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Unformatted text preview: Praise for Juan Gonzalez’s Harvest of Empire “A serious, significant contribution to understanding who the Hispanics of the United States are and where they come from.” —The New York Times Book Review “A profound book with an equally profound message about the origins of Latino migration, domination, and colonization, and historical lessons not found in many American textbooks.” —San Antonio Express-News “A compelling—and enlightening—chronicle … offers an insider’s view of the rich and varied fabric of the people soon to be the largest minority in the United States.” —The Miami Herald “Anyone who finishes Harvest of Empire will never again see Latinos as a monolithic group, but as a diverse society of citizens and future citizens, worthy of recognition and respect.” —Fort Worth Morning Star “In what would seem an impossible task, journalist Juan Gonzalez tackles the entire history of Latinos in North and Central America in a single volume … illuminating.” —Dallas Morning News “Required reading, not simply for Latinos but for everyone.” —The Kansas City Star “Gonzalez’s ever-enjoyable prose grabs the reader and fills in the gaps left by a traditional American history education.” —In These Times “Here at last is the extraordinary saga of the Latinos in North America, brilliantly and compactly told. All the descendants of the old immigrants should read this book, to remind themselves of where they came from, and where all of us are going—together.” —Pete Hamill, author of Snow in August and A Drinking Life “This excellent history of Latinos in North and Central America is fair-handed, extremely well-documented, and filled with the sort of details that explain rather than enflame.” —Publishers Weekly “Juan Gonzalez brings us a sweeping account of the raw quest for empire that shaped the New World and is finally in our time transforming the United States. The history is often brutal, the experiences of the people caught up in the process wrenching. But Gonzalez paints a canvas that is in the end profoundly optimistic, for in the Latinization of the United States he sees the possibility of a renaissance of American democracy.” —Frances Fox Piven, coauthor of Regulating the Poor PENGUIN BOOKS HARVEST OF EMPIRE , a columnist with New York’s Daily News, and a two-time winner of the George Polk journalism award, was named one of the nation’s one hundred most influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business, and has received a lifetime achievement award from the Hispanic Academy of Media Arts and Sciences. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, he grew up in a New York City housing project, graduated from Columbia University, and was a cofounder of the 1960s Young Lords. He lives in Manhattan. JUAN GONZALEZ A History of Latinos in America Revised Edition JUAN GONZALEZ PENGUIN BOOKS PENGUIN BOOKS Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. 2000 Published in Penguin Books 2001 This revised edition published 2011 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 Copyright © Juan Gonzalez, 2000, 2011 All rights reserved LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA González, Juan, 1947– Harvest of empire: a history of Latinos in America / Juan Gonzalez.—Rev. ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN: 978-1-101-58994-6 1. Hispanic Americans—History. 2. Immigrants—United States—History. 3. United States—Emigration and immigration—History. 4. Latin America—Emigration and immigration—History. 5. United States—Relations—Latin America. 6. Latin America— Relations— United States. 7. United States—Territorial expansion—History. 8. United States—Ethnic relations. I. Title. E184.S75G655 2011 973’.0468—dc22 2011006880 Printed in the United States of America Set in TimesTen Roman Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. The scorn of our formidable neighbor who does not know us is Our America’s greatest danger. And since the day of the visit is near, it is imperative that our neighbor know us, and soon, so that it will not scorn us. Through ignorance it might even come to lay hands on us. Once it does know us, it will remove its hands out of respect. One must have faith in the best of men and distrust the worst. —José Martí, January 10, 1891 Contents Introduction Part I—Roots (Las Raíces) 1. Conquerors and Victims: The Image of America Forms (1500–1800) 2. The Spanish Borderlands and the Making of an Empire (1810–1898) 3. Banana Republics and Bonds: Taming the Empire’s Backyard (1898–1950) Part II—Branches (Las Ramas) 4. Puerto Ricans: Citizens Yet Foreigners 5. Mexicans: Pioneers of a Different Type 6. Cubans: Special Refugees 7. Dominicans: From the Duarte to the George Washington Bridge 8. Central Americans: Intervention Comes Home to Roost 9. Colombians and Panamanians: Overcoming Division and Disdain Part III—Harvest (La Cosecha) 10. The Return of Juan Seguín: Latinos and the Remaking of American Politics 11. Immigrants Old and New: Closing Borders of the Mind 12. Speak Spanish, You’re in America!: El Huracán over Language and Culture 13. Free Trade: The Final Conquest of Latin America 14. Puerto Rico, U.S.A.: Possessed and Unwanted Epilogue Acknowledgments Notes Glossary Bibliography Interviews Index Introduction Between March and May of 2006, an estimated 3 to 5 million people, most of them Latinos, filled the downtown streets of some 160 U.S. towns and cities in the largest series of mass protests the nation had ever seen.1 Not even during the heyday of the American labor movement in the 1930s, or during the high tide of civil rights protests and public opposition to the Vietnam War during the 1960s, had such astonishing numbers paraded peacefully in so many different localities over a common grievance. Never before had a group at the margins of U.S. society taken our political establishment by such complete surprise. Word of the mobilizations, it turned out, had spread largely via Spanish-language radio and TV and through social networks of young Latinos on the Internet, so government leaders and the general public had little idea of what was happening until the