Southern lights: Metropolitan imaginaries in Latin America

Thesis Eleven 166 (1):118-135 (2021)
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Abstract

This essay aims to examine metropolitan cities of Latin America with two aspects of the literature in anthropology, history, and sociology in mind. First, the essay addresses an imbalanced focus on cities in the USA and Canada by sketching the significance of migration, creation, and urban development in four major metropolises of Latin America. Second, in place of a framework of urban imaginaries, which has dominated the sociology of Latin American cities in recent years, I argue for a more precise notion of metropolitan imaginaries that better frames the creativity of particular cities and their level of integration into international and regional networks. With this more precise notion, I distinguish southern cities as highly connected places, which attract migrants and bring economic and cultural traffic to their shores, ports, plazas, and streets. They are lively centers of Atlantic modernity with connections that generate greater magnitude for creativity and, as such, bear international significance as places of architecture and urban design. In their informal settlements, impulses of organic creation further distinguish southern metropolises from their North American counterparts. The quality of international and regional connections distinguishes these cities from other urban centers in Latin America, a point underestimated in the literature on urban imaginaries. In this essay, I examine 19th and 20th-century Buenos Aires, Mexico City, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. Each is distinguished from most cities by the magnitude of migration, the diversity of their populations, and the connections they have to global and regional developments. Crucially, each one stands out for the quality and impact of their metropolis-making, particularly in creative architecture and urban design.

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North America’s Metropolitan Imaginaries.Jeremy C. A. Smith - 2018 - Social Imaginaries 4 (2):43-69.
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