Sanchez's debut is a sweeping, intense novel of extremism, fear and consequences. In Los Angeles in the near future, tensions run high between Hispanics and Anglos, especially after the death of an innocent Latina bystander in Texas sparks nationwide riots. In need of a job, ex-Army Ranger Manolo "Mano" Suaraz joins La Defensa del Pueblo, started by wealthy Ramon Garcia to foster Hispanic unity in the face of Anglo violence. Despite his wife's growing reservations, Mano and the group are able to turn Hispanic gangs into allies against a common enemy. As violence and fear escalate-and are manipulated-"Quarantine Zones" and camps are created to segregate Hispanics from the general population. Mano, who dedicated his life to patriotism, sees his own country turn on him because of his heritage, disregarding his value as an individual. Originally self-published, Ramos y Sanchez's ambitious, cautionary tale poses questions without easy answers, but its flaw, ironically, is the lack of diversity, with all the characters being either Hispanic or Anglo. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
America Libreby Raul Ramos y Sanchez
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After years of anti-immigrant backlash, anger seethes in the nation's Latino communities. The crowded streets bristle with restless youth, idled by a deep recession. When undercover detectives in San Antonio accidentally kill a young Latina bystander during a botched drug bust, riots erupt across the Southwest. As the inner-city violence escalates, Anglo vigilantes strike back with shooting rampages. Exploiting the turmoil, a congressional demagogue succeeds in passing legislation that transforms the nation's Hispanic enclaves into walled-off Quarantine Zones. Citizens tagged Class H-those who are Hispanic, are married to a Hispanic, or have at least one grandparent of Hispanic origin-are forced into detention centers. Amid the chaos in his L.A. barrio, Manolo Suarez is out of work and struggling to support his growing family. But under the spell of a beautiful Latina radical, the former U.S. Army Ranger and decorated war veteran now finds himself questioning his loyalty to his wife-and to his country.
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The origins of any political revolution parallel the beginnings of life on our planet. The amino acids and proteins lie inert in a volatile primordial brew until a random lightning strike suddenly brings them to life.
José Antonio Marcha, 1978
Translated by J. M. Herrera
The trouble had started two weeks earlier. Enraged at the fatal police shooting of a young Latina bystander during a drug bust, a late-night mob descended on a Texas Department of Public Safety complex and torched the empty buildings. By morning, a local newscast of the barrio's law-and-order meltdown mushroomed into a major story, drawing the national media to San Antonio. Since then, the presence of network cameras had incited the south side's bored and jobless teenagers into nightly rioting.
Seizing the national spotlight, the governor of Texas vowed looters would be shot on sight. Octavio Perez, a radical community leader, angrily announced that force would be met with force. He called on Mexican-Americans to arm themselves and resist if necessary.
Disdaining Perez's warning, Edward Cole, a twenty-six-year-old National Guard Lieutenant, chose a provocative location for his downtown command post: the Alamo.
"This won't be the first time this place has been surrounded by a shitload of angry Mexicans," Cole told his platoon of weekend warriors outside the shutdown tourist site. A high school gym teacher for most of the year, Lieutenant Cole had been called up to lead a Texas National Guard detachment. Their orders were to keep San Antonio's south side rioting from spreading downtown.
Now Cole was fielding yet another call over the radio.
"Lieutenant, we got some beaners tearingthe hell out of a liquor store two blocks south of my position," the sentry reported.
"I'd say fifty to a hundred."
"Sit tight, Corporal. The cavalry is coming to the rescue," Cole said, trying his best to sound cool and confident. From a two-day training session on crowd control, he'd learned that a rapid show of strength was essential in dispersing a mob. But the colonel who had briefed Cole for the mission had been very clear about the governor's statement.
"Your men are authorized to fire their weapons only in self-defense," the colonel had ordered. "And even then, it had damn well better be as a last resort, Lieutenant. The governor wants to deter violence, not provoke it."
Lieutenant Cole had never seen combat. But he was sure he could deal with a small crowd of unruly Mexicans. After all, he had eight men armed with M-16A automatic rifles under his command. Cole put on his helmet, smoothed out his crisply ironed ascot, and ordered his men into the three reconditioned Humvees at his disposal.
"Let's move out," he said over the lead Humvee's radio. With the convoy underway, Cole turned to his driver. "Step on it, Baker. We don't want to let this thing get out of hand." As the driver accelerated, the young lieutenant envisioned his dramatic entrance . . .
Bullhorn in hand, he'd emerge from the vehicle surrounded by a squad of armed troopers, the awed crowd quickly scattering as he ordered them to disperse . . .
Drifting back from his daydream, Cole noticed they were closing fast on the crowd outside the liquor store. Too fast.
"Stop, Baker! Stop!" Cole yelled.
The startled driver slammed on the brakes, triggering a chain collision with the vehicles trailing close behind. Shaken but unhurt, Cole looked through the window at the laughing faces outside. Instead of arriving like the 7th Cavalry, they'd wound up looking like the Keystone Kops.
Then a liquor bottle struck Cole's Humvee. Like the opening drop of a summer downpour, it was soon followed by the deafening sound of glass bottles shattering against metal.
"Let's open up on these bastards, Lieutenant! They're gonna kill us!" the driver shouted.
Cole shook his head, realizing his plan had been a mistake. "Negative, Baker! We're pulling out."
But before the lieutenant could grab the radio transmitter to relay his order, the driver's window shattered.
"I'm hit! I'm hit! Oh, my God. I'm hit!" the driver shrieked, clutching his head. A cascade of blood flowed down Baker's nose and cheeks. He'd only suffered a gash on the forehead from the broken glass, but all the same, it was as shocking as a mortal wound. Never one to stomach the sight of blood, Baker passed out, slumping into his seat.
Cole couldn't allow himself to panic; with no window and no driver he was far too vulnerable. Mind racing, he stared outside and soon noticed a group of shadowy figures crouching along the roof of the liquor store. Were they carrying weapons?
"Listen up, people. I think we might have snipers on the roof! I repeat, snipers on the roof!" Cole yelled into the radio. "Let's lock and load! Have your weapons ready to return fire!"
On the verge of panic, the part-time soldiers fumbled nervously with their rifles as the drunken mob closed on the convoy, pounding against the vehicles.
The window on Cole's side caved in with a terrifying crash. The rattled young lieutenant was certain he now faced a life or death decision-and he was determined to save his men. With the radio still in hand, Lieutenant Edward Cole gave an order he would forever regret.
"We're under attack. Open fire!"
When it was over, twenty-three people lay dead on the black pavement beneath the neon sign of the Rio Grande Carryout.
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Meet the Author
A long-time resident of the U.S. Midwest, Cuban-born Raul Ramos y Sanchez is a founding partner of B/R/C Marketing, established in 1992 with offices in Ohio and California. Besides developing a documentary for public television, Two Americas: The Legacy of our Hemisphere, he is host of MyIimmigrationStory.com - an online forum for the U.S. immigrant community. Ramos began writing America Libre in 2004, with the input of scholars from Latin America, Spain, and the United States. He is currently working on El Nuevo Alamo, the second book of the America Libre trilogy.
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