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Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America

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Spanning 500 years of Hispanic history, from the first New World colonies to the 19th century westward expansion in America, this narrative features family portraits of real-life immigrants along with sketches of the political events and social conditions that compelled them to leave their homeland.


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Spanning 500 years of Hispanic history, from the first New World colonies to the 19th century westward expansion in America, this narrative features family portraits of real-life immigrants along with sketches of the political events and social conditions that compelled them to leave their homeland.

30 review for Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sonja

    The only reason it gets three instead of four or five stars is, while I like Gonzalez's intent to steer clear of composing a text written in what he terms the "safari approach" (meaning a text geared toward the Anglo -- i.e. non-Latino -- reader in which the writer guides the reader toward knowledge of the "other") I take slight issue with his ultimate conclusion in the Introduction that terminology debates are a complete waste of time. While I agree that arguing over labels such as "Hispanic" v The only reason it gets three instead of four or five stars is, while I like Gonzalez's intent to steer clear of composing a text written in what he terms the "safari approach" (meaning a text geared toward the Anglo -- i.e. non-Latino -- reader in which the writer guides the reader toward knowledge of the "other") I take slight issue with his ultimate conclusion in the Introduction that terminology debates are a complete waste of time. While I agree that arguing over labels such as "Hispanic" vs. "Latino" feels at times pointless, I would submit that there have been other important projects (see Oboler's text reviewed in my books list) which look pointedly at who is using which term, for whom, and why. "Hispanic" is a term introduced first by the U.S. government, used to describe virtually any and all people of Latin American descent. A lot of important variety gets lost under that umbrella, and ultimately, it seems that the term "Hispanic" is used as an effort toward the "homogenization" (read: Americanization) of this important sector of the nation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Easy to see why its required text in many university programs. A complete history of Latin Americans relationship with Europe. The primary countries it looks at is Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, Honduras, and El Salvador. Reviews all aspects of annexation and immigration. Makes a point of emphasis on how annexation from the United States created a cultural contribution by Hispanics to the conquerors future culture, despite it being largely ignored. Compares and cont Easy to see why its required text in many university programs. A complete history of Latin Americans relationship with Europe. The primary countries it looks at is Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, Honduras, and El Salvador. Reviews all aspects of annexation and immigration. Makes a point of emphasis on how annexation from the United States created a cultural contribution by Hispanics to the conquerors future culture, despite it being largely ignored. Compares and contrasts the colonization patterns of Spain, the United States, and Britain. The atrocities committed in the island of Vieques, the psychosocial integration problems associated with empire, and the geopolitical/economic breakdowns towards each countries at the same point in time were the most powerful aspects of the book to me. Only radical change will bring about qualitative progress in Latino economic life. That change has little to do with the behavior based solutions of conservatives, with catchy slogans like “family values,” “work ethic,” or “personal responsibility,” or with the Band Aid solutions of liberals: bigger and better government social programs, school integration, affirmative action. The reforms I am suggesting may seem to first to belong more in the realm of foreign than domestic policy. Yet they are essential reforms precisely because the Latino presence here is so directly connected to our nation’s foreign conquest. Only by changing the nature of the American empire can Latino equality and assimilation become real. End the predatory dual labor market in cheap Mexican labor, end the colonial status of Puerto rico, recognize the rights of language minorities and promote the widespread study of Spanish, reinvest in u.s. cities and public schools, end u.s. militarism in Latin America, end the economic blockade of Cuba These solutions are not likely to find receptive ears in the current conservative era. Nowadays, our leaders prefer to search for the uses of crime and poverty in the actions or inaction of those at the very bottom of society. The obscene transfers of wealth over the past forty years from the bottom to a privileged few at the top – and from much of the Third World to financial elites in the West - are all excused as the natural evolution of the Market, when, in fact, they are products of unparalleled greed by those who shape and direct that Market. That is why my solutions aim directly at that all powerful and invisible Market and the empire we have crated in its name. Immigrant labor has always been critical to the Market’s prosperity. The market recruits it, exploits it, abuses it, divides it, then ships it back home when no longer needed. Only by reining in the Market, by challenging its relentless grasp, by humbling its colossal power, can Latinos in this country move from incremental to qualitative progress, only then can they shatter the caste system to which they have been relegated. Only by taming the Market can the people in the Americans, north and south, move beyond our ethnic, racial, and linguistic divisions, Only then can we grasp our common humanity, realize our common dreams.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    A compilation of the history of many Central American countries with the thesis that the United States is complicit in the current instability of the region due to diplomatic and economic decisions and military interloping. In the title of the book, Gonzalez suggests that the United States intervened in the politics and economy of Central America to create an American empire. I learned so much history that was only given a cursory glance in school. I certainly learned about aspects of American g A compilation of the history of many Central American countries with the thesis that the United States is complicit in the current instability of the region due to diplomatic and economic decisions and military interloping. In the title of the book, Gonzalez suggests that the United States intervened in the politics and economy of Central America to create an American empire. I learned so much history that was only given a cursory glance in school. I certainly learned about aspects of American guilt that I didn't learn about in school. I think all students of history and Spanish should have to read this book. My caution is that Gonzalez is certainly biased. For the most part, he keeps his opinion behind the history, but there are several places that his bias is obvious. Nevertheless, I felt is was excusable because of his personal history and because he was providing us with a different historical view. Plus, no history is without some bias.

