribution. The Puerto Rican immigrants in Chicago, who compose a...


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pp. 103-106

Part Two

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pp. 107-108

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Puerto Rican “Spatio-Temporal Rhythms”of Housing and Work

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pp. 109-127

Because Puerto Rico is located in the tropics, Puerto Ricans are deemed to be tropical people. They come from a tropical island of sea, sand, cool breezes, and plentiful fruit and have used the island’s fauna, topography, and geography to describe who they are and what they are like. It is no surprise, then, that in her 1947 master’s thesis that Elena Padilla...

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Footnotes of Social Justice

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pp. 128-156

Trained by a historian, in an interdisciplinary doctoral program, I was accustomed to hearing “sometimes the story is in the footnotes.” Although reading footnotes was nothing new, I had never been fascinated by footnotes until I read and reread Elena Padilla’s 1947 University...

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“White” Puerto Rican Migrants,the Mexican Colony, “Americanization,”and Latino History

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pp. 157-177

It is one of the presumed functions of ethnography that it should produce a documentation of the present, so vividly descriptive that it can serve as an archive for a history of the present, as that present slips away and is inexorably consigned to the past. In the spirit of Walter Benjamin’s Sixth Thesis on the philosophy of history, this...

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Gendering “Latino Public Intellectuals”

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pp. 178-206

Academic discussions concerning the role of “public intellectuals” have proliferated in the last decade or so, especially among scholars of color.1 These discussions have particularly considered the “crisis of black public intellectuals” in the United States.2 Some scholars have argued that intellectuals no longer exist and that the end of the Cold War, the opening up of the mainly U.S. university to legions of...


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pp. 207-208


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pp. 209-216

Back Cover

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p. 226-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090264
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252035760

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Puerto Ricans -- Cultural assimilation -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Puerto Ricans -- Cultural assimilation -- Illinois -- Chicago.
  • Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York -- Social conditions.
  • Puerto Ricans -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Social conditions.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Social conditions.
  • Chicago (Ill.) -- Social conditions.
  • Padilla, Elena, 1923-.
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