Thought-provoking Reads for Hispanic Heritage Month

Each year, during National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Houston Public Library celebrates the millions of Americans with hispanic heritage. But why does Hispanic Heritage Month run from September 15th to October 15th? Because eight Latin American countries celebrate their independence days during this time span--Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile and Belize.

Please enjoy these books, which explore one part of the rich cultural fabric, and the complex intersections of identity and culture, that make America great.

The United States is still typically conceived of as an offshoot of England, with our history unfolding east to west beginning with the first English settlers in Jamestown. This view overlooks the significance of America's Hispanic past.
This absorbing narrative begins with the explorers and conquistadores who planted Spain's first colonies in Puerto Rico, Florida, and the Southwest. Missionaries and rancheros carry Spain's expansive impulse into the late eighteenth century, settling California, mapping the American interior to the Rockies, and charting the Pacific coast. During the nineteenth century Anglo-America expands west under the banner of "Manifest Destiny" and consolidates control through war with Mexico. In the Hispanic resurgence that follows, it is the peoples of Latin America who overspread the continent, from the Hispanic heartland in the West to major cities such as Chicago, Miami, New York, and Boston. The United States clearly has a Hispanic present and future.


A former Border Patrol agent's haunting experience of an unnatural divide and the lives caught on either side, struggling to cross or to defend it.


An award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker chronicles her personal year-long journey to discover the truth about her ancestry through DNA testing, sharing her findings as well as her insights into controversies surrounding modern Latino identity.


Since its U.S. debut a quarter-century ago, this brilliant text has set a new standard for historical scholarship of Latin America. Rather than chronology, geography, or political successions, Eduardo Galeano has organized the various facets of Latin American history according to the patterns of five centuries of exploitation. Thus he is concerned with gold and silver, cacao and cotton, rubber and coffee, fruit, hides and wool, petroleum, iron, nickel, manganese, copper, aluminum ore, nitrates, and tin. These are the veins which he traces through the body of the entire continent, up to the Rio Grande and throughout the Caribbean, and all the way to their open ends where they empty into the coffers of wealth in the United States and Europe.
Weaving fact and imagery into a rich tapestry, Galeano fuses scientific analysis with the passions of a plundered and suffering people. An immense gathering of materials is framed with a vigorous style that never falters in its command of themes. All readers interested in great historical, economic, political, and social writing will find a singular analytical achievement, and an overwhelming narrative that makes history speak, unforgettably.


A plague has brought death to the city. Two feuding crime families with blood on their hands need our hard-boiled hero, The Redeemer, to broker peace. Both his instincts and the vacant streets warn him to stay indoors, but The Redeemer ventures out into the city's underbelly to arrange for the exchange of the bodies they hold hostage.


An instant American icon--the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court--tells the story of her life before becoming a judge in an inspiring, surprisingly personal memoir. With startling candor and intimacy, Sonia Sotomayor recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a progress that is testament to her extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself. 


70-year-old patriarch Big Angel de la Cruz is dying, and he wants to have one last birthday blowout. Unfortunately, his 100-year-old mother, America, dies the week of his party, so funeral and birthday are celebrated one day apart. The entire contentious, riotous de la Cruz clan descends on San Diego for the events. Taking place over the course of two days, with time out for an extended flashback to Big Angel's journey from La Paz to San Diego in the 1960s, the narrative follows Big Angel and his extended familia as they air old grievances, initiate new romances, and try to put their relationships in perspective. A vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows.


If she can find the time, Sandy Saavedra will stop to breathe. New management has turned work upside down and her father's upcoming marriage-something he forgot to mention to Sandy-means there's no peace at home, either. But it's okay. No matter what's thrown her way, Sandy can deal. Because Sandy has a secret, and his name is Tío Jaime.
--Carrie R., Central Library


Sotomayor is a unique character. During her sophomore year at Princeton she met with the president of the university to attempt to get them to hire a full-time hispanic professor. At the time, Princeton had no full-time hispanic professors. So, she was critical of them in a NY Times article saying they were not making substantive efforts to change. So, a student organization she co-chaired filed a formal complaint with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, claiming the school was discriminatory in its hiring and admission practices. When I was a sophomore in college I was doing good to attend every class during a given week. In her third year of law school, during a recruiting dinner, a member of an established DC law firm made a comment that she was only at Yale via affirmative action. She filed a complaint at a faculty-student tribunal. The tribunal ruled in her favor and the firms apology made the Washington Post. As a hispanic, I appreciate the influence she's had in helping hispanics achieve more prominent roles.

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