By: Sandy Donovan
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: September 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: November 2010
With the burgeoning population growth of people of Hispanic descent in the United States, we are now looking at a marvelous influx of culture as well as diversity. The largest group of Hispanics are the Mexican Americans. The Hispanic American populace includes “Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and people from other Latin American countries.” These groups now make up 15% of our population. There are many differences in these groups, but one thing they have in common is that they all speak Spanish or are descended from people who did. Something many people might not know is that “most are also the descendants of Native American peoples.” In 1776 English became our official language, but in the West, Spanish was often spoken.
There are many different reasons people immigrated to the United States. For example, in the 1950s “more than one million Cubans” immigrated to the states to escape a dictatorial regime they had difficulty living under. Whatever their reasons for immigrating, when many arrived they unfortunately had to deal with prejudice. People refused to do business with them, schools were not allowed to speak Spanish, and “laws were written in English.” One result was that “discrimination created a tight knit community.” Unfortunately, in part due to such prejudice, “second- and third-generation Hispanic Americans no longer speak Spanish.” Fortunately in many barrios or neighborhoods, clusters of spanish-speaking people kept their language and culture alive.
In this book you will be able to read about and explore the many rich contributions Hispanic people have given to us. Literary contributions abound with such outstanding authors as Isabel Allende, who hails from Chile, and the likes of Gabriel García Márquez from Columbia. You’ll also meet other famous Latin American authors. Perhaps you enjoy the “distinctive sounds of Latin music.” Many are familiar with Selena, “the queen of Tejano music” and remember well her contribution to music. Other memorable stars include Santana, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan, and Christina Aguilera. You’ll also be able to read about those who starred on the silver screen, contributed to the arts as photographers, sculptors, or painters. Hispanic American contributions do not stop with music and the arts. You’ll also learn about sports figures (including those in management), their religion, special holidays, celebrations, and, of course their foods.
This is an excellent overview of Hispanic Americans, a group who is a large part of the tapestry of the United States. This “mosaic” is very well done and provides an enjoyable reading experience. Of course no book can be all inclusive, but it clearly outlines the many different cultures that Hispanic people come from and the contributions they have made to ours. The definition of National Hispanic Heritage Month delineates in part what the reader will find in this book: it “...is a four-week commemoration of all the contributions and experiences that Hispanics have brought to the United States.” I especially enjoyed meeting the many individuals who have contributed to the arts. For example, many people may not know that Rita Hayworth’s real name was Rita Cansino, a young woman who had to hide her Hispanic heritage. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, portraits of famous Hispanic Americans, a “snapshot” of Hispanic Americans, suggestions on how to explore your own heritage, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: This is an excellent portrait of the many contributions Hispanic Americans have made to enhance the American way of living!