huge crowds suddenly started to appear on our city streets. The immediate aim of the marchers was to defeat a bill in Congress that would establish tough new criminal penalties for immigrants who were in the country illegally. The opponents sought not only to derail what came to be known as the Sensenbrenner bill, but to replace it with a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration policy, one that would include a “path to citizenship” for an estimated 12 million undocumented workers already in the country. Protest leaders framed their effort as a moral call for compassion and respect, for dignidad for illegal immigrants. Many adopted the slogan Si Se Puede! (Yes We Can), the nearly forgotten words that legendary Mexican American labor organizer César Chávez had coined half a century earlier for his United Farm Workers Organization. Their message reverberated from the bustling streets of established Latino neighborhoods in the major cities to scores of newly sprouted barrios in small towns and hamlets across the American heartland. The rallies they scheduled suddenly swelled with tens of thousands of maids, nannies, and maintenance workers, with lowly gardeners and day laborers, with restaurant busboys and dishwashers, with hotel waiters and bellhops, with hardened slaughterhouse workers and construction hardhats, many of whom had quietly led a furtive existence in the shadows of society, always afraid of being stopped by a local cop or sheriff, or of being caught in an immigration raid and hastily deported. Suddenly, this brown-skinned and once-docile mass of humanity was parading through glistening city centers in broad daylight. With spouses and children at their side and their infants in strollers, they proudly marched with their entire Pentecostal or Catholic congregations, their ministers and church banners at the front, waving both the American flag and those of their native countries. These were not simply gatherings of the undocumented, however. Hundreds of thousands of Latinos who had been born in the United States or become naturalized citizens, or who were longtime legal residents, also participated. And leading the way in virtually every protest were startling numbers of U.S.-born Hispanic high school and college students, many of them facing the prospect of being separated from their immigrant parents who could end up being deported. All shared the same burning sense of outrage. All were fed up with the mainstream media’s reigning stereotype that depicted hordes of Latinos and undocumented workers as a new menace engulfing the country. And though Latinos made up the overwhelming number of marchers, they were hardly alone; joining them as well were thousands of Polish, Irish, Korean, Chinese, and Filipino immigrants, along with many white and black religious and labor leaders and supporters. The immigration protests of 2006 marked a rare example of an outcast group suddenly rising up and forcing the majority to rethink accepted notions of democratic and human rights. For most of the marchers, it was their first act of social protest, one that would permanently alter the way they viewed the world. For just as the 1963 March on Washington defined the outlook of many black Americans, and just as the college rebellions of 1968 shaped the thinking of a generation of white Americans, so too did these protests represent a political coming of age for the nation’s Hispanic minority. The new movement burst on the scene with such unexpected force that it quickly gave rise to several contending narratives in the commercial media. On the one hand, scores of mainstream newspapers and television stations started for the first time to produce poignant and sympathetic stories about the lives of the undocumented, a perspective the press had largely ignored until then, preferring instead the stereotype of the “illegal alien.” On the other hand, the fast-growing Spanishlanguage media offered a radically different narrative—one of solidarity, not of sympathy. From the scores of popular radio DJs around the country to the big television networks like Univision and Telemundo, from the hundreds of weekly Hispanic newspapers to the big city dailies like La Opinión in Los Angeles and El Diario–La Prensa in New York City, the Spanish-language press openly extolled and promoted the movement. They depicted it as a heroic effort by Hispanic Americans to finally be recognized for their contributions to the nation. But an equally powerful narrative emerged from right-wing talk radio and TV hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Lou Dobbs. Seizing on the fact that some protesters proudly waved the flags of their home countries alongside the Stars and Stripes, these commentators openly sought to stoke public rage. They demanded tougher immigration policies and mass deportations and warned of an attempt by Latino radicals to reconquer the former Mexican territory of the Southwest as a Hispanic homeland. Not surprisingly, anti-immigrant sentiment in the general population became more virulent, more sustained, and more clearly targeted at Hispanics. As it did so, local politicians around the country became overnight celebrities for instituting local crackdowns on immigrant communities. They included Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County; Joe Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania; and Steve Levy, the Suffolk County Commissioner in Long Island, New York. From across the political spectrum, many white and black Americans angrily demanded stepped-up deportations and stiffer penalties on companies that employed undocumented workers. They urged a sealing of the U.S.