Los Flamboyanes: The Politics of Barrio Public Housing in Rochester, NY, 1964-1975
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This dissertation traces the national and local political context surrounding the development of Los Flamboyanes, a housing project built by and for the Puerto Rican community of Rochester, NY during the Great Society era. By examining the origins of this development, I explore the structural forces in both socioeconomic and political terms that defined and shaped the use of residential space in this particular neighborhood. More importantly, it situates Rochester in the larger national context and historical analysis of the race and class politics of segregation and public housing. The Urban Renewal policies of the 1950s and 60s further exacerbated the problem of residential segregation that developed throughout the 20 th century. Throughout the greater part of the 20th century, discrimination in the real estate market, trends in national and local economies, employment and housing discrimination, public housing policy, urban renewal, community advocacy and resistance, and national, and local politics have played active roles in defining residential space for people of color. The 1960s was a decade of advocacy and protest, and towards the latter part of the decade, one with a distinct anti-colonial and self-determination turn in left-wing rhetoric. The War on Poverty programs such as Model Cities, Community Action and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 offered the Rochester Puerto Rican barrio an opportunity to organize and advocate for recognition and ultimately for better housing. The largest and most influential organization to represent the Latino community was the Ibero-American Action League. The barrio community developed within a solidified ghetto and Latinos shared segregated space with the Black community. The local Black Power movement provided both a model and a challenge to barrio leaders and by 1970, the League emerged from disputes with rival groups as a dominant force in the Latino community to address issues of community development. By the early 1970s, President Nixon's New Federalism and changes in place-based funding and federal housing policy led to a decline in public housing projects. It is precisely at this time in Rochester that the Puerto Rican community advocated for its own residential space and successfully created a physical marker with a unique cultural legacy. This dissertation enriches the history of Puerto Ricans, by employing the use of archival material and oral history. Through oral histories I examine why and how the community advocated for this particular residential space within the local and national politics of public housing at a time when public housing was on the decline. The oral histories reveal a complex understanding of the development of Los Flamboyanes and are essential to this historiography. For community leaders, the housing project was a victory in political recognition and self determination. For residents, the housing project provided affordable housing and a home with a connection to culture, language, and a viable community network.