  4. 4 out of 5

    B Sarv

    Mr. Juan Gonzalez produced an interesting and in-depth look at the consequences of empire building that examines the unique situation of the Western Hemisphere. His analysis is broken into three major sections: roots, branches and harvest. Each part contributes to a whole analysis which, though nearly two decades old, speaks to our modern times and the extensive problems that still exist after his powerful warnings so many years ago. The roots deals with the period from 1500-1950, the branches l Mr. Juan Gonzalez produced an interesting and in-depth look at the consequences of empire building that examines the unique situation of the Western Hemisphere. His analysis is broken into three major sections: roots, branches and harvest. Each part contributes to a whole analysis which, though nearly two decades old, speaks to our modern times and the extensive problems that still exist after his powerful warnings so many years ago. The roots deals with the period from 1500-1950, the branches looks at the various countries that are the source of Latin American immigration and harvest deals with the consequences. Interestingly, harvest carries a positive connotation, but the United States needs to change its approach if it hopes to reap the potential positivity of that harvest. First on the list of important history lessons is the appropriation of Native American land by Europeans. This was certainly not the focus of the book, but the author gives attention to the genocide of indigenous peoples in North and South America. Notably, he provides clear evidence of the fact that Europeans knew their conduct toward indigenous people was criminal. Las Casa’s was a vocal opponent of how the indigenous population was treated: “….his polemics were among the most popular books in Europe.” (p. 12) So when people claim that the Europeans at the time did not know their conduct was criminal; here is good evidence to the contrary. Mr. Gonzalez also provides evidence supporting the powerful democratic ideals of the Iroquois nation helping to smash the myth of European exceptionalism with regard to these ideals. Second, the history of secondary territorial conquest is laid out in detail. As Spain weakened in Europe their conquered lands in North America became vulnerable. Citizens of the recently formed United States aggressively occupied Spanish conquered lands which still had many indigenous nations within their borders. A principal drive behind this was the expansion of slavery. Over several decades the United States expanded into these areas – but met a largely Spanish speaking population. Naturally they extended the usual terrorism to whomever they met, Native or Hispanic. Third, the beginning of the long history of economic oppression is addressed in the “roots” section. Mr. Gonzalez details the extensive incursions of United States companies into the nations of Latin America, the initial debt burdens and associated military invasions and threats of invasion that accompanied the mercantile imperialism of the 1800s. These amounted to numerous instances which are outlined in considerable detail. The weaponization of debt extended into the 1900s and became even more deeply entwined with the region, to the detriment of the nations and their citizens. These roots eventually led to the infamous cases of ruthless dictators – consistently imposed on the population after the United States assisted or directly overthrew democratically elected leaders; so much for democratic ideals. And with that another myth of democratic exceptionalism of the United States is smashed. In the branches section many themes that cut across racial lines are seen – making the clear case for the ties that bind oppressed groups together. For instance, just like African American veterans of World War II, Mexican American and Puerto Rican veterans believed, “…they had earned a place at the American table.” (p. 86) But this belief did not translate into a real place at that proverbial table – which has always been and still is reserved only for one group or for people who assimilate. What should have been a truth from the time of, “all men are created equally” still was not a truth for any of these upholders of democracy in the name of the United States. This was still true even after these groups fought in Viet Nam. The educational assault by white supremacist textbooks is an experience also encountered by both groups – in particular in Puerto Rico the residents were forced to receive instruction in English, they were taught nothing of Puerto Rican history or culture, which led to widespread instances of dropping out of school. This is a typical ploy of the white supremacist education system designed to make the oppressed group feel the need to forget their past and the oppression wrought by the oppressor. Mr. Gonzalez goes on, in this section, to outline the numerous and extensive ways in which the United States negatively influenced all of the Latin American nations – a veritable catalog of usurious loans, false promises, military invasions and support for the most repressive and anti-democratic regimes in 20th century history. For instance, over a quarter of a million civilians in the Central American region died, “. . . .mostly at the hands of their own soldiers or from right-wing death squads, and invariable from weapons made in the U.S.A., since in each country our government provided massive military aid to the side doing most of the killing.” (p. 131) Naming just a few of the examples of the seeds that were planted, the author outlines: 1) the Samoza dynasty of tyrants and the use of the CIA drug sales to arm the Conta rebels; 2) the ouster of democratically elected President Arbenz of Guatemala leading to decades of civil war; 3) billions in arms and military training to the El Salvadoran military which went toward the killing of thousands of civilians; and 4) the invasion of the Dominican Republic by Marines to support a military coup which overthrew a democratically elected leader. And from these seeds, in short the United States harvest was refugees from civil war, tyranny and political unrest. In the “harvest” section Mr. Gonzalez details three aspects of the outcome of the activities of the United States in Latin America. In one instance he details the impact of new voters from the various Latin American countries on elections in terms of local, state and national elections. He goes on to outline the immigration trends from the various branches and the “forces” at work behind immigration trends as a whole. He goes on to address the legacy of Spanish speakers in the United States. As if there were not enough causes of the migration from Latin American, Mr. Gonzalez then traces the history of various economic benefits for corporations in the United States and for the its economy, which were couched in terms of trade agreements. The last of these efforts was the North America Free Trade Agreement, which has brought about untold economic and environmental misery throughout Mexico. The final chapter was a lesson in the long history of the colonization of Puerto Rico and the consequences of its ambiguous status. One of the best kept secrets revealed by the author is the way in which U.S. benefits from the status of Puerto Rico. Because of its ambiguous status it represents a huge tax haven for U.S. corporations. Billions of dollars were generated for corporate America not only due to the tax break but also because wages there are lower than on the mainland. Furthermore, the restrictions on shipping, trade and the occupation of land by military bases compound the challenges facing Puerto Ricans. Finally, Mr. Gonzalez goes through the various efforts to have Puerto Ricans determine their own political status and the efforts of the U.S. Congress and the FBI to impede that self-determination. In the book’s epilogue the author sets forth six changes that the United States would need to make to address all of the concerns that the harvest of empire raises. But I will leave those for you to find out when you read his book. I would like to see how Mr. Gonzalez would update this book. In the nearly 20 years since its publication many new events have taken place which would relate to the contents of this work. In light of the current crisis of Homeland Security, ICE raids, the separation of children from their parents and the political and economic crises in Central America and Mexico, his analysis would be welcomed. I conclude by taking exception to two points raised in this book. First, in Chapter 10, on page 168 Mr. Gonzalez writes that Latino voters are, “…..refusing to be taken for granted by either the Democratic or Republican parties, or by those who see all politics in the country through the flawed prism of a white-black racial divide.” By saying so, the author ignores the reality of the white supremacist system that is the United States of America. While it may be true that Latino voters are not being taken for granted by the two white supremacist parties, the prism of “a white-black racial divide” is very real. Latino voters would be more likely to make progress in American politics if they were to recognize their shared interests with African Americans. The sad truth is that if they are white-identifying they are more likely to share the racist attitudes which will help them to be perceived as capable and interested in assimilating. This, however, does not obviate the need to see the United States through the prism which it can honestly only be viewed through. The second point supports my first. In the epilogue, on page 271, the author writes: “Only by changing the nature of the American empire can Latino equality and assimilation become real.” So here is the problem. In a white supremacist society assimilation is the need of the dominant group. It assumes that acceptance by the dominant group is needed and the oppressed (in this case Latinos), by acknowledging that assimilation is the goal, play right into their hands. Instead, in a truly democratic, “melting pot”, society, all citizens, legal residents and potential residents should be valued for their differences, and those differences should be celebrated as beautiful, interesting and unique. In all, this book is an interesting and well researched book. I found this to be a very rewarding read. I recommend it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Osvaldo

