Faculty Publications

Se Venden Aquí: Latino commercial landscapes in Phoenix, Arizona


Alex P. Oberle

Document Type

Book Chapter

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Hispanic Spaces, Latino Places: Community and Cultural Diversity in Contemporary America

First Page


Last Page



In his definitive study of the American Southwest, Donald Meinig (1971) delineates the region based on its combined Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American heritage. This tricultural influence situates the Southwest within the boundaries of New Mexico, Arizona, and Far West Texas. Meinig's Southwest encompasses several major cities that strongly reflect the region's Spanish and Mexican roots. Santa Fe, with its world-renowned plaza and centuries-old Palace of the Governors, is often characterized as the prototypical southwestern city. In Albuquerque, Old Town represents the city's Spanish colonial heritage. El Paso's landscape has been distinctively influenced by its common border with Mexico and connections with its sister city, Ciudad Juárez. Tucson contains a number of Hispanic landmarks, such as the San Xavier del Bac Mission and the flat-roofed adobe buildings that line the narrow streets in its Mexican-era central city barrio neighborhoods. Phoenix, however, is quite different. Its history is dominated by the achievements of more contemporary Anglo settlers and entrepreneurs whose canal building, agriculture-based prosperity, and business influence are part of urban lore. While there are Mexican and Mexican American neighborhoods in the city, these landscapes are decades rather than centuries old and are not very visible in a city where rooftop air conditioning units, palm-lined golf courses, and glass and steel office buildings dominate not only the skyline, but also street corner vistas. Yet even this landscape is not what it once was. While Phoenix's large expatriate midwesterner and easterner populations quietly worked through the economic boom of the go-go 1990s, the city's population structure was rapidly changing. Even before the U.S. Bureau of the Census released the official numbers in 2000, Phoenix's Anglo residents suddenly awoke and found a transformed landscape of panaderías (bakeries), discotecas (record stores), and carnicerías (meat markets); restaurants that specialized in po-sole, birria, and mariscos de Sinaloa; and other strange, previously unseen business establishments. People began to notice a proliferation of Spanish-language check-cashing and money-wiring outlets along with Latino day laborers lined up along block after block of certain thoroughfares. Some of these features of Phoenix's Latino landscape certainly existed ten or twenty years ago, but they were not as visible because there were fewer of them and because those that did exist were largely confined to the traditional Hispanic core of the city. In today's Phoenix, the Latino landscape is increasingly evident in the suburbs and on the urban periphery. Residents have become keenly aware that Phoenix has evolved into an international city and is no longer the sleepy cow town it once was. This chapter explores the recent impact of Hispanic Americans in Phoenix by investigating their influence in commercial enterprise. I conducted this research by collecting field data on Latino businesses and comparing these data with spatial patterns of Hispanic settlement. Information from secondary sources further supplements this study. © 2004 by The University of Texas Press. All rights reserved.


Department of Geography

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