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Conversations Across Our America

Talking About Immigration and the Latinoization of the United States

By Louis G. Mendoza

Publication Year: 2012

This collection of interviews conducted while the author traveled across the country demonstrates the complexity of Latino immigration by foregrounding the myriad voices of immigrants themselves.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction: The Latinoization of the U.S. and "Our" National Culture

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pp. 1-8

In the spring of 2006, the U.S. experienced a series of unprecedented immigrant rights marches involving hundreds of thousands of people across the country as they sought to shift the rising tide of anti-immigrant discourse in the media and among the public at large. In recent years, anti-immigrant...

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One. Leaving: Home is no Longer Home

As will become abundantly clear throughout this book, each immigrant’s experience is idiosyncratic even as his or her individual story resonates with common themes: motivations for leaving home, the emotional pain resulting from being separated from loved ones and one’s homeland, the struggle...

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Gloria Caballero

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pp. 11-15

Gloria: I was born in Santiago, Havana, Cuba. I married a man who was born in Harlem, New York. I used to be an English teacher in Cuba, an interpreter, and he was part of this huge project there to teach and retrain teachers of English to their knowledge of the English language since traveling...

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pp. 16-21

Luis: When I hear those politicians talk about immigrants being criminals and all the bad stuff that they say about us, I would just like them to know what it takes and how hard it is to live in a place where you have no food, where the circumstances and your situation just push you to survive somewhere...

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Guillermo Sánchez Vasa

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pp. 22-26

Guillermo: I was born in Colombia. I went to a special technical school in Colombia. I chose the automobile mechanical. I stayed there for three years. After that I go three years for accounting. I am an accountant and a professional mechanic. I have some businesses in Colombia. I make special...

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pp. 27-29

Fernando: My family is all over the place. It’s very common within the immigrant population that family members are here, there, everywhere. I have one brother in San Diego. It has been about eight years since I saw him. I have an older sister also. My brother is thirty-two, and my older sister...

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Two: The Crucible of Change and Adaptation

The profoundness of change that immigrants experience is measured by the contrast between the past, present, and an unknown future. But for Latinos the contemporary immigration phenomenon should not be viewed in isolation from the larger historical narrative of our place in U.S. society...

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Adela Marmion

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pp. 32-45

Adela: I grew up all over. I was born in Morenci, Arizona, and my mother was born nearby in Medcalf, Arizona. She took me to Mexico when I was two and came back when I was about thirteen. I had to learn English, and learn about discrimination. Oh, did I, right away! I forgot my Spanish...

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Juan Marinez

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pp. 46-52

Juan: There’s an interesting phenomenon in Michigan where Latino immigrants are becoming small farm owners. The kids start school, and all of a sudden it hits them that they’re there permanently. They’re great savers— wait to accumulate between $40,000 and $80,000, and that’s good...

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Guadalupe Quinn

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pp. 53-59

Guadalupe: I came from Yucatán in 1951 to Ventura County in California. Most of the folks who were in that area when we first came were braceros. The Bracero Program was still going on, and we came with the sponsorship of a tío [uncle]. I grew up in California and was there until 1978, when...

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Victor Ochoa

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pp. 60-62

Victor: Here in Southern California, we consider ourselves the most crossed border in the world, and we of course always think of this as the most important border. I just experienced something really weird. I went to a wedding of one of my nephews, Victor, up in Fresno. He marries this...

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Magda Iriarte

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pp. 63-76

Magda: My father is a horse trainer who’s been in the States since 1971. We came a year after he was here. My parents are divorced, but they are still very good friends. I think that it was difficult for them to make the transition from the Colombian perception of the woman being submissive to the...

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Mariano Espinoza and Alondra Kiawitl Espejel

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pp. 77-84

Mariano: It is really, really sad to hear all the debates about immigrants and immigration from politicians and people who are against us. They close their eyes knowing that we are here...

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Three: An Emerging Sense of Mutuality: tú eres mi otro yo [you are my other me]

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pp. 85-87

The Mayan concept of in lak’ech, approximated in the epigraph, has its specific manifestation in Mayan culture but is in many respects a concept that has corollaries in cultures around the world. This notion of reciprocity and mutuality can be found in Western civilization in Christianity’s “golden...