    This book is great. I might have given it five stars if it wasn't for the fact that it is a little uneven in its treatment of different Latin American nations. Of course, I probably shouldn't hold that against Gonzalez, by his own admission, "Latin America" is a large and varied place, and there is no way any one book could possible cover it all, as such some nations are hardly mentioned (if not completely ignored). However, if you can get over this (which I can understand would be difficult if y This book is great. I might have given it five stars if it wasn't for the fact that it is a little uneven in its treatment of different Latin American nations. Of course, I probably shouldn't hold that against Gonzalez, by his own admission, "Latin America" is a large and varied place, and there is no way any one book could possible cover it all, as such some nations are hardly mentioned (if not completely ignored). However, if you can get over this (which I can understand would be difficult if you are, let's say Venezuelan or Ecuadorian), Gonzalez does a great job exploring the relationship of Latin American nations and people with the United States, which ultimately shaped the conditions in many of these countries (esp. after the Spanish-American War), and led to the unprecedented level of immigration to the U.S. from those countries and their subsequent social and economic lives in the States. This book does a great job of looking back to the arrival of Spanish Empire to the New World and contrasting it to the way the British expanded starting a hundred years later. This goes far in explaining the differences in how nations developed in these areas, and also explains how from early on notions of American Exceptionalism kept North Americans from aiding revolutionary democratic movements in South America and influenced later interactions. This also helps to explain how much of the influence of Spanish and indigenous peoples and customs on the United States are downplayed or straight-up erased as a way to favor Anglo origins of American culture. The section on the U.S. relationship with Mexico is exemplary at demonstrating this. The book is strongest when discussing Puerto Rico's colonial relationship with the U.S. which I think is probably a result of there being so much to say about its problems and contradictions and because as a Puerto Rican, PR's status is an issue closest to Gonzalez's heart. One section I particularly appreciated, was how Gonzalez uses Said's theories to think about how Latinos have been "orientalized" in the United States through their depictions in literary fiction, film and television. Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the crucial relationship between Latinos and the U.S., the ways in which American foreign policy in Latin America has shaped the political conditions in those countries, and have also shaped how, when and why people immigrate to the U.S.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David

