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on April 18, 2017
An excellent history of the settlement. of America. Three author describes in detail the little known history of how America was settled from South to North, before it was settled East to West :/ Spaniards coming from Mexico. What is now the Southwestern part of the U S and the West Coast we're. The author describes in detail the history of the Spanish conquest of South western America Andy has the sources to Back up his steatments. His message needs to be incorporated in American history books.

basically stolen by Northern European immigrants.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 13, 2015
This is one of the most thought-provoking books about the USA in years. Let's start with the author. His father is from Spain (Galicia) and his mother is English. He grew up in Britain and was educated there, and has taught at American universities. He is therefore bicultural, both English and Spanish, and his perspective is about as unique as you can get. He is a brilliant historian, apparently a good teacher, and an extremely good writer. He writes as an American immigrant, as an historian, and as an Hispanic. His purpose in writing is to throw light on the changing Hispanic influence on the USA.

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!
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on September 25, 2014
I am grateful for a fascinating alternative view of the USA's history. I was pleasantly surprised at its readability and its comprehensive view of the complexities of the history in the southwest, as well as the rest of the country. It is very current in its analyses and never overwhelms. I am recommending this book to everyone who studies American history. I am recommending this book to Latinos. I look forward to a follow-up; perhaps an elaboration on the final chapter which exposes the myth of the idea of a Protestant work ethic.
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on February 11, 2014
While this book will evoke much resonance for its contemporaneity, its good sense, it is an historical provocation
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.
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on February 27, 2014
Our America busts wide open the white washed history we are given in our schools. It explains the grimy truth about we we settled in this country. Fernández-Armesto explains Hispanic colonization and immigration moving from the South to the North. Starting with Florida, he details the conquistadors' attempts to enrich themselves. He compares English, Spanish, and eventually American policies toward immigration, intermarriage, and natives. We learn why Spanish colonies were more integrated. We look at the missions in Texas and Mexican Territory and their role in the history of the Native Americans.
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.
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on May 29, 2014
For a gringo, I found this book very interesting and informative. We assume that the U.S. was created from East to West. This book tells of the very significant Hispanic settlement from South to North, and the very unfair treatment of the early Hispanic settlers in the 1800's at the hands of many Anglo-Americans who came later.
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on September 18, 2016
Author provides good overview at times but can get bogged down in too much detail. Author also provides significant level of opinion (albeit educated) which is at odds with historical approach of the work.
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on June 4, 2016
Amazing writer. Armesto not only has a way of words but with galvanizing the soul with history.
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on February 9, 2016
After reading the prologue and the first couple chapters (and seeing words in English I had never seen or heard before, very unusual for this polyglot reader), I expected to love this book. But it bogs down midway, gets a bit tedious and repetetive.
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on October 7, 2014
Although the book tended to be somewhat rambling and disorganized, I learned a great deal from it. I would recommend it as a good overview of the significant Spanish and Mexican influence on United States history.
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