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John Jensen

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pp. 88-93

John: I was just telling George it was kind of busy for me this morning, because I was helping at the church fishing clinic over in Sauk Centre previously, and then I had made arrangements to meet with you, and then we were going out to Elena Cruz’s graduation party later this afternoon. We’ve...

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Peggy and John Stokman

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pp. 94-97

P&J: We used to live in Minnesota long ago. We chose Melrose because we wanted to live in the vicinity of St. John’s, St. Cloud, St. Paul, for the university and culture and things. We liked the connection at St. John’s, and we went there and asked the priest who was director of Hispanic Studies which...

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Ángel González

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pp. 98-105

Ángel: I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I’ve been in Iowa now for about a year and a half. All my family is in Puerto Rico. I grew up in the San Juan metropolitan area, and I went to an English private school because my mother wanted us to learn English. She really wanted us to be able to...

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José Elizondo

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pp. 106-113

José: With the presidential campaigns, everybody is talking about immigration. They put everything else on the back burner; they think everyone wants to know about immigration. I can’t quite stand it, to be honest. I have so many campaign managers who come by who try to set things up here...

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Four: Confronting Threats to Community

The conversations included in this chapter speak to the ways in which Latino communities have responded to persistent and intensified threats to their well-being and the process, rewards, and challenges of organizing collective action in their own defense. They are, of course, only...

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Raúl Raymundo

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pp. 116-123

Raúl: From my perspective, if you live in places like Iowa, Nebraska, the heartland, if you will, you better be welcoming immigrants, because they are the ones who will be paying for your Social Security. The population is aging, and they are taking care of your future. There has been research comparing...

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Rogelio Núñez

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pp. 124-130

Rogelio: Sí ha habido. There’s been a good response from some of the immigrants themselves. We do legal work, and we got cases up the chingao. And then we do community organizing work también. Some of the people we work with, mainly undocumented, are participating a lot, and como aquí...

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Yolanda Chávez Leyva

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pp. 131-138

Yolanda: El Paso del Sur formed in May of 2006. The Paso del Norte Group’s plan was announced in March of 2006, and everyone was really excited because the way that it was framed. It was going to redevelop downtown, and like so many other cities, our downtown is really vibrant, but it...

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Cecilia Brennan

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pp. 139-142

Cecilia: I was an organizer in L.A. for many years doing work in Pico Union, which is in Mid-City, Los Angeles, and is comprised of mostly Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran, and Nicaraguan folks. I worked with projects like CARECEN [Central American Resource Center] and El Rescate and...

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Antonio Díaz, Oscar Grande, and Teresa Almaguer

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pp. 143-150

Antonio: I met staff from PODER [San Francisco] back in 1991 at this national conference in Washington, D.C., the first people’s environmental leadership seminar, and by that point we had started PODER in Austin. I was happy to realize that we were working with an organization that had...

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Five: Asserting Rights

The Latino community’s pursuit of social justice within the U.S. can be traced back to the moment they became “foreigners” in their native lands. This endeavor has assumed numerous forms, from armed resistance in the aftermath of territorial conquest to legal advocacy to remove barriers to...

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José Ramón Sánchez

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pp. 153-162

José: I’m Dominican and Puerto Rican. My mother’s side decided to leave the country during the Trujillo years because of the dictator’s brother, Petan [José Arismendy Trujillo Molina], who ruled locally. Whenever Petan got interested in a property it was just a matter of time before he got it...

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Leticia Zavala

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pp. 163-170

Leticia: I’ve known FLOC since I was a young girl. We came to the country in ’86. Originally my family, my grandfather, came over here. We came from Michoacán, and our fi rst real job was in agriculture in Ohio. That’s where we met FLOC. We joined the union that same year, and we harvested...

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Elizabeth García

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pp. 171-176

Elizabeth: I’m from Matamoros originally. I’ve been living here for twenty years. My family brought me here when I was fifteen. I came here illegally and stayed until I graduated from high school, and there was nothing for me so I decided to go back to Mexico ’cause I couldn’t continue my...

