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Latino USA: A Cartoon History

Updated on June 11, 2010

"Latino USA," like the Cartoon History series I reviewed earlier, is a history book in comic form. However, unlike the Cartoon History series, this book focuses on a particular group: Latinos.

 Starting with Columbus landing in America and ending some time around the year 2000, this book, written by Mexican-American professor Ilan Stavans and drawn by Lalo Alcaraz, depicts all the ups and downs of Hispanics in America, particularly the United States. There's a big focus on Mexicans, as they are the Latinos who have the first meaningful interaction with the US (during the secession of Texas from Mexico), but Cubans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans all appear as well. This book also deals with big Latino issues, including bilingualism in the US, racism, US interference in Central and South American countries, and migratory labor reform. 

The information included in this is of very great interest, as events that appear heroic from a white American point of view (the battle of the Alamo, the Rough Riders) become distinctly less so when viewed from a Mexican or Cuban perspective. There are also events including the stories of many border folk heroes who symbolized US oppression of Mexicans that a white audience might simply not be aware of. For these alone, I was thankful I had read the book.

However, it also has some stylistic flaws. For one thing, having four separate narrators- a calavera (a skeleton), a toucan, a Latina teacher, and the author himself--makes things a little confusing. this is not helped when the focus bounces around so much that it's often hard to keep track what's important . I was lost a few too many times.

But all in all, I liked and appreciated "Latino USA" quite a lot. It sheds light on events that you probably wouldn't have heard of otherwise, and shows an interesting perspective that might not be normally considered when learning about American history. Check it out for yourself, and be prepared to learn things you didn't know.

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