    Juan Gonzalez's history of Latinos in America combines sweeping historical overview with personal narrative and incisive analysis in this excellent book. Part one of the book (Las Raices) establishes how Spanish and English colonization practices differed, and how these differences had lasting consequences for the varied ways that North America was socially, economically and politically structured. The heart of the book, part two (Las Ramas), explores the various migrant experiences of different Juan Gonzalez's history of Latinos in America combines sweeping historical overview with personal narrative and incisive analysis in this excellent book. Part one of the book (Las Raices) establishes how Spanish and English colonization practices differed, and how these differences had lasting consequences for the varied ways that North America was socially, economically and politically structured. The heart of the book, part two (Las Ramas), explores the various migrant experiences of different Latino groups, with a level of specificity and insight that's hard to find in other books. For example, Gonzalez details how the Puerto Rican American experience has differed from that of Panamanian or Salvadoran immigrants, with an eye always trained on how political considerations both shaped, and were shaped by, these migrants. His most perceptive section is the final one (La Cosecha), wherein he argues how the American Empire in Latin America continues to distinguish migration from the Western Hemisphere from European and Asian migration. This is both a really useful history and a challenge to anyone who wants to understand how the US' relationship with its hemispheric neighbors really functions, and what steps would be necessary to ameliorate the challenges the US currently faces.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the issue of immigration in America today. The central thesis of the book is that our current crisis is the direct consequence of our actions in the past. Gonzalez makes his case clearly and compellingly. The foreign policy and trade policy of the United States destroyed the economies of South and Central America and this created refugees who fled North seeking work. "Harvest of Empire" is also a useful primer on the history of how Lati This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the issue of immigration in America today. The central thesis of the book is that our current crisis is the direct consequence of our actions in the past. Gonzalez makes his case clearly and compellingly. The foreign policy and trade policy of the United States destroyed the economies of South and Central America and this created refugees who fled North seeking work. "Harvest of Empire" is also a useful primer on the history of how Latinos are and have been viewed in the United States, the different waves of Latino immigration, and a comprehensive explanation of our relationship with Puerto Rico - and why the question of statehood/commonwealth/independence is a lot more complicated than it may seem at first. I first skimmed this book in my Latino Studies class in college and I had always meant to go back and give it a more thorough read. This new edition gave me just such an opportunity and I'm glad I did. I look forward to watching the 2012 documentary film based on the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

    Author's argument is that US colonial adventures in Latin America from the late 1800s to the 1980's destabilized the region, forcing immigration to the United States in recent years. I found that the author's treatment of different groups was fairly uneven, but his main argument was accurate and his overview of Mexican-American history was excellent. The book is now somewhat outdated, but provides an excellent history of Latin America for those of us who have forgotten. Author's argument is that US colonial adventures in Latin America from the late 1800s to the 1980's destabilized the region, forcing immigration to the United States in recent years. I found that the author's treatment of different groups was fairly uneven, but his main argument was accurate and his overview of Mexican-American history was excellent. The book is now somewhat outdated, but provides an excellent history of Latin America for those of us who have forgotten.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Angelia

    This is a wonderful book about the history of the Latinos in America that was never taught in school but should have been. it will remain in my library as a reference.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gary Patella