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Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project Staff

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pp. 177-190

Louis: What does your family think about you doing this kind of work?
Briana: They support it, but they think I’m nuts. They’re very apolitical, and they don’t really feel like it’s going to make a diff erence. They support what I do and they understand why, but it’s not something that they would...

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Mónica Hernández

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pp. 191-196

Louis: Can you share your perspective on how life on the border has been impacted by the debates on immigration?
Andrea: Well, it has really changed. When I was growing up there was no fence; there was like three pieces of barbed wire. My grandma used to send...

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Enrique Morones

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pp. 197-207

Enrique: Two weeks ago I organized a protest against Lou Dobbs. I’ve been on his show a few times, but he won’t have me on anymore. I had like five hundred people. We’re all protesting. He comes out and says, “Enrique, I’m not surprised to see you here.” He goes to shake my, hand and I say...

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Six: Internal Migration

The Latino diaspora within the United States is a multilayered phenomenon that does not adhere to many people’s preconceived notions of immigration. For example, a common misperception is that Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland are international migrants. Furthermore, as was made clear by...

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Humberto Fuentes

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pp. 210-215

Humberto: I was the founder of Idaho Migrant Council, back in ’69–’70. I was executive director for thirty-two years. I’m the national chair for Farmworker Justice in D.C. and on the Mexican Consulate Advisory Group. I’m still very much involved in the Latino community. For all practical purposes...

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Efrain and Francisca Marinez

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pp. 216-222

Francisca: Nacimos en México, pero nos criamos en Tejas. [We were born in Mexico, but we grew up in Texas.]
Louis: ¿En qué parte de México? [In what part of Mexico?]

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Dina Montes

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pp. 223-228

Louis: When I began this trip I thought I was going to talk to mostly recent immigrants, but so much of the story has also been the experience of Latinos throughout the generations who have relocated and contributed to the new geography...

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Seven: Living in the Borderlands Means...

The fluid, multifaceted, contradictory, and rich experience of living in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands so eloquently articulated and popularized by Gloria Anzaldúa in the mid-1980s is a useful starting point for gaining insight into this unique space that at once evokes the future and...

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Lupe and Jesse Vega

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pp. 231-238

Louis: I’m glad I’ve had a chance to meet you. I haven’t met too many relatives outside of Houston. When I was young, we visited relatives on my mom’s side in Mexico once. We don’t know too much about our family history before coming here. But I always keep in mind that...

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Carlos Marentes

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pp. 239-244

Carlos: I did a presentation on international encounters of migration recently. I was explaining that immigration is a hot issue, but in reality society doesn’t know what to do with immigration. In my presentation I was trying to explain to Europeans that we in America have a large segment of...

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Verónica Carbajal

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pp. 245-253

Verónica: I was almost born on the bridge. My mom used to work in El Paso, and my grandpa used to work on Mill Street as a parking lot attendant. She would get a ride from him in the morning, and then she would stop at a church and wait for him. She would go and pray. She didn’t tell her...

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Ernesto Portillo

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pp. 254-266

Ernesto: This was the mainstay of Barrio Viejo. Not to romanticize it, it was a viable barrio. They had businesses, professional offices of middle-class mexicanos and some blacks. And then urban renewal came. It was something that swept the country in the ’60s; take out the old “blighted”...

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Manuel Vélez

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pp. 267-272

Manuel: I moved to El Paso from Salinas when I was fifteen. There were a number of reasons. My parents, my dad, had just inherited some land in El Paso, and over in Salinas, me and my brothers were already into gangs and stuff like that. It was a way to disconnect us from it...

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Conclusion: Nuestra América Ahora: Meditations on Latinoization, Citizenship, and Belonging

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pp. 273-280

Conversations Across Our America is and is not my story, just as it is and is not your story, wherever you position yourself within the debates on immigration. “Latinoization” refers to the ongoing process of cultural, social change occurring in the United States as a result of the profound...


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pp. 281-284


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pp. 285-288


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pp. 289-290


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pp. 291-299

E-ISBN-13: 9780292737396
E-ISBN-10: 0292737394
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292737389
Print-ISBN-10: 0292737386

Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects.
  • Hispanic Americans -- United States -- Interviews.
  • Immigrants -- United States -- Interviews.
  • Hispanic Americans -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • Immigrants -- United States -- Social conditions.
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