Empowered culture? New York city's empowerment zone and the selling of El Barrio

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This article explores the implementation of empowerment zone (EZ) legislation in East Harlem, or what some describe as El Barrio in New York City. The EZ is used as a case study for a critique of tourism as an urban development strategy. El Barrio is difficult to market within a framework of tourism defined by EZ standards, especially the heightened conflicts that ensue as minority communities attempt to reconstitute their cultures for tourist aims. Ultimately, this article shows a growing contradiction between the disavowal of ethnicity and race as grounds for equity and empowerment and the fact that ethnicity and race are the bases on which urban spatial transformations are taking place. Furthermore, the case study suggests that the politicization (and mobilization) of race and ethnicity are not the greatest perils to intra-Latino and interracial alliances in U.S. cities or to people's aspirations regarding urban space at the local level. Rather, the ascendancy of neoliberal tenets presents obstacles to multiethnic and multiracial coalitions on behalf of livable and enjoyable communities for all people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-64
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
StatePublished - Jul 2004


  • El Barrio
  • Empowerment zones
  • Puerto Ricans and Latinos
  • Urban tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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