    This was a very informative and interesting book. The only reason I give 4 stars instead of 5 is that the author seemed to elaborate on sections where it wasn't needed and cut other sections short that could've been expanded. There are times when I could only get through a small amount of pages at a time, because some of it can be emotional. Mass killings, including women and children, rape, torture, etc. are mentioned in the histories of certain regions. For some reason, it hits me harder when i This was a very informative and interesting book. The only reason I give 4 stars instead of 5 is that the author seemed to elaborate on sections where it wasn't needed and cut other sections short that could've been expanded. There are times when I could only get through a small amount of pages at a time, because some of it can be emotional. Mass killings, including women and children, rape, torture, etc. are mentioned in the histories of certain regions. For some reason, it hits me harder when it is something that happened in the 1980's than when it is something that happened hundreds of years ago. In either case, it is extremely tragic. But it was overwhelming when it is paired with the realization that we haven't progressed much at all. My favorite part was Chapter 3, early on in the book, where a brief description of the U.S.A.'s influence on each Latin American country is given. This part was cut too short and I feel it should've been expanded. I also really liked how well the issues with Puerto Rico are described. It was highly informative. The book ends with the author's insights as to what changes need to be made by the United States, and these thoughts make a lot of sense and probably should be followed. The entire book basically shows all of the negative influences the United States has had on the Latin American countries, and why that influence has prevented so many countries from moving forward. I highly recommend reading it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This book was hibernating after being a book club pick last year. I finally finished it and it was well worth it. The book is written in three sections and can easily be picked up and put down. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to get a grip on the history of Latinos in the United States. Gonzalez craftfully weaves together the history of various Latino groups - Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central Americans etc. -providing a cohesive picture that I appreciated. He definite This book was hibernating after being a book club pick last year. I finally finished it and it was well worth it. The book is written in three sections and can easily be picked up and put down. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to get a grip on the history of Latinos in the United States. Gonzalez craftfully weaves together the history of various Latino groups - Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central Americans etc. -providing a cohesive picture that I appreciated. He definitely has a point of view that Latinos are a colonized people. The underdevelopment and continuing exploitation of Latin American countries has resulted in mass exodus and immigration north. Not everyone will concur with his point of view but he provides extensive historical details to support his conclusions.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Grant Swanson

    There is no other book I have read in recent years more pertinent and important to my life as an United States citizen than this text. I am equally shaken by the expansive violent colonial history of the United States in South/Central America, Horrified at the intentional erasure of this vast historical narrative of the United States, and enlightened as to the past/present underpinnings of the current political climate/tumult in this country over our ongoing colonial exploits in Latin America, a There is no other book I have read in recent years more pertinent and important to my life as an United States citizen than this text. I am equally shaken by the expansive violent colonial history of the United States in South/Central America, Horrified at the intentional erasure of this vast historical narrative of the United States, and enlightened as to the past/present underpinnings of the current political climate/tumult in this country over our ongoing colonial exploits in Latin America, as well as at home in the U.S. Every citizen of the Americas should read this book and be exposed to this intentionally erased history, especially citizens of the United States. We have much to repent and make reparations for...and we must start immediately.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fatma Helmy

    This book is an amazing book, it can gives the reader a different perspective about the Latinos and USA interest..

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christine B.

    Excellent. I learned a lot.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Given the amount of time I’ve spent studying Latin American history, I’m surprised that I never ran into “Harvest of Empire” in the classroom. It is a unique book in that it covers the United State’s relationship with the rest of the Western Hemisphere in a fairly all-encompassing way, while still coming in at under 350 pages. I certainly would have benefited from reading it earlier. The narration is broken into three main sections: ‘roots’ covers the time frame from first contact between indigen Given the amount of time I’ve spent studying Latin American history, I’m surprised that I never ran into “Harvest of Empire” in the classroom. It is a unique book in that it covers the United State’s relationship with the rest of the Western Hemisphere in a fairly all-encompassing way, while still coming in at under 350 pages. I certainly would have benefited from reading it earlier. The narration is broken into three main sections: ‘roots’ covers the time frame from first contact between indigenous groups and Europeans all the way to mid 20th century, ‘branches’ explores in depth each Latin American country that has sent significant immigrants to the United States, and ‘harvest’ breaks down the primary issues surrounding those immigrants in the last 70 or so years. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of how the book was divided, it did work towards Gonzalez’s larger theme of showing how America is currently reaping what was sown by it’s policies, from manifest destiny to the Contras in Nicaragua. I had two major takeaways from this book. First, Latinos (particularly Mexicans) and the Spanish language are not and never have been ‘others’ in much of the territory that now belongs to the United States. While this wasn’t new information to me, Gonzalez does a fantastic job using primary sources to drive home the Latino roots of our nation, and how Latinos have had to fight for their rightful place in an Anglo society that has worked to silence and minimize their contributions to our country for generations. Secondly, I found the ‘branches’ section particularly powerful in showing the different factions of Latinos who came to the United States. Gonzalez does a fantastic job using a fine-toothed comb to sift through the different experiences of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans, and Mexicans just to name a few. While certain themes apply to nearly all nations, each one has a unique relationship with mainland United States and their migrants had vastly different experiences on arriving there. Juan Gonzalez’s account of Latinos in the United States is at once expansive and detail-oriented. It will keep those who are well-informed on the topic interested, while still being approachable to newcomers. For that, I give it 5/5 stars.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cesar

    an essential read for anyone who wants to understand how corporate imperialism created mass instability in latin america and drove people out of their homelands

