Tierra y Libertad: Land, Liberty, and Latino Housing

Tierra y Libertad: Land, Liberty, and Latino Housing

Tierra y Libertad: Land, Liberty, and Latino Housing

Tierra y Libertad: Land, Liberty, and Latino Housing


One of the quintessential goals of the American Dream is to own land and a home, a place to raise one's family and prove one's prosperity. Particularly for immigrant families, home ownership is a way to assimilate into American culture and community. However, Latinos, who make up the country's largest minority population, have largely been unable to gain this level of inclusion. Instead, they are forced to cling to the fringes of property rights and ownership through overcrowded rentals, transitory living arrangements, and, at best, home acquisitions through subprime lenders.

In Tierra y Libertad , Steven W. Bender traces the history of Latinos' struggle for adequate housing opportunities, from the nineteenth century to today's anti-immigrant policies and national mortgage crisis. Spanning southwest to northeast, rural to urban, Bender analyzes the legal hurdles that prevent better housing opportunities and offers ways to approach sweeping legal reform. Tierra y Libertad combines historical, cultural, legal, and personal perspectives to document the Latino community's ongoing struggle to make America home.


We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true indi
vidual freedom cannot exist without economic security and
independence…. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill
of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity
can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are…the right of every family to a decent home.

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1944 State of the Union Address

Housing is never merely shelter. However inadequate and tem
porary, one’s shelter becomes the ground floor for meeting basic
needs, a foundation for job search and education, and a piece
of one’s identity—a “home” of sorts. For those who have always
been adequately housed and take it for granted, a full appre
ciation for the importance of adequate, decent and affordable
housing can probably only be gained by experiencing its loss.

—Tim Iglesias, “Housing Impact Assessments: Opening New
Doors for State Housing Regulation While Localism Persists,”
Oregon Law Review 82 (2003): 433, 442

¡Tierra y Libertad!—land and liberty—was the slogan of the Mexican Revolution of the early 1900s. With charismatic revolutionaries such as Emiliano Zapata at the helm, that epic struggle sought to reclaim vast agricultural lands in Mexico held by the government and elites and disburse them for individual and collective agrarian uses. Although hundreds of thousands of landless peasants gained the liberty of land ownership, reform was incomplete. Hunger for land continues in Mexico and Latin America today, under the banner carried most prominently by the Zapatista movement in the southernmost Mexican state of Chiapas.

In the United States, Latino/as’ loss of land and their hopes for reform have taken the different path detailed in this book. Latino/as throughout the . . .

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