- U.S. Central Americans: Reconstructing Memories, Struggles, and Communities of Resistance ed. by Karina O. Alvarado, Alicia Ivonne Estrada, and Ester E. Hernández
The adeptly titled anthology U.S. Central Americans: Reconstructing Memories, Struggles, and Communities of Resistance engages with the history, memories, and lived experiences of scholars who identify with the United States and the Central American isthmus. While the Central American nations share and celebrate their independence from Spanish imperialism on the same day, their individual histories differ and deserve to be acknowledged. The editors open the volume with a conscientious overview of each individual nation's sociopolitical and economic history relative to the region and, in particular, their relationship to the United States. The anthology's approach to Central American nations' diversity, and their comparative diasporas to the United States, is a welcome and significant contribution to literature on U.S. Latinidad (27). It an exemplary contribution to the field of Central American studies, and equally valuable and accessible to scholars of Latino studies, Latin American studies, Ethnic studies, anthropology, sociology, literature, social studies, social work, history, and education.
This anthology emphasizes the importance and evolution of the U.S. communities that have become a new homestead for Central American immigrants. These communities clamor for a greater acknowledgment of a U.S. Central American cultural legacy that engenders pride. For instance, authors discuss how cities in California, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, have responded to the contributions of these populations and their assertions of belonging through their visible presence as well as their oral histories. Their influence has enriched and altered the composition of these areas for years to come.
First, the book's introduction sets the stage with a comprehensive exploration of the history of each country in the Central American isthmus, and how the recent waves of migration to the United States have led to this group becoming the third largest Latino/a group (6). The second part of the text, titled "Generational Oral Histories of Education, and Gendered
Labor and Resistance Literature," focuses on the narratives, interviews, and autobiographical explorations of self of U.S. Central American scholars who identify as 1.5 or second generation. The use of oral histories is a significant element of this section, and the contributing writers acknowledge how memory has the ability to transcend a single generation. The accounts of these memories are also framed against the highly gendered and labor circumstances that Central American migrants are forced into (223). These memories illustrate the continued epistemological value that oral and written histories are given within their communities. The final portion of the text, titled "Diversity and Memory: Creating Counterhegemonic Spaces and Practices in Public Places," emphasizes how Central Americans and their descendants have created a physical space in Los Angeles that embodies their voice and raises awareness of their presence as engaged members of the community, through performativity, cultural markers, and aesthetics. The intersectionality among arts, politics, identity, and space is evidenced across these chapters. They share a common thread that emphasizes the transformative power of what happens when intangible innermost sentiments become tangible and multifaceted expressions of identity and belonging. These aesthetic expressions redefine "the sanitized versions of path-ethnic and pan-Latina/o identities" (222). Taking into account copyright and printing restrictions, the chapters in this section are engaging and detailed in their use of visual counterhistories of Central Americans in Los Angeles. However, additional visual evidence in the form of photography and illustrations would be a welcome complement to this section of the text.
A driving force that inspired this anthology is a need to distinguish the racial, regional, and cultural attributes that set apart the peoples of the Central American isthmus, attributes that are often overlooked and minimalized in the media, public knowledge, and to a degree, scholarship, contributing to the oversimplification of the motives that inspire migration. With [End Page 133] more than economic motives encouraging migration...