  17. 5 out of 5

    JJ Hawkins

    Illuminating but dense! Lol at it almost taking me four years 😇

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Harvest of Empire is a tale of two civilizations, Anglo and Spanish. In general terms, it recounts the history or rather the plight of Latin America, of people and cultures dominated first by European powers, and then by the colonial rebels turned colonial master, the United States. The author ends by arguing that the United States owes as much its Hispanic tradition as its Anglo, and that it should embrace Hispanic culture and make amends to foreign policy which has wreaked havoc throughout the Harvest of Empire is a tale of two civilizations, Anglo and Spanish. In general terms, it recounts the history or rather the plight of Latin America, of people and cultures dominated first by European powers, and then by the colonial rebels turned colonial master, the United States. The author ends by arguing that the United States owes as much its Hispanic tradition as its Anglo, and that it should embrace Hispanic culture and make amends to foreign policy which has wreaked havoc throughout the eastern hemisphere. Divided into three parts, Harvest first dwells on the roots of Anglo-American conflict by recounting the age of discovery and rise of American imperialism, moves to the "branches", in which populations disrupted by war and famine (often linked to American foreign policy) migrate to the United States to seek their fortunes, and then ends with a "harvest" that looks towards a stronger role played by Latino culture in the United States. Considering that two of the leading recent Republican candidates for El Presidente were Cruz and Rubio, 'los hermanos cubanos', there's no denying the book's relevance, despite its sixteen years of age. Even though neither are in the running now, immigration -- the causes and consequences of which are explored here -- remains a big-ticket item. While some of the author's recommendations (that the United Staces embrace its Hispanic heritage and start promoting and protecting Spanish) are likely to fall flat, at the very least this review of the United States' catastrophic record of international meddling in central America might give American leadership pause about supporting future debacles. More convincing is the authors' case for settling the matter of Puerto Rico, which for a century has been a bastard, neither sovereign, nor a territory or a state. Harvest has a lot to recommend it, first as a general history of Latin America, secondly by focusing on the widely varying experiences of different Latino groups as they moved to the US. What name recognition does Puerto Rico have with most Americans, other than the film West Side Story? ("Puerto Rico is en America now!") The author is right when he points out that the United States is scarcely over two hundred years old, a mere blip in the historical perspective, and the past century of exploitation and dominance by D.C. over Latin America are not likely to last. Latinos will play a larger role in the United States as they continue to migrate here, and will shape D.C's policy as they achieve political influence -- and as the descendants of those who have experienced the consequences of foreign-policy imperialism, they are unlikely to support more of it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I read "Harvest of Empire" by Juan Gonzalez for a class. I found it interesting. The history of Latino peoples in the United States is something I never knew so I was glad to read it. I was saddened, of course, to read how corporate and political greed lead to many of the problems that are now facing the US and Latino people specifically. Despite its enormous task of giving the history of a large people group, Gonzalez manages to write very accessibly. The history he explains are accented with f I read "Harvest of Empire" by Juan Gonzalez for a class. I found it interesting. The history of Latino peoples in the United States is something I never knew so I was glad to read it. I was saddened, of course, to read how corporate and political greed lead to many of the problems that are now facing the US and Latino people specifically. Despite its enormous task of giving the history of a large people group, Gonzalez manages to write very accessibly. The history he explains are accented with family studies and personal stories that add a humanizing factor to the data and history he shares. The thing I didn't appreciate about Gonzalez's approach was the lack of objectivity towards the end. I wouldn't have noticed it except that there is a shift in tone. It wouldn't have bothered me except the book is presented as history and while history is always subjective (based on who is writing it) more of an effort to keep a more objective tone would have been appreciated. The first section of the book, Gonzalez is pretty straight forward. He recounts the history of Latinos in what is now known as the United States of America. It's objective. He is just giving facts. In the second section, he discusses each racial group and gives personal stories that typify the experience for that group as they immigrate to America. Of course the personal nature of the stories allows for a lack of objectivity. The third section he delves more into political histories and the future. And this is where I thought he lost objectivity. He uses words like "brilliant" to describe books that prove his point while negating books of people that he disapproves of. Overall the book is worth the read, but read especially the third section with a grain of salt.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    This book feels very dated. (It came out before 9/11, before the giant immigrant rights mobilizations in in '06.) But I still found it really informative. A couple of highlights: I really liked the way Gonzalez, maybe because of his journalist background, choose the story of a family from each group of Latino immigrants he wrote a chapter about to build that chapter around. In my classroom I have a child who was born in the Dominican Republic, another who was born in El Salvador, and a child who This book feels very dated. (It came out before 9/11, before the giant immigrant rights mobilizations in in '06.) But I still found it really informative. A couple of highlights: I really liked the way Gonzalez, maybe because of his journalist background, choose the story of a family from each group of Latino immigrants he wrote a chapter about to build that chapter around. In my classroom I have a child who was born in the Dominican Republic, another who was born in El Salvador, and a child who was born in Puerto Rico; I really appreciated that Gonzalez took the time and space to layout the different specifics about the relationships of these these place and the US and the different contexts into which folks from these places immigrated/migrated. Although it was short I really found the section on language and 'cultural integration,' which included information about German immigration to the US, interesting and informative. And of course the whole premise of the book: that US intervention/empire building in Latin America shapes Latino immigration to America is not just a logical but also a powerful analysis. One thing I found disappointing was how "apolitical" the book was, or maybe more correctly how absent the language of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism was from an author who was part of the Young Lords. But it is not hard to draw ones own political conclusions from this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Drick

