Much of the southwestern United States was once Mexico. Some people of Mexican descent in California, Texas, or New Mexico can make the joke: "We did not come to this country. It came to us." In fact, the U.S. study of Latin American history began with historians who wanted to understand the colonial background of that part of the United States. Today, the southwestern United States still shows strong cultural continuities with northern Mexico, partly because those continuities have been reinforced by continuing migration, but partly, too, because they have simply endured. At many points along the border, pairs of border towns face one anotherone on the Mexican side, the other on the U.S. side. But Spanish is the dominant language of daily life on both sides of that divide. Most of the people on both sides are of Mexican descent. Their strong numerical dominance among U.S. Latinos is reflected, for example, in the Mexican flavor of the leading U.S. Spanish-language television network, Univision. On the other hand, a paper on U.S. Latinos should examine the strong differences that divide Mexican Americans from people of Caribbean descent in Florida and New York.
Questions for Analysis and Further Reflection:
- Are U.S. Latinos in your community predominantly of Mexican or Caribbean descent, or from South America? What factors help to understand the history of immigration from Latin America to your community or region?
- How have U.S. Latinos begun to shape U.S. politics over the past fifteen years?
- How have U.S. Latinos, combined with the strong immigration of Latin Americans to the United States, influenced U.S.Latin American relations?
Bibliography: (Titles with ** are good starting places.)
** Acuña, Rodolfo F. U.S. Latino Issues. Contemporary American Ethnic Issues. Westport,
CT: Greenwood Press, 2003.
U.S. Latino Issues is a good introduction to some of the salient contemporary questions regarding Latinos in the United States. Its bibliography and questions for reflection can guide students to explore the issues presented in greater depth.
Arreola, Daniel D., ed. Hispanic Spaces, Latino Places: Community and Cultural Diversity
in Contemporary America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.
Though written with a scholarly tone, this recent collection provides a good panorama of distinct Hispanic and U.S. Latino communities throughout the United States.
Cardona, Luis A. A History of the Puerto Ricans in the United States of America. rev. and
enl. ed. Bethesda, MD: Carreta Press, 1995.
Castro, Tony. Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America. New York: Saturday
Review Press, 1974.
A dated but good overview of Mexican Americans in U.S. politics throughout the twentieth century.
Connaughton, Stacey L. Inviting Latino Voters: Party Messages and Latino Party
Identification. New York: Routledge, 2005.
De la Garza, Rodolfo O., Frank D. Bean, Charles M. Bonjean, Ricardo Romo, and Rodolfo
Alvarez, eds. The Mexican American Experience: An Interdisciplinary Anthology.
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985.
A collection of essays.
Langley, Lester D. MexAmerica: Two Countries, One Future. New York: Crown Publishers,
An engaging look at Mexican Americans and how they have and are shaping the economy, politics, and culture in the U.S.
Márquez, Benjamin. Constructing Identities in Mexican-American Political Organizations:
Choosing Issues, Taking Sides. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.
A scholarly approach to the study of Mexican Americans in contemporary U.S. politics.
Meier, Matt S., and Feliciano Ribera. Mexican Americans, American Mexicans: From
Conquistadors to Chicanos, rev. ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993.
Meier and Ribera give a readable historical overview of Mexican Americans, stretching back to the encounter, and looking at pivotal moments up to the end of the twentieth century.
Oboler, Suzanne, and Deena J. González, eds. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos & Latinas
in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Ramos, Jorge. The Latino Wave: How Hispanics Will Elect the Next American President.
New York: Rayo, 2004.
** Rodriguez, Richard. Brown: The Last Discovery of America. New York: Viking, 2002.
Students will enjoy this provocative essay on race and public life in the United States. It is both a stimulating read and a good introduction to some central questions that students should consider when thinking about U.S. Latinos.
Stavans, Ilan. The Hispanic Condition: The Power of a People, 2nd ed. New York: Rayo,
** ________. Latino USA.: A Cartoon History. Illustrated by Lalo Alcaraz. New York: Basic
This cartoon history is a quick read and fun introduction.
Valdez, Luis, and Stan Steiner, eds. Aztlan: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature.
Compiled by the well-known U.S. Latino playwright Luis Valdez, students will find in this collection a sample of literature in translation that spans from letters of Hernán Cortés to compositions of Chicano writers in the 1970s.