From riots to rampart : a spatial cultural politics of Salvadoran migration to and from Los Angeles



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This study of Salvadoran transnational migration is a multi-sited interAmerican ethnography. I explore the contentious spatial cultural politics surrounding the Latinization of Los Angeles and the Americanization of El Salvador attached to the global cultural flows of people, money, commodities and ideas between California and Central America. The study began and ended in Los Angeles. In between I traveled to and lived in El Salvador. Each chapter threads together multiple sites and connections between Los Angeles and El Salvador around the practices of representation, consumption, redevelopment, policing, and forced repatriation (deportation). I argue that more than just the literal movement of people back and forth. connections between El Salvador and Los Angeles are also material and discursive, imaginary and spatial, affective and mimetic. The ethnography spans these events in Los Angeles between 1992 and 2000: The Los Angeles (Rodney King) Riot and the most recent disruption in the Los Angeles Police Department—corruption charges against its Rampart (PicoUnion) division. While steeped in this political history, space—the production, representation, use of and arguments over—serves as the primary interpretive thread throughout the study. Most concretely speaking then, this dissertation is about Salvadoran migration to and from Los Angeles. Most abstractly speaking, it is about the social production of space and the spatialization of culture in late capitalism. The dissertation focuses on the globalization between the Americas as a process fraught with what I term a dialectic of mobility and immobility. As sucyh, it examines the tensions between global flows and the way those cultural movements are arrested and immobilized, and how transnational formations can be and are produced by nationalism (US and Salvadoran).