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Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America

3.8 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140255393
ISBN-10: 0140255397
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Readers familiar with immigration history as told in books like Roger Daniels's Coming to America will experience a sense of déjà vu with Harvest of Empire by Juan Gonzalez. The immigrant experience is a constant in American life; although the tides ebb and flow, it seems that there always has been an immigrant presence in the United States. What's different today, of course, is where the immigrants are coming from: half are Latin American.

Gonzalez, a columnist for the New York Daily News, studies these latest arrivals in a book that combines history and journalism. He has a keen understanding of Hispanic diversity, focusing not just on "Hispanics" as a monolithic category but as a variety of people from many nations. The politics in Harvest of Empire are often tendentious: Gonzalez unfavorably compares U.S. border control efforts to building the Great Wall in China, demands an end to Puerto Rico's "colonial status," insists that Spanish become an official language actively encouraged in the public schools, and so on. His agenda will no doubt appeal to a certain kind of reader, but at the cost of alienating many others, including, probably, a majority of Hispanics living in the United States. For those looking for a left-leaning account of Hispanic immigration, however, this book succeeds as an ambitious survey. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gonzalez, a Puerto Rican journalist, brings passion and research to this recounting of the fascinating history of Latins in America. He notes the Latinization of the U.S. with rising immigration from Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America to projections that Latinos will constitute the largest minority in the nation by 2010. Gonzalez explores why Spanish and British colonization experiences were so different, particularly the divergence in attitudes on slavery and race. The book is organized to explore what Gonzalez calls "Roots," the historical relationship between Latin America and the U.S., "Branches," the six major Latino groups in the nation, and "Harvest," issues facing Latinos in the U.S. today. He dissects the U.S. exploitation and occupation of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama, Nicaragua, and Cuba and examines the U.S. policy of supporting dictators friendly to U.S. interest that has destabilized Latin America and provoked massive immigration to the U.S. This is an important book for understanding a major American ethnic group. Vanessa Bush --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140255397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140255393
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Harvest of Empire, a book by Juan Gonzalez, gives a history of Latinos in the United States. The book is divided into three sections entitled "Roots," "Branches," and "Harvest." The first section contains three chapters that provide a brief history of the relationship between Latin America and the United States. The second section is composed of six chapters, each one devoted to one of the major groups of Latinos living in the United States. Each of the following groups are described in this section: Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans, Dominicans, Central Americans, and Columbians and Panamanians share a chapter. Within the six chapters, Gonzalez writes about individuals or families in order to reflect the general migration story of the larger groups. Thus, these individual portrayals serve as representations of the larger collection of immigrants. In the third section Gonzalez discusses several topics relating to Hispanics living in the United States. The topics include politics, immigration, language and culture, free trade, and the state of Puerto Rico.

This book has several strengths. In the first section, Juan Gonzalez provides an informative summary of the history of colonization and expansion in the Americas. The summary is well-researched and easy to read. The main strength of section one is Gonzalez's explanation for why different societies exist today in the United States and Latin America. His theory is that different societies exist as a result of the historical antecedents to our modern society. In section two, the immigrant descriptions help to personalize each of the different groups and allow the reader to identify with their stories. Also, Gonzalez stresses the important differences between each of the various Latino immigrant groups in the United States.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of those great books that gives readers a sweep of hundreds of years of history while at the same providing a laser-like focus on current events. "Harvest of Empire" is about the rise of Latinos in America from LA to Miami, from Brownsville, Texas to Brownsville, Brooklyn. It is scholarly without being academic, politically analytical without being polemical. It is about the immense contribution that Latinos have made and are now making to the politics and culture of the U.S. It is about the steady Latinoization of American culture from the big band sounds of Mario Bauza and Machito to Gloria Estefan and Selena. As a veteran newspaperman and columnist,Juan Gonzalez has always been an activist-reporter, someone who refuses to distance himself the events he covers. Now, as historian and writer, he brings the same sense of up-close and personal to his story of Latinos in America. It is history with passion.
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Format: Hardcover
"Harvest of Empire" is a must read for Latinos and those who are interested in learning more about the nation's fastest growing ethnic group. Gonzalez has fearlessly examined the history of Latinos from the Spanish and English conquests to the present day.
Gonzalez effectively paints a large overall picture of why Latinos migrated to the United States. As he noted, Latinos migrated to this country because they were responding to the needs of the United States which has often acted as an empire imposing its will on Latin American nations.
The best part about the book, however, is that it examines the history of many different Latino groups. So often, books about Latinos deal solely with the history of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans. As the book demonstrates, Latinos and many Latin American countries such as the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua share much more than just a common language.
The book adds a lot of insight into the growing political clout of Latinos as well as the debate over language.
On a personal note, as a Puerto Rican growing up in New York City, the book has helped me to better understand my identity as well as the shame many tried to make me feel. I attended public school in New York and I can't remember one instance where we learned anything about Latino heroes or history. This book has helped to fill that void and should be used in the classroom, particularly in college.
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By A Customer on March 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Harvest of Empire" is the best account to date of who Latinos in the United States are, where they come from and how, historically, US policies have been directly responsible for spawning the huge waves of immigration from Latin America. With Hispanics poised to become the largest minority group in the country within the next 10 years, Juan Gonzalez's work comes not a moment too soon.
This is an extremely well documented book that will have the reader marveling about the amount of information it packs in its 346 pages. And it is a passionate, breathtaking narrative of the ongoing adventure of Hispanic immigration, and its multitude of often overlooked contributions to US culture, art, economy, politics and values.
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By A Customer on July 28, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What I loved about this book is that the author gives a narrative of history that wasn't apparent to me before. We're taught that US history moves from East to West, but for millions of Latinos history moves from South to North.

Gonzalez spends time on each Latino group and he demonstrates how each sending country's relationship with the United States impacts how each group is treated. I didn't know that Puerto Ricans were US citizens by birth. Moreover, I had no idea how much immigrant labor from Mexico contributes to America's prosperity--particulary that of California and Texas. (CA is the fifth largest economy in the world.) What I also didn't know is that the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 made Cuban exiles immediately eligible for public assistance, Medicaid, food stamps, free English courses, scholarships and low interest college loans. They could also secure immediate business and start up loans. Dade county even opened up its civil service list to non-citizens. Some banks even pioneered what is called a "character loan"--an exile who didn't have collateral or credit could get a business loan based on his background or standing in Cuba. Obviously, these programs have had an effect on that group's prosperity.

This book is full of information that has given me new insight about our country's fastest growing ethnic group(s).
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