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The Slums of Aspen

The Slums of Aspen: Immigrants vs. the Environment in Americas Eden

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    The Slums of Aspen
    Book Description:

    Environmentalism usually calls to mind images of peace and serenity, a oneness with nature, and a shared sense of responsibility. But one town in Colorado, under the guise of environmental protection, passed a resolution limiting immigration, bolstering the privilege of the wealthy and scapegoating Latin American newcomers for the area's current and future ecological problems. This might have escaped attention, save for the fact that this wasn't some rinky-dink backwater. It was Aspen, Colorado, playground of the rich and famous and the West's most elite ski town. Tracking the lives of immigrant laborers through several years of exhaustive fieldwork and archival digging, The Slums of Aspen tells a story that brings together some of the most pressing social problems of the day: environmental crises, immigration, and social inequality. Park and Pellow demonstrate how these issues are intertwined in the everyday experiences of people who work and live in this wealthy tourist community. Developing the idea of environmental privilege--the economic, political, and cultural power that some groups enjoy, which enables them exclusive access to coveted environmental amenities such as forests, parks, mountains, rivers, coastal property, open lands, and elite neighborhoods--they argue that this odd marriage of environmental and nativist groups occurs because of population fears--both want less people, especially if they are the brown sort.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6804-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Environmental Privilege in the Rocky Mountains
    (pp. 1-27)

    On December 13, 1999, the City Council of Aspen, Colorado—one of the country’s most exclusive recreational sites for some of the world’s wealthiest people—unanimously passed a resolution petitioning the U.S. Congress and the president to restrict the number of immigrants entering the United States. The language of the resolution suggests that this goal could be achieved by enforcing laws regulating undocumented immigration and reducing authorized immigration to 175,000 persons per year, down from the current annual level of between 700,000 and one million.¹ One of their primary reasons for encouraging tougher immigration laws was the purported negative impact...

  6. 1 The Logic of Aspen
    (pp. 28-67)

    While our geographic focus extends throughout Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, all valley roads ultimately lead to Aspen. There is the physical road, Highway 82, which is the main path to Aspen, connecting that city with Snowmass, Woody Creek, and the “down valley” communities of Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Rifle, and Parachute. There is also the so-called road of influence, politics, opportunity, and money that leads to Aspen, the Pitkin County seat where affluence and glitter outweigh anything you can find down valley. Aspen, it seems, offers something for everyone: work for immigrants, inspiration and funding for environmentalists and intellectuals, and...

  7. 2 The Ultimate Elite Retreat
    (pp. 68-94)

    More than sixty years ago, an editorial in theAspen Timessummarized the challenge we face in this chapter: “To write a history of this famous old town in one newspaper article or even in one book, is a task which fails of accomplishment.”¹ Instead of writing a history of this beguiling, maddening place, here we simply offer our own perspective on the crucial themes that are illustrative of the town’s past and its legacy of environmental privilege. From these seeds, we can better understand the resource-destroying forest that Aspen has become. We begin with the lasting lure of Manifest...

  8. 3 Living in Someone Else’s Paradise
    (pp. 95-126)

    While there may not be such a thing as a typical day in the life of an immigrant family in the Roaring Fork Valley, Luisa’s story may come close:

    A normal day for me, it’s different in the summer from the winter of course because the children are on vacation. On a normal day, I get up at five, make breakfast for my husband, at six o’clock, make the bed, do all the chores. Wake up the kids, ask and organize all the activities for the kids for the day. At eight we leave to clean houses. Ten houses. Tuesday...

  9. 4 Nativism and the Environmental Movement
    (pp. 127-161)

    The call of immigrants to America’s shores is one of our country’s most foundational stories. But if we are indeed a great melting pot, many of us have been burned along the way. Since at least the eighteenth century, every wave of people immigrating to the United States has had to deal with the antagonism of those who immigrated before. The result has been a vicious cycle of “quality-of-life” nativism, by the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant community in particular and by successive groups of European Americans in general.² This includes nativism directed at Austro-Hungarians, Chinese, Filipinos, Germans, Indian immigrants, the Irish,...

  10. 5 Advocacy and Social Justice Workers
    (pp. 162-198)

    Today, the Roaring Fork Valley is a bustling, thriving series of towns. Despite the nostalgic picture painted by the area’s few long-term residents, and contrary to the nativist ideal of Aspen as a stable community with deep local roots, the population here is constantly on the move. In fact, virtually everyone in the valley is a newcomer or a transplant.

    Despite the dominant Anglo presence, this is an area marked by rich ethnic and racial diversity, with immigrants from Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. There are many nativeborn Latinos and a smaller population of Asian Americans...

  11. Conclusion: Dreams of Privilege/Visions of Justice
    (pp. 199-210)

    Nativist environmentalism is clearly not a passing fad or a recent development in U.S. politics. It has much of its roots in the Western European concept of the “virgin land” or “empty land,” born centuries ago. European explorers and colonizers judged themselves to be the rightful and dominant inhabitants of these lands; thus indigenous peoples would no longer enjoy that entitlement. This myth of the virgin land undergirds nativist environmentalism and facilitates the maintenance of environmental privilege in many settler-colonial societies like the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. That myth remains strong today and supports the broader ideological...

    (pp. 211-212)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 213-242)
    (pp. 243-260)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 261-274)
    (pp. 275-275)