Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States

Overview

In the national bestseller Translation Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar takes us on the definitive tour of the Spanish-speaking United States—a parallel nation, 35 million strong, that is changing the very notion of what it means to be an American in unprecedented and unexpected ways.

Tobar begins on familiar terrain, in his native Los Angeles, with his family's story, along with that of two brothers of Mexican origin with very different interpretations of ...

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Overview

In the national bestseller Translation Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar takes us on the definitive tour of the Spanish-speaking United States—a parallel nation, 35 million strong, that is changing the very notion of what it means to be an American in unprecedented and unexpected ways.

Tobar begins on familiar terrain, in his native Los Angeles, with his family's story, along with that of two brothers of Mexican origin with very different interpretations of Americanismo, or American identity as seen through a Latin American lens—one headed for U.S. citizenship and the other for the wrong side of the law and the south side of the border. But this is just a jumping-off point. Soon we are in Dalton, Georgia, the most Spanish-speaking town in the Deep South, and in Rupert, Idaho, where the most popular radio DJ is known as "El Chupacabras." By the end of the book, we have traveled from the geographical extremes into the heartland, exploring the familiar complexities of Cuban Miami and the brand-new ones of a busy Omaha INS station.

Sophisticated, provocative, and deeply human, Translation Nation uncovers the ways that Hispanic Americans are forging new identities, redefining the experience of the American immigrant, and reinventing the American community. It is a book that rises, brilliantly, to meet one of the most profound shifts in American identity.

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Editorial Reviews

Steve Erickson
While Tobar is an impressive reporter -- the former national Latino affairs correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, he is now the paper's Buenos Aires bureau chief -- Translation Nation is often most compelling when it's telling his own story, which begins in Los Angeles, ''my tierra,'' he calls it, ''my homeland.'' Los Angeles -- ''the place to which I will always return'' -- is the nerve center for Tobar's quest. For Latinos, it's the ultimate American city, a city of immigrants in a country of them, trafficking in identity, reinvention and the opportunity for people to recast themselves in the image of their hopes.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The nation's growing Hispanic population constitutes a "Latin Republic of the United States," contends this engrossing survey of Latino America. Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist Tobar chronicles the surge in Central American immigrants to a Los Angeles where "Oliver Twist had escaped from London and was now a Spanish-speaking Angeleno in the age of crack"; listens in on the debate among Cuban exiles over Elian Gonzalez; and interviews undocumented migrants about to brave the ferociously defended Tijuana border crossings. He also follows Latinos, and their influence, into the heartland, finding a well-settled immigrant community in Dalton, Ga.; Nebraska corn farmers vying for the tortilla market; and a white Anglo Mormon who reinvents himself as a Mexican deejay for an Idaho Spanish-language radio station. Tobar insists that, thanks to their great numbers and easy access to cultural wellsprings in nearby homelands, Latinos will avoid assimilation. But he struggles to define the self-confident "Latinoness" he believes will "change the course of American history," locating it variously in a supposed resistance to "good, Protestant, money-making order"; a rejection of cultural boundaries; a taste for bright colors; and the iconography of Che Guevara. These don't really amount to the Tocquevillean insights he's aiming for, but Tobar's nuanced reportage vividly conveys the complexity and pathos of the Latino experience. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An apt collection of essays exploring the increasing prevalence of Hispanic culture in North America, by an L.A. journalist now based in Argentina. Guatemalan by birth and raised in L.A., where he cut his teeth covering the 1992 riots for the Los Angeles Times (sharing a Pulitzer Prize for the effort), Tobar (a novel: The Tattooed Soldier, 1998) casts his net widely in defining Hispanic American identity. He pulls in essays ranging in subject from L.A. ("City of Peasants"), where, he notes, the number of Spanish speakers roughly equals that of English-only speakers; to the desperate, porous border of Mexico ("Where the Green Chilies Roam"-chilies being border guards); to the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas and the stream of jornaleros (day workers) who migrate to cities such as Ashland, Ala., to work for the Tyson company; to thriving pockets of Hispanic communities across the heartland. Tobar tracks the "violent and troubled path into Americanness," quoting from W.E.B. Du Bois and Alexis de Tocqueville. In "Unconquered," he examines worse-case scenarios, like the hopeless, drug-infested barrios in Cordova, N.M., that are suffering from cultural dislocation and oppression, though he also recounts success stories, such as the Hispanic civil awakening represented by California State Senator Gloria Romero and other Latino activists who have cast off the humiliation of their immigrant roots to proclaim permanence in their adopted land. In "The Old Men and the Boy," Tobar descends on the conflicted Cubano exile community of Miami, where the immigration fight for young Elian Gonzalez became a national cause celebre; and visits an aging "hero from another fatherland," jailed Puerto Ricanterrorist Elizam Escobar, still raging about the lack of respect given his people. Although the New York Hispanic community receives glancing attention, Tobar does a magnificent job of portraying the "contradiction and possibility" contained in the words una nacion unida. A plea for transnational identity in the spirit of Tobar's hero, Che Guevara.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594481765
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/4/2006
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 347,152
  • Product dimensions: 5.59 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

