I’ve been reading Jane Jacobs book Cities and the Weath of Nations: Principles of Economic Life (1984.) I’m not quite finished yet, but, so far, it’s good but I can’t highly recommend it – at least not so very highly as I recommend Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961.) Death and Life is really one of the very best books for folks interested in cities – what makes them work and what screws them up. I really enjoyed Death and Life and it shaped some of my thinking about cities, so I figured I’d pick up another book by Jacobs.
I am not through Cities and the Weath of Nations, but I just read and want to share this passage which felt very Los Angeles… the story of a Mexican bullring named “The North Hollywood.”
Consider […] a village named Napizaro in a poor region of central Mexico, several hundred miles to the northwest of Mexico City. For about forty years Napizaro has been heavily subsidized by migrant workers. Almost everyone in the region containing Napizaro used to live by farming, and many still do – mostly subsistence farming, although some practice a bit of cash cropping. The families who depend only on subsistence farming are known locally, for good reasons as the morosos, those without hope. Their lives are inconceivably grim. But a couple of generations ago a new factor entered the lives of some of these people: the pull of jobs in the United States, distant jobs that, as it happens, were illegal as well because it is hard to crack the American immigration barriers. Some took seasonal agricultural jobs but others found year-round work in such cities as Houston and Los Angeles. It is on jobs in Los Angeles that Napizaro has come to depend. (more…)