Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States by Felipe Fernández-Armesto – Some Lessons and Takeaways


JFK American UniversitySo let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.
President John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963

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I present synopses of books: business books at the First Friday Book Synopsis (and for client companies and organizations), and books on social justice and poverty issues at the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare.

Our AmericaAt today’s Urban Engagement Book Club, I will present my synopsis of a terrific, provocative book: Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States by Felipe Fernández-Armesto (New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2014).

The author unashamedly states that this a history from one perspective – a Hispanic history of the United States. It turns out that this is a story we need to know better.

Here are a few key excerpts from the book:

Citizens of the United States have always learned the history of their country as if it unfolded exclusively from east to west. In consequence, most of them think their past has created a community essentially—even necessarily—anglophone, with a culture heavily indebted to the heritage of radical Protestantism and English laws and values.

“Immigrants,” as Oscar Handlin, one of the greatest US historians of immigration, pointed out, “were American history.”

Hispanics preceded the United States in what is now national territory. Their presence has been a longer part of the history of the land than that of any other intruders from across the Atlantic, including Anglo-Americans.

In these circumstances it will be helpful for people in the United States to acknowledge the hitherto unappreciated fact that theirs is already, in some respects, a Latin American country, with more features in common with most of the rest of the Americas than mainstream opinion has so far conceded.

I get the sense that there is a lot of history that we have had wrongly “fed” to us. (For example, here in my home state of Texas, we have a new set of approved history textbooks that downlplay slavery as a/the cause of the Civil War. All one has to do is read the Texas Ordinance of Secession to know how that is a mis-presentation of our history). {Read this about the new textbooks. Read The Texas Ordinance of Secession (February 2, 1861), here}.

This book, Our America, presents a view of our history that I simply did not know. Maybe it is my fault that I am so “ignorant.” Or, maybe, the powers that be work to keep “other” histories from us. Regardless, we need to know our broader history, in my view…

I can’t give you enough of this book in a blog post. I encourage you to read it. It will tell you of a history that is not East to West, but more South to North:

Making the Hispanic contribution conspicuous is like tilting the map sideways and seeing the US from an unusual approach.
THE PURPOSE OF THIS book, in short, is to show that there are other US histories than the standard Anglo narrative: in particular, a Spanish history, rolling from south to north and intersecting with the story of the Anglo frontier, provides me with a narrative yarn, and I thread other histories across and through it.

Here are some of my lessons and takeaways from Our America:

#1 – The United States is as much Hispanic as it is Anglo (and other). We really need to learn this.
#2 – There are explanations for all migration (immigration) patterns that have to do with human life necessity. This really does explain so much. (People go to where the work and resources are).
#3 – The issues surrounding immigration are still dividing many…
#4 – The “low-hanging fruit” is about gone. The United States is going to have to work effectively with all parts of the Americas for its own future economic health.

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(This is late notice;  but if you are free at lunch time today, July 16, 2015, click here for the details, and come join us…

 

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