    Juan Gonzalez has written a very clear history of Hispanics in the United States. Just as Ronald Takaki showed the true multicultural nature of immigrants in A Different Mirror, Gonzalez shows the multicultural and multifaceted make-up of Hispanics in the United States. After reviewing the history of the US involvement in the subjugation and control of Latin America, he then recounts the unique histories of several different groups: Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Panama, Colombia Juan Gonzalez has written a very clear history of Hispanics in the United States. Just as Ronald Takaki showed the true multicultural nature of immigrants in A Different Mirror, Gonzalez shows the multicultural and multifaceted make-up of Hispanics in the United States. After reviewing the history of the US involvement in the subjugation and control of Latin America, he then recounts the unique histories of several different groups: Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Panama, Colombia,El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala - each of these countries has its own relationship with the US largely thru economic control and exploitation by corporations and laws designed to maintain the US "manifest destiny" policy. Gonzalez helps show that current issues around Latin American poverty and illegal immigration are linked to this history of exploitation. To truly appreciate the complexity of the immigration issue, we need to grasp this history

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joe Ruvido

    Essential reading if you want to understand a basic history of US relations with Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The author is Nuyorican and some of the passages are passionately written from the perspective of someone who has lived the immigrant experience. The author's thesis is that American Foreign Policy has created both push and pull effects that have led to the presence of Latinos in the country. This reader, for one, could not agree more. For those of us that regard div Essential reading if you want to understand a basic history of US relations with Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The author is Nuyorican and some of the passages are passionately written from the perspective of someone who has lived the immigrant experience. The author's thesis is that American Foreign Policy has created both push and pull effects that have led to the presence of Latinos in the country. This reader, for one, could not agree more. For those of us that regard diverse immigrants, cultures and languages as essential to the fabric of this country, Harvest of Empire helps give that belief an economic and historical context. Though it was written 18 years ago, the themes are (obviously, unfortunately) even more relevant today, as we talk about walls, separation of immigrant families, denial of asylum claims, and travel bans. With the current politics as a back drop, the book becomes even more profound.

  23. 5 out of 5

    BurgendyA

    Harvest of Empire:A History of Latinos in America was a wonderful book that was beautifully written and clarifies the Latin American history from Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. I have read this book for a Latino studies class in the university I go to and I loved it so much. Juan Gonzalez delivers a great insight of what the first Hispanics have gone through in the beginning of the United State (New World). From beginning to current events of now, so he has done his researc Harvest of Empire:A History of Latinos in America was a wonderful book that was beautifully written and clarifies the Latin American history from Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. I have read this book for a Latino studies class in the university I go to and I loved it so much. Juan Gonzalez delivers a great insight of what the first Hispanics have gone through in the beginning of the United State (New World). From beginning to current events of now, so he has done his research thoroughly well. I would recommend anyone to read this book. To any Hispanic or history buff, it will defiantly interest you a lot. And leave you want to find out more about the Latin American history. I know that was the reaction I got from the book. I rate it with 10 stars & 2 thumbs up!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    Wow. I thought I knew a fair amount of Latino US history, but boy was I wrong. If you want to get a comprehensive, but succinct overview of Latinos in the United States, this is the book for you. Juan Gonzalez covers history starting before the Southwest was considered the US all the way through the impacts of NAFTA and the 2006 Immigrant rights marches. It is an impressive demonstration of how much the US has oppressed Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and other countries. He lays it out so clearly th Wow. I thought I knew a fair amount of Latino US history, but boy was I wrong. If you want to get a comprehensive, but succinct overview of Latinos in the United States, this is the book for you. Juan Gonzalez covers history starting before the Southwest was considered the US all the way through the impacts of NAFTA and the 2006 Immigrant rights marches. It is an impressive demonstration of how much the US has oppressed Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and other countries. He lays it out so clearly the ways in which we have oppressed, colonized, and damaged the Latino populations in our states and South of the border. It's hard to argue with his clear facts, stories, and narrative weaving it all together. I'm sure I'll read this again and be just as amazed as this first read. Go buy it today.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kaleb Rogers

