Hello everyone, I am very excited for the program and I am looking forward to meet everyone in Boston.
Susan Bickford’s reading talks about the problem of segregation in the U.S. Throughout my life I have experienced various forms of segregation first hand. I grew up in the city of San Germán, Puerto Rico; moved in the year 2000 to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to attend college.
The City of San Germán’s population is over 35,000 and most of the people live in what is called “urbanizaciónes”. They are basically middleclass suburban developments in which all the houses are built with the same or similar floor plan. They are usually built on what used to be farm land on the outskirts of the city. Some are gated with a security guard 24 hours a day. The guard’s duty here is to keep people that do not belong to the neighborhood from coming in. These communities similar to what Evan McKenzie calls “common interest developments” (CIDs) or “planned unit developments” (PUDs). Some of them have owner organizations and different fees that residents will pay for maintenance of their shared amenities.
The area where I grew up was in the country side of San Germán, we were just a 10 minute drive from the city center. The city center is where most of the business and government facilities are located. Some of my friends in high school lived in “urbanizaciónes” in their minds they were superior to the other kids whose parents couldn’t afford to live in such places.
In San Germán also there are some affordable housing developments that are called “caserios”, these were built back in the 1980’s and were basically government funded. In the 1990’s the “caserios” were notorious for their crime rate, criminals used them as hub for drug dealing and drug related killings. By the mid 90’s the crime was so out of control the government used the National Guard to take control of these places. Later on, the government helped to build fences around the “caserios” and added controlled access gates with a police guarding those 24 hours a day. The guard’s duty here is to keep the crime isolated and help to prevent it from spreading into the rest of the city. People who live in “caserios” they are usually victims of prejudice just because they were raised in a typically violent location.
When I moved to Milwaukee I started to notice the city of Milwaukee is just as segregated. Here there are so many people from different backgrounds and economic circumstances, but they tend to group together into different neighborhoods. This seems to be based on both economic circumstance as well as culture. There are physical as well as political boundaries. The river divides the primarily Caucasian “East Side” from the primarily African American “West Side”. The highway pushes the primarily Latino population towards the “South Side”.
The school districts are also affected by this division. The city of Milwaukee attempts to keep their schools somewhat diverse for political reasons. They bus in students from lower income neighborhoods into the high income schools. This is an example of what Bickford describes as “Overlapping.” Though this is an effort to increase diversity, the schools are still extremely segregated. The students who are bused in from the lower income neighborhoods tend to form their own groups, and do not actually “mix in” with the local students. Perhaps after time this problem will lessen as the different groups of students mingle more with each other.