-Mexico border through the rapid completion of a physical and virtual wall across its entire two-thousand-mile length. The protesters and their allies, however, were equally defiant. Such was the force of their outcry that the Sensenbrenner bill died in the Senate. But so did a proposed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007 that was backed by Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy, Republican senator John McCain, and President Bush. The new movement failed to achieve its main goal of immigration reform, yet it still left a deep and unexpected imprint on the entire country, for its stunning rise effectively marked the end of thirty years of conservative domination over national politics. Six months after the immigration protests, Democrats swept control of both houses of Congress, and one of the chief reasons for that historic power shift was the mushrooming Latino vote. The number of Hispanics casting ballots that November jumped by nearly 1 million over the previous midterm election—from 4.7 million in 2002 to 5.6 million in 2006. And since the Republican Party was most closely associated with the Sensenbrenner bill, the percentage of Latinos who cast ballots for Republican candidates in the House of Representatives plummeted from 38 percent to 30 percent.2 Then in 2008, Illinois Democratic senator Barack Obama, borrowing the same “Yes We Can” slogan of Chávez’s farm workers and the immigrant rights movement, captured the White House. Obama owed his historic victory in no small measure to the overwhelming support he received from Latino voters. Some 9.7 million Hispanics cast ballots for president in 2008, 2.1 million more than in 2004. Obama garnered 67 percent of those votes, while Republican John McCain received just 31 percent, with McCain’s share representing a significant drop from the 40 percent Latino support George W. Bush enjoyed in his 2004 reelection. The 2.1 million additional Latino voters in 2008 mirrored a similar startling jump among African Americans; and along with a sharp increase of more than 300,000 Asian Americans, it produced the most diverse electorate in the nation’s history and assured the election of our first black president. In the euphoric aftermath of Obama’s inauguration, many claimed the United States had entered a new postracial era. A dispassionate review of voting statistics, however, did not provide such comforting visions of change, nor did the rise of the right-wing Tea Party movement soon after. Obama, after all, had received the support of only 43 percent of white voters, while John McCain amassed 55 percent. Such a yawning gap among whites would normally signal a Republican victory. Only the enormous turnout and overwhelming support Obama generated among the country’s racial minorities—95 percent of African Americans voted for him, as did 62 percent of Asian Americans—made it possible for him to win the election handily.3 Obama’s rise thus reflected how the country’s electorate was changing, and not just in terms of greater opportunities for African Americans. The first decade of the new century saw the number of Hispanic elected officials nationwide surpass 6,600. Between 1994 and 2009, the number of Latinos in Congress climbed by nearly 50 percent—from 17 to 25—while the number of Hispanics holding elected positions in state governments increased by one-third—from 184 to 247. At one point during the past decade, a record three Latinos held seats in the U.S. Senate—Mel Martinez (R-FL), Ken Salazar (D-CO), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).4 When I penned the first edition of Harvest of Empire at the end of the 1990s, the federal government was in the early stages of erecting a wall between Mexico and the United States, just south of San Diego. The makeshift barrier, I noted then, was not nearly as impressive as our planet’s great testament to human insecurity, the 1,500-mile long Great Wall that China’s emperors spent centuries building against the Huns. Nonetheless, the American version was a clear indication that the U.S.Mexico border had become the epicenter of momentous changes in our hemisphere: by day, a constant stream of trucks headed south, carrying goods to newly erected factories bustling with nearly a million low-wage workers; by night, a silent flood of people headed north in search of the U.S. wages that could spell survival for family members the migrant had left behind. Both movements were creating huge windfalls for tiny investor elites on both sides of the border, while leaving horrendous social conditions on the Mexican side. The movement of labor northward, rivaling in size the great westward trek across the North American frontier by early European settlers, has produced a remarkable transformation—the Latinization of the United States. Unparalleled immigration has taken place from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America since World War II, especially escalating since the 1960s. Over 40 million foreigners settled here between 1960 and 2008, more than during any fifty-year span in the country’s history, and half of those newcomers were from Latin America. Yet most experts were not fully grasping the magnitude of the change, despite a string of hyperbolic press accounts during the 1980s and 1990s that focused on Hispanic population growth. The Census Bureau, for instance, has had to repeatedly revise upward its projection for the future growth of the Latino population. Its most recent estimate predicts the country’s current Hispanic population, which was 46 million in 2009 (and that’s without counting the 4 million residents of Puerto Rico who are U.S. citizens), will nearly triple to 132 million in 2050. At that point, Latinos will comprise nearly one-third of the entire U.S. population; and together with African Americans and other nonminorities, they will make up more than half of all U.S. residents—235 million of 439 million people. Whites of European descent, in other words, will cease to be a majority in the United States by midcentury, though they will no doubt remain the dominant racial group in terms of wealth and power. Looking out beyond 2050, it is now likely that by the end of this century a majority of the U.S. population will trace its ethnic heritage to Latin America, not to Europe.5 This is amazing when you consider that Latinos numbered a mere 9.1 million and represented just 4.5 percent of the population as recently as 1970. The Hispanic population explosion is no longer confined to the Southwest border region, or to a handful of big states like California, New York, and Florida. It has now...
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