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Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States Hardcover – January 20, 2014
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An eminent scholar finds a new American history in the Hispanic past of our diverse nation.The United States is still typically conceived of as an offshoot of England, with our history unfolding east to west beginning with the first English settlers in Jamestown. This view overlooks the significance of America’s Hispanic past. With the profile of the United States increasingly Hispanic, the importance of recovering the Hispanic dimension to our national story has never been greater.
This absorbing narrative begins with the explorers and conquistadores who planted Spain’s first colonies in Puerto Rico, Florida, and the Southwest. Missionaries and rancheros carry Spain’s expansive impulse into the late eighteenth century, settling California, mapping the American interior to the Rockies, and charting the Pacific coast. During the nineteenth century Anglo-America expands west under the banner of “Manifest Destiny” and consolidates control through war with Mexico. In the Hispanic resurgence that follows, it is the peoples of Latin America who overspread the continent, from the Hispanic heartland in the West to major cities such as Chicago, Miami, New York, and Boston. The United States clearly has a Hispanic present and future.
And here is its Hispanic past, presented with characteristic insight and wit by one of our greatest historians.3 illustrations
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A valuable contribution to those seeking a broader understanding of U.S. history. --Janet Napolitano"
Exceedingly well-written and engaging. --Hector Tobar"
In enviably lyrical prose, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto has written a bold and compelling synthesis of our nation s Hispanic past, from the Spanish arrival in the late fifteenth century to the current and contentious debate over immigration reform. Marshaling famous and forgotten individuals and events, he reminds us that there is much more to America s story than simply Massachusetts Pilgrims and Virginia Cavaliers. --Andrew R. Graybill, director, Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University"
Triumphantly rescues Hispanic America from obscurity. "
With a lucid, engaging style, [Fernandez-Armesto] seeks to understand the continuity between the Spanish colonization and the fight for justice led by the Chicano movement in the sixties and by immigration advocates today This is an invitation to look at America in full! --Ilan Stavans, general editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino History"
- ASIN : 0393239535
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (January 20, 2014)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780393239539
- ISBN-13 : 978-0393239539
- Item Weight : 1.61 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #646,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The book really has three parts. The first details Spanish--not Mexican--exploration and settlement. In much of what is now the United States, the Spanish were here first, sometimes longest and most intensively. By that measure, we are historically Hispanic. He discusses California (one of his most interesting sections), explored and finally settled by the Spanish. So with New Mexico. Texas and Arizona too, but smaller populations. Those places were Hispanic and therefore...well you see the point. The intense and long duration of Spanish presence in parts of what is now the United States is usually glossed over, and many see Hispanics as invaders (when the Anglos were the invaders, in Florida for example). There are also parts of the USA that we forget have a long Spanish presence--Puerto Rico, Guam. He is absolutely convincing on the historic Hispanic presence. At the same time, he has a wonderful take on the settlement of the British colonies. The argument is that the British colonies expanded to the west and the Hispanics to the north, and where the two crossed is a fertile and contentious ground for conflict and cross-fertilization.
A second part, not really sequential, is the experience of Hispanics in the USA until recent times. The treaty ending the Mexican War guaranteed citizenship and rights for Hispanics who did not wish to leave for Mexico. These people were systematically hounded out of their land, denied representation and denied opportunity, sometimes by fraud and sometimes by lynching and other means of terror, particularly in Texas. The need for labor, the legacy Hispanic populations and politics in Mexico are all part of an extremely complicated social history involving the Southwest particularly. Hispanics were treated quite as badly as African Americans were, and were subject to the same institutional racism that denied equal access, and caused such horrific episodes as mandatory sterilization for some caught up in the criminal system. He details the struggle for equal rights, in a fascinating section. Note that it is by no means that Anglos are the bad guys and Hispanics in the white hats. In one section of some length, he explores the Mormon experience, extremely positive on that historical experience.
The third part looks at current trends and Hispanics in the later 20th century and in this new century. Hispanics have always been here, and immigration is vastly increasing the population, but now most of the increase is the children of the initial waves. Perhaps 60% have their origin in Mexico--but millions originate and millions still live in Hispanic United States, in Puerto Rico, American now for well over 100 years.
The book ends with what really is a separate essay. He looks at the idea of the Protestant work ethic a la Max Weber, and systematically demolishes it. His point is that much of what is usually identified as distinctly American is not, and is simply a variation on common themes existing in all the American nations. He does present a strongly favorable account of Catholicism, not to denigrate US Protestants, but to correct a number of baleful assumptions about Catholic immigrants. He notes that the vaunted American individualism exists, but that the community and even communitarian impulse is just as strong, and that most people in the USA participate in groups of many kinds. I suspect it is this section that has caused those extremely negative reviews several readers have written. This book is not an apologia for Catholicism. It does not claim the USA should be returned to Mexico. He's also not optimistic about the prospect of Spanish surviving. The Hispanic portion of the USA. a hundred million by mid century, is likely to speak English, be increasingly Protestant and be thoroughly Americanized. And in my opinion, that bodes extremely well for this country of mine. And his. And my/his country is multi-cultural, not just a melding of Hispanic and Anglo, but Asian, African American, Indian and the others we will be fortunate to have as new citizens.
This is not an easy read. But the subject is surpassingly important. You'll find out a lot of things, some trivial, some key, some sad, some joyful. But read the book!
of the first order; it is the wealth of historical detail which appeals to this reader. For instance, when the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish lands in 1767, "The Baja was virtually a Jesuit republic. The expulsion...deprived the monarchy of its most determined frontiersmen"(112). The ways in which accommodation were reached between brothers and indios are multiple; for instance, while the brothers were strict enough on sexaul matters, locking up Indian girls, they were more indulgent on indifferent traditions like dancing and traditional healing" (115). The towns around the missions grew little in the late 18C, partly because of the indios' desire for their former hunting life, partly because farming brought better diet, fattening and sickening. (Hmm.. Is that an historical or a 21st C point?)
And the internecine struggles between secular administrators and the monasteries provide fruitful accounts of
human individualities and differences. For instance, it must have proven difficult to impress Fray Jose Maria Zalvidea, who "constantly flogged himself, wore hairshirt, and drove nails into his feet." Others had spasms of drunkenness and lunacy, perhaps indistinguishable.
Meanwhile, some administrators threatened to take away the mission lands (which they had by royal grant) and authority, including their right to confirm baptized indios. Seems like England's Henry VIII was not alone in considering the acquisition of institutions built by the enticements and amalgamations of the religious.
The book was sad and left me with a certain anger that I had been deceived both in high school and college that the settling of our country had been gentle and founded on such high principles. Nativist especially should read Our America to temper their resentment of Hispanic immigrants.