April 7, 2000


BOOK REVIEW

A History of Latinos in America

by Daniel L. Muñoz Sr.

HARVEST OF EMPIRE
A HISTORY OF LATINOS IN AMERICA
By Juan Gonzalez
Viking, March 6, 2000 , 352 pages, $27.95
ISBN; 0-670-86720-9
Publisher: Penguin Putman Inc. New York

History, it is said, is written by the winners and not by the losers of any conflict be it military, political, economic or social. It is clear that the history of the participation, contributions, and influence of the Mexican-Latino Americans has in the main been written by the European occupiers of the American continent. They held the power, the means, and the desperate need to impose themselves as the conquerors, settlers, and the superior race in the Americas from the Northern reaches of Alaska, Canada, and the United States to the southern most reaches of Chili, including the island nations of the Caribbean Basin.

In the beginning, shortly thereafter the conquest of the indigenous populations, all history was systematically destroyed. Every vestige of their past was erased. What lasted and propagated, as the history of the American continent, was actually the first of many efforts to recreate the history of the Americas and its inhabitants from the perspective of the conquerors. And so it has been from the Spanish Conquest to the first onslaught of the Anglo-European conquest and settlement of the Americas.

In much the same vain the participation of the Mexican\Latino Americans in the development of North, South, and Central America has remained a deep mystery not made available in our schools, colleges, or universities. We were made the silent and invisible minority of the Americas. The writers of history wrote with their white blinders on oblivious to the participation and contributions of our peoples contribution to the founding and settlement of the Americas.

How has the majority people's of the Americas remained conquered and excluded? What powers have been used to totally make of millions of Latinos subservient peoples of North America, the USA? Why have we, the 5th /7th generation Mexican and Latino Americans continued to allow our selves and families to be stigmatized as 2nd class citizens and be controlled in this fashion?

Juan Gonzalez in his book HARVEST OF SHAME: A History of Latinos in America has opened the door to what promises to be the gateway to self discovery for the Latino people of America, the Latinos and Mexicans of north, central and south America, as well as the Latinos of the Caribbean countries, to begin to understand what have been the tools of our conquest and subjection. It will lay the foundation for the Anglo-European members of our society to begin to see that they too are victims of the terrible economic power being used to control them by the multi-national mega-corporations. Perhaps unbeknownst to Juan Gonzalez he has opened up a dark window into what we have allowed America to become.

That Juan Gonzalez was able to collect the data needed to support "Harvest of Empire" makes of this book "required reading" not only for Mexican Americans and all Latinos, but for all Americans of all colors, racial makeup or ethnicity as well. It should be required reading in all our high school history courses as well as in our colleges and universities. No, it is not the answer to all the problems confronting us as multi-cultural nation. But it does lay the groundwork for future research, exploration and analytical analysis of our society. It will go a long way for all Americans to find a common path to a more humane and understanding society.

Of particular interest to Puerto Ricans will be the analysis of the status of Puerto Rico, one of the last remaining colonial empires of the United States. The question of the status of Puerto Rico sure to come before the Congress after the 2000 Presidential elections, González presents a clear new choice to Puerto Ricans and the Congress which is sure to get the attention of all concerns. This sorry chapter in American history should come to an end and cease Americas' "Harvest of Shame"!

HARVEST OF EMPIRE chronicles the Latino sagging narrative form that spans over 500 years of history beginning with the colonial society implemented by the Spanish conquistadors. It discusses the causes and reasons for immigration from Latin America and the underlying reasons for this Diaspora. González indicated that it is a direct result of U.S. Policies that has sent millions fleeing northward across the border in search of work. In the process a new America has been created.

The author was born in Puerto Rico and was raised in a New York City Barrio. In the 60's, he co-founded the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican youth gang that became very active at the same time as "El Movimiento" in California. Herman Baca, who at the time led the Committee on Chicano Rights, met with Juan González during that period of time when Puerto Ricans were joining with La Raza to impact on the racist system in place during those days. Juan González later went on to become an award winning journalist and a regular columnist at the New York Daily News.

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