SJPL Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Part 2

Colorful illustration of Mexican-American identity.

My Mexican-American Identity

As I wrote about previously, it wasn't until fairly recently when my cultural identity experienced a transformation. Being a third generation Mexican-American from a family whose roots come from northern Mexico and the small farm towns shared with the borders of Texas; my cultural identity and historical connection was greatly influenced by a predominant American cultural upbringing. Identifying as Mexican by descent while identifying as American by nationality has been a complex identity crisis for many Mexican-American families in the United States for many years as the economic and political differences between the two neighboring countries have dramatically grown disproportionate over time. Such cultural sea changes have given birth to new cultural identities and movements such as the Chicano movement, a movement that is thoroughly documented in our library's Chicano Center Collection at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Library's 5th floor.

Midnight in Mexico

Midnight in Mexico by Alfredo CorchadoAfter reading Alfredo Corchado's Midnight in Mexico, I received a lot more insight and understanding of how that struggle to find some peace of mind with your cultural identity can be difficult, even for a professional like Mr. Corchado, who spent a great amount of time reporting in the capital of Mexico City while still working for American news sources and living in Texas.

Corchado explains how his family's humble origins from a small farm town in Durango Mexico and migration to the United States developed into a bigger sense of responsibility and civic duty after his parents marched with Cesar Chavez for farm workers' rights and later built their own family restaurant business.

A true American dream is what Corchado and his family realized became possible after relocating across the border. However, the bigger issue the journalist and author documents in his book is about a personal crusade to help bring the same justice and prosperity to his motherland by holding corrupt politicians and drug cartels accountable for the chaos and disorder they subjected their people to while exposing the overwhelming amount of corruption in Mexico's political establishment. The obstacles Corchado finds himself facing aren't just death threats for his questioning of the powerful threats in the paradigm of money and drugs, but also scrutiny from his own people in his home country because of the resentment of his privileged upbringing in his new home country as a Mexican-American.

However, such cultural growing pains aren't just reserved for the region of Mexico and their migrants finding new homes in the United States. There are dozens of Latin-American countries and millions of people who represent the sub-cultural diversity of Hispanic Heritage Month and the many Central American, South American, and Caribbean islands migrants who have settled across the Unites States from coast to coast.

Ghetto Klown

Ghetto Klown by John LeguizamoLast month my wife and I got tickets to go see John Leguizamo perform a special show on the history of Latin America at the Berkeley Repertory Theater. After hearing about Leguizamo's recent Eisner-nominated graphic novel, Ghetto Klown, I was interested in hearing more about his Puerto Rican heritage and his take on what inspired the creation of his show on a history lesson with a comedic twist.

As a premise to his Berkely show, Leguizamo recounted how one day his son came to him from school letting him know that he had an assignment to look into a hero from his culture. Excited with the prospect of finding an opportunity to bond with his son while educating him on the history and culture of his homeland, Leguizamo realized afterward that he himself didn't know very much about his ancestors' history as he imagined he did.

I decided to look for a copy of Ghetto Klown at our library so I could read more about Leguizamo's background and the Puerto Rican community in New York. Unfortunately our library didn't have a copy circulating, yet. Thankfully, we can Suggest a Purchase. It's a good thing our library offers this option for those obscure titles that many of us look forward to borrowing for free from our library because sometimes our librarians in charge of selecting new material don't know about those lesser-known authors and titles.

Latino USA: A Cartoon History

Latino USA: A Cartoon History by Ilan Stavans and Lalo AlcarazI remembered the title of another book a friend recommended to me sometime ago about an illustrated history of Latinos in the United States. Latino USA: A Cartoon History by Ilan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz summarizes and illustrates the most notable historic moments, of which many people are unaware, of the Latino community in the United States. Considering Lalo Alcaraz was scheduled to interview Francisco Jiménez, author of The Circuit, over at the San Jose State University at the time; I was inspired to search for the book in our library catalog so I could read it and catch up on my friend's recommendation.

The book captured my attention immediately because of its vibrant illustrations which reminded me of how I got into reading to begin with when I was younger. Being an artist since I was a child, graphic novels naturally captured my attention and later helped me become more of an avid reader.

I hope that these sorts of books do the same for future generations and inspire them to read more and learn about such an impactful culture at the same time.

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