“Aging in Displacement: Urban Revitalization and Puerto Rican Elderhood in Chicago”


  • Mérida M. Rúa Williams College




Aging in place, displacement, housing, older adults, Puerto Ricans, urban restructuring


Displacement has marked the individual and collective lives of Puerto Ricans in Chicago, especially those who migrated in the 1950s and 1960s. For these older persons, the arrival of the gentry and the yuppies of yesterday, the hipsters of today, and the disappearance of familiar faces in their current neighborhoods are not new phenomena, but rather parts of a profoundly familiar process. They came of age in displacement. Today some Puerto Rican older adults have achieved housing security and are able to age in place because they live in low-income senior housing. Yet a sense of displacement still looms large in their daily lives with the upscaling of and new-build gentrification in their current neighborhood. This work sheds light on the meaning of place for older adult Puerto Ricans who have experienced what psychiatrist and urban studies scholar Mindy T. Fullilove calls a history of “serial displacement.” Through life history narratives and ethnographic snapshots, this paper highlights the neglected reality of “aging in displacement,” or the experience of growing up and growing older in a context of repeated socio-spatial dislocation and how individual and collective life histories of community upheaval texture the spatial and social meanings of place.

Author Biography

Mérida M. Rúa, Williams College

Professor, Latina and Latino Studies & American Studies

Chair, Latina and Latino Studies Program

Mérida M. Rúa is Professor of Latina and Latino Studies and American Studies at Williams College in Massachusetts. She is author of A Grounded Identidad: Making New Lives in Chicago's Puerto Rican Neighborhoods (Oxford University Press, 2012) and editor of Latino Urban Ethnography and the Work of Elena Padilla (University of Illinois Press, 2011). Her research and teaching interests include urban history and ethnography, contemporary understandings of citizenship, race and space, and community and identity formations among diasporic Puerto Ricans, US Latinos, and other ethnoracial populations. Expanding on her previous work on the history and politics of Puerto Rican identity and community, Rúa is currently conducting research on aging and urban life, with particular attention to older adult Latinas and Latinos in Chicago. This project follows her ongoing interest in studying identity and the ways in which race intersects with class, gender, age, and other ideologies of difference in urban contexts.


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2017-06-06 — Updated on 2023-04-05