In the book Neighborhood Has Its Own Rules, Martinez talks about the three different forms of alternative governance in South Central LA, in which the citizens in that city govern themselves but ironically is supposed to be a disorganized institution due to an outside perspective. However, he proves this assumption to be wrong and explains how the church St. Joseph’s Catholic Church located between four housing projects in an area considered to be among the poorest in Los Angeles, acts as an alternative, parallel world that promotes protection and avoidance to minimize conflict. One of the ways the church provides protection is by protecting immigrants from the state who status puts them in constant fear of deportation. According to chapter 3 and table 3.2, nearly 30 percent of all South LA residents are not citizens.
Thus, the church not only help keep families together but also decrease conflict to a minimum by being a response to neighborhood threats within the community. In addition, Martinez explains how residents are limited as to what social spaces that they felt free to maneuver within the Catholic Church that minimizes risk and fear. Yet, with the intervening of the church many still fear for their life as explained by Latina high school, who lives near her church and explains, “It’s really dangerous right outside the church… There gang across the street, and things happen to people all the time. As soon as I go inside the gates, I feel this love from parishioners. Meaning that the church is a form of structure and organization that provides protection, but like in many areas whether wealthy or poor, faces all types of outside trouble.
Although the book is thoughtful and well‐argued, I don’t necessarily agree that this research and observation can apply to other situations outside the context of California for at least three reasons. First, black and Latino relations will necessarily look very different in eastern seaboard cities where many Caribbean immigrants are both black and Latino, and second, most inner‐city Catholic parishes cannot boast a long history of African American participation like that of “St. Joseph’s.” Third, not enough research was conducted on how blacks in California maneuver in the community.
Still, students and scholars will find in the book an important argument regarding the contributions made by some religious institutions to making our poorest urban communities more livable and inviting and how many poor communities do have organization but rarely recognize.