Hispanic Heritage Month & Literature

As I was growing up, I consistently read stories that highlighted the many experiences Latinos and Hispanics went through within the United States. In fifth grade, I read a book called Esperanza Rising. This story detailed the experiences of a young girl who lived in Mexico but was forced to flee because of violence. Her name was Esperanza and she immigrated to California during the Great Depression. In California, she worked and settled in a camp for Mexican farm workers. This story showcased the difficulties encountered in the United States by newly arrived Latinos. There are many other stories that also demonstrate similar themes.

This brings me to Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the experiences, triumphs, heritage and culture of Latinos and Hispanics in the United States. This month is also used to recognize the contributions Latinos have made in the field of literature, art, medicine, politics etc. Literature is an important way for Latinos’ experiences to manifest into a documented format, whether it is a detailed account of their immigration journey or their struggle and triumphs of integrating themselves into the way of life in the United States. Below I have compiled a list of three books written by Latinos that I have personally enjoyed reading or am hoping to read in the near future.

 

  1. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent by Julia Alvarez:

(source:amazon.com)

This story details the experiences of different generations within the Garcia family. It also demonstrates their experiences growing up in the Dominican Republic and immigrating to the United States during the period of influx migration from the Caribbean Island countries. This story is an autobiographical fiction story and incorporates some of Julia Alvarez’s experiences immigrating to the United States and integrating herself into society while also trying to maintain her roots and identity. The symbolism of the title is one that can be connected to various Latino communities throughout the United States. Losing one’s accent meant losing an identity that can be traced back to many generations and many experiences of overcoming hardships to integrate oneself into a new culture.

 

  1. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros:

This book provides a different account of the life of a Latina girl in the United States. Sandra Cisneros, the author, was born in the United States and her father and mother were of Mexican descent, but Sandra never experienced the journey of immigrating from another country to the United States; rather, her experience was based on integrating herself into American society while having her father who immigrated from Mexico to the U.S.A and a mother who spoke English and who was of Mexican descent. The story provides an account of how Esperanza, the main character, grew up in a barrio (neighborhood) consisting of a large Latino population. It incorporates themes of sexuality, identity and being content with one’s background.

(source: amazon.com)

 

  1. Drown by Junot Diaz:

Drown is a series of ten stories that captures the struggle of immigrating from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey. The stories showcase the intensity of culture clashing. They also demonstrate the difficulty of overcoming poverty in a new country and trying to find opportunities that will allow for the cycle of inequality to be broken. The stories detail the experiences of growing up in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey and it provides a comparison and contrast of the two distinct, yet similar communities. The stories range from a mother ignoring the father’s lies and infidelities to provide for her children to a child who is physically disabled but still hopes to become a wrestler. These stories and their different settings provide an account on how a new country can impact a person’s life and identity.

(Source: Amazon.com)

 

These three stories are similar yet different, but the work of Latinos in the literature field allows us to learn about their experiences and how being integrated into a foreign culture can create challenges, but also provides them with a new perspective in their lives.

If you want to learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month, I recommend visiting this website: https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/

 

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