The stories of these young Latinos reveal them as ordinary young Americans with many of the same experiences and hopes and aspirations as other young Americans of other ethnic backgrounds. Latinos are no different and perhaps here is what I want to convey in this book. Latinos are us and we are they. There should be no basis for irrational fears or hysteria that Latinos will fundamentally change American life and culture. Yes, they will add to it and the country will become to some extent Latinized but not in a way that fundamentally changes the culture. All ethnic groups contribute to what we mean by being “American” and the same has been true of Latinos. They change and we change and that is the process of social life.
Combating racism and other forms of discrimination, Latinos have a long history of civil rights struggles with the aim of integration. Despite being considered foreign, strangers, aliens (including “illegal aliens”), Latinos have fought in all of this country’s wars and as American soldiers in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. In World War II, as part of the Greatest Generation, perhaps as many as half a million Latinos fought in the military—and not for the Mexican army but for the U.S. Army. Latinos have shed their blood as Americans. The Latino Generation that I write about is the inheritor of this legacy.