    Harvest Empire is an infuriating (though excellent) book that will make one reexamine how they view the presence of Latinos in the United States and the foreign policy historically pursued by the US toward its Latin "Good Neighbors." The book has an odd narration style, though, as Juan González (a Puerto Rican), adds elements of his personal life to augment his historical and quantitative analysis. Moreover, he includes many individual accounts from various Latinos from his days as a reporter. So Harvest Empire is an infuriating (though excellent) book that will make one reexamine how they view the presence of Latinos in the United States and the foreign policy historically pursued by the US toward its Latin "Good Neighbors." The book has an odd narration style, though, as Juan González (a Puerto Rican), adds elements of his personal life to augment his historical and quantitative analysis. Moreover, he includes many individual accounts from various Latinos from his days as a reporter. Sometimes I felt these accounts strengthened the narrative, and sometimes I felt that they bogged down his points with unnecessary names and details of someone's life that the reader is not going to remember. However, I don't think this unique storytelling style detracts from the book earning 5 stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pierce

    Latinos, as of this writing, represent around 17% of the country. They are a varied people from many countries and backgrounds. While often ignored by the left, and routinely demonized by the right, they have made untold contributions to the fabric of this country and continue to do so. Juan González illuminates their history in this country, what they have brought with them, and how our country can do right by them and the neighboring countries they come from. Since NAFTA and similar free trade Latinos, as of this writing, represent around 17% of the country. They are a varied people from many countries and backgrounds. While often ignored by the left, and routinely demonized by the right, they have made untold contributions to the fabric of this country and continue to do so. Juan González illuminates their history in this country, what they have brought with them, and how our country can do right by them and the neighboring countries they come from. Since NAFTA and similar free trade agreements, their plight, struggles, and immigration are inextricably linked with our economy and labor. González rightfully calls for a free movement of people if there is to be a free movement of goods.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Harvest of Empire is a little out of date now, but it is still essential reading for understanding the nuances of the wave of Latino immigration that is changing the face of the US. Gonzalez is especially good at illuminating the distinctions between the backgrounds of the various Latino sub groups. As a Puerto Rican, he understandably spends quite a lot of the book on that country. He makes a strong case for seeing Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans as tremendously exploited by the US, and left hangi Harvest of Empire is a little out of date now, but it is still essential reading for understanding the nuances of the wave of Latino immigration that is changing the face of the US. Gonzalez is especially good at illuminating the distinctions between the backgrounds of the various Latino sub groups. As a Puerto Rican, he understandably spends quite a lot of the book on that country. He makes a strong case for seeing Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans as tremendously exploited by the US, and left hanging without a clear identity to boot. I would read this book in conjunction with Mike Davis's "Magical Urbanism" to get the big picture on the immigration question.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Meg Petersen

    Usually updated editions disappoint me, but this was an exception. Usually, they tend to read as if the author had tacked on some updates that don't flow with the original vision of the book, but this one reads very smoothly. I appreciated that the author contrasted the colonial pasts of both the English and the Spanish colonists and how this affects us to this day. I also appreciated the comprehensiveness of the history, although you could note that the author was Puerto Rican in the extended c Usually updated editions disappoint me, but this was an exception. Usually, they tend to read as if the author had tacked on some updates that don't flow with the original vision of the book, but this one reads very smoothly. I appreciated that the author contrasted the colonial pasts of both the English and the Spanish colonists and how this affects us to this day. I also appreciated the comprehensiveness of the history, although you could note that the author was Puerto Rican in the extended coverage of that island. I also appreciated the focus on Latinos in the United States and how the context of this country shapes and reshapes culture.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Meghan Herbst

    For anyone delving into the history of US-Latin American relations, this is the perfect primer. From here, I would recommend "Manufacturing Consent" by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, which explores how mass media in the states peddled and white-washed the economic expansion of the United States into South and Central America. Gonzalez is an incredible journalist with a decades long career, reporting for the NY Daily News and more recently co-anchoring for the independent news broadcast Democrac For anyone delving into the history of US-Latin American relations, this is the perfect primer. From here, I would recommend "Manufacturing Consent" by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, which explores how mass media in the states peddled and white-washed the economic expansion of the United States into South and Central America. Gonzalez is an incredible journalist with a decades long career, reporting for the NY Daily News and more recently co-anchoring for the independent news broadcast Democracy Now! His epilogue in "Harvest of Empire" alone, should be required reading in political science and international studies courses.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    An overview of the interaction between the US and Latin America, this book gives a brief summary of the interactions before 1900 and then delves into a few case studies, focusing on the stories of specific migrant communities and countries to illustrate particular points. I particularly enjoyed the section on the end covering Puerto Rico, which contained a lot of new and, frankly, infuriating information. González skillfully balances history and commentary, leaving much of the latter for the end An overview of the interaction between the US and Latin America, this book gives a brief summary of the interactions before 1900 and then delves into a few case studies, focusing on the stories of specific migrant communities and countries to illustrate particular points. I particularly enjoyed the section on the end covering Puerto Rico, which contained a lot of new and, frankly, infuriating information. González skillfully balances history and commentary, leaving much of the latter for the end of the book. Recommended for those wanting to know more about the historical roots of the Hispanic population of the United States and of the current immigration surge from Central America.

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