The son of Guatemalan immigrants, Héctor Tobar is a National Correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and was part of the writing team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1992 riots. He holds an MFA from the University of California at Irvine and lives in Los Angeles.

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Table of Contents

Part One: Crossings

Chapter One: Americanismo: City of Peasants
Los Angeles, California

Chapter Two: Where Green Chiles Roam: No es imposible
San Ysidro, California; Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Chapter Three: Brother Citizen, Brother Alien: Sin fronteras
Watts, California; Ameca, Jalisco, Mexico

Part Two: Pioneers and Pilgrimage

Chapter Four: The Wanderers: El destierro
Ashland, Alabama; McAllen, Texas; Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico

Chapter Five: In the Land of the New: En la tierra de lo nuevo
Dalton, Georgia; Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico; Memphis, Tennessee

Chapter Six: Our Secret Latin Heartland: Los secretos del machote
Rupert, Idaho; Frankenmuth, Michigan; Grand Island, Nebraska; Liberal, Kansas

Part Three: Manifest Destinies

Chapter Seven: Unconquered: La reconquista
Cordova, New Mexico; San Fernando, California; San Antonio, Texas

Chapter Eight: The Old Men and the Boy: Los balseros
Miami, Florida

Chapter Nine: Fathers, Daughters, Citizens, and Strongwomen: El hombre y el orgullo
Barstow, Los Angeles, Bell Gardens, Maywood, Watts, and South Gate, California

Part Four: E Pluribus Unum

Chapter Ten: Una Nación Unida: Heroes of Another Fatherland
El Reno, Oklahoma; San Juan, Puerto Rico; New York, New York; Baghdad, Iraq

Epilogue: Che and the Three Monkeys: Che y los tres monos
La Higuera, Bolivia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Los Angelos; California; Ashland, Alabama

Acknowledgments
Notes

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2005

    Latinidad: Cultural Identity, Miscegenation or Diaspora - The Enriching of America

    Hector Tobar is a journalist now living in Argentina who also happens to be a fine writer. Probing his own past as the son of immigrants from Guatemala as a baseline and investigating like families and individuals, TRANSLATION NATION is one of the more interesting, readable, and informative books about the current rise in the number of Latin Americans who in their immigration to a new country have made a solid impact on the cultural, artistic, gastronomic, and political face to the USA.Tobar interviews and follows histories of some fascinating and courageous people, documenting their diaspora-like web across the country. From the Cuban exiles in Florida and the massive Los Angeles and Southern California Hispanic population we all know to the enclaves and pockets of 'latinidad' communities sprinkled across the entire United States, Tobar gleans a feeling of identity, of success stories, of the numbers of Hispanics who have gained national importance and prominence to the beautifully persistent folk traditions that remain intact despite the surrounding environs. The importance of 'futbol' (soccer), the explosion of cuisines not only form the ubiquitous Mexican fast food chains but also the increasingly popular cuisines of Central and South America, the on-going debates about border control - Tobar manages to define just what impact `latinidad¿ has had and will continue to have as the Latino population grows faster than any other group in census studies.In a time when the government seems to be polarizing the nation about the Latino influx it is refreshing to read Tobar's eminently optimistic evaluation of this newest aspect of the Melting Pot concept of America. An informative and fine read. Grady Harp

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2012

    Lei el libro, conoci a Hector personalmente y tambien conozco a

    Lei el libro, conoci a Hector personalmente y tambien conozco a muchas de las personas en el libro. Para mi el hizo un trabajo excepcional. Se los recomiendo.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2005

    An interesting and informative exploration of the Spanish United States

    This is a fantastic exlporation of the evolution of the United States from a majority Anglo/European society into a society increasingly shaped by the influx of new residents and citizens from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Away from the traditional border states like Texas and California the author explores Spanish speaking groups and communities in the Mid-west and deep south. The common thread is the incredible manner in which these new Americans have seized upon opportunities to prosper and thrive in their new homeland while still maintaining a linguistic and cultural link to their native countries.

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