Happy National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month: A Reading List

September 15th—October 15th marks National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, celebrating the achievements and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Last Friday we shared a virtual conversation hosted by the Center for Political Education featuring UNC Press author Johanna Fernández in acknowledgement of this month, and now also share a recommended reading list that touch on the diverse histories and experiences of Hispanic/Latinx communities and individuals in America.


THE YOUNG LORDS: A RADICAL HISTORY

BY JOHANNA FERNÁNDEZ

Johanna Fernández has not only produced the definitive history of the Young Lords; she also has single-handedly shifted our understanding of the post-1968 political landscape. Richly documented, beautifully written, and brutally honest, this book moves the Young Lords from the margins of the New Left and Puerto Rican nationalism to the very epicenter of global struggles against racism, imperialism, and patriarchy and for national self-determination, medical justice, reproductive rights, and socialism. A work as monumental and expansive as the Young Lords’ vision of revolution.

Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression

CARIBEÑOS AT THE TABLE: HOW MIGRATION, HEALTH AND RACE INTERSECT IN NEW YORK CITY

BY MELISSA FUSTER

Melissa Fuster thinks expansively about the multiple meanings of comida, food, from something as simple as a meal to something as complex as one’s identity. She listens intently to the voices of New York City residents with Cuban, Dominican, or Puerto Rican backgrounds, as well as to those of the nutritionists and health professionals who serve them. She argues with sensitivity that the migrants’ health depends not only on food culture but also on important structural factors that underlie their access to food, employment, and high-quality healthcare.

THE LATINO GENERATION: VOICES OF THE NEW AMERICA

BY MARIO T. GARCÍA

Mario García’s The Latino Generation is based on thirteen oral histories that he conducted over the span of several years with University of California, Santa Barbara, students. By historicizing the lives of these young people, García places them within the continuum of Chicano/Latino history, and thus emerges a portrait of a specific era from the perspective of those who lived it. García makes clear that history is–not was, but is–and that everyday people are the engines of change. This book will become a major contribution and enhance our understanding of the experiences of this Latino Generation of the early twenty-first century.

Ernesto Chavez, University of Texas at El Paso

MEATPACKING AMERICA: HOW MIGRATION, WORK, AND FAITH UNITE AND DIVIDE THE HEARTLAND

BY KRISTY NABHAN-WARREN

Whether valorized as the heartland or derided as flyover country, the Midwest became instantly notorious when COVID-19 infections skyrocketed among workers in meatpacking plants—and Americans feared for their meat supply. But the Midwest is not simply the place where animals are fed corn and then butchered. Native midwesterner Kristy Nabhan-Warren spent years interviewing Iowans who work in the meatpacking industry, both native-born residents and recent migrants from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In Meatpacking America, she digs deep below the stereotype and reveals the grit and grace of a heartland that is a major global hub of migration and food production—and also, it turns out, of religion.

THE SHADOW OF EL CENTRO: A HISTORY OF MIGRANT INCARCERATION AND SOLIDARITY

BY JESSICA ORDAZ

The Shadow of El Centro casts new light on America’s dark history of migrant detention. Far from simply being the infrastructure for enforcing the nation’s deportation powers, Ordaz shows us that detention centers are in fact durative carceral institutions that shape the everyday geographies of economy, community, and power of the places in which they are erected. A first of its kind, this seventy-year history of the El Centro Detention Center revises how we think about migrant detention, revealing the power and resources it creates for capitalist society and the contradictions that give rise to migrant resistance. As a history at the important nexus of immigration, carceral, and labor studies, this is an indispensable book for anyone interested in the history of twentieth-century racial capitalism.

Chandan Reddy, University of Washington, Seattle

CUBAN MEMORY WARS: RETROSPECTIVE POLITICS IN REVOLUTION AND EXILE

BY MICHAEL J. BUSTAMANTE

For many Cubans, Fidel Castro’s Revolution represented deliverance from a legacy of inequality and national disappointment. For others—especially those exiled in the United States—Cuba’s turn to socialism made the prerevolutionary period look like paradise lost. Michael J. Bustamante unsettles this familiar schism by excavating Cubans’ contested memories of the Revolution’s roots and results over its first twenty years. Cubans’ battles over the past, he argues, not only defied simple political divisions; they also helped shape the course of Cuban history itself. As the Revolution unfolded, the struggle over historical memory was triangulated among revolutionary leaders in Havana, expatriate organizations in Miami, and average Cuban citizens. All Cubans leveraged the past in individual ways, but personal memories also collided with the Cuban state’s efforts to institutionalize a singular version of the Revolution’s story.