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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: March 8, 2001
Latest update: March 8, 2001
E-Mailjeannecurran@habermas.org

Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America

Review and Teaching Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata, March 2001. "Fair Use" encouraged.

This essay is based on Juan Gonzalez' Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. Penguin Books. 2000. ISBN: 0-14 02.5539 7 (pbk.) $15 at Vroman's in Pasadena.

Juan Gonzalez is a journalist, born in Puerto Rico, and grown up in a New York City housing project. (Preface.) He brings to this history first, the "lived" experience of a Latino growing up in America. He writes compellingly. And he brings his faith that Americans value justice: "the American people still cling to a basic sense of fairness, that once they understand the facts, they rarely permit injustice to stand. . . . Our most dangerous enemies are not each other but the great wall of ignorance between us." (at. p. xix.)

Gonzalez tells his story with an emphasis on the difference between Latin American immigration and comparable European immigration (at. p. xiv):

  1. A direct connection to U.S. needs, such as stabilizing a neighboring country, supporting U.S. foreign policy, or bolstering U.S. needs in the labor market.
  2. Immigration not into the general population, like European groups, but into a "linguistic/caste status," similar to other racial and ethnic patterns in the U.S.
  3. Most Latin American immigration occurred after the U.S. had already become a world power.
    Discussion Questions :

  1. In what ways does Juan Gonzalez' approach to Latino Immigration reflect constitutive theory?

jeanne's notes on one plausible answer:

  1. Gonzalez suggests that Latinos themselves are not familiar with the history of Latino immigration, particularly as it represents the many diverse groups of immigrants. He recognizes the importance of the interdependence between the groups and the individuals who make up those groups: "Just as important as understanding the broad social forces in volved in Latino immigration is comprehending the human saga of the people involved." That is the story we hope you will discover as you read this book.