How will today's immigration crisis shape our nation? This provocative novel set in the second decade of the 21st century poses a chillingly credible nightmare vision . . . a Hispanic liberation movement seeking to redraw the borders of the United States.
After years of anti-immigrant backlash, anger seethes in the nation's teeming barrios. 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 barrio shooting rampages. Exploiting the turmoil, a congressional demagogue succeeds in passing legislation that transforms the nation's Hispanic enclaves into walled-off Quarantine Zones. Amid the chaos in his L.A. barrio, Manolo Suarez is out of work and struggling to support his growing family. Under the spell of a beautiful Latina radical, the former U.S. Army Ranger eventually finds himself questioning his loyalty to his wife-and his country.
Fast-paced and action-packed, America Libre is a wake-up call to the dangers of extremism - on both sides of this explosive issue.
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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.
What People are Saying About This
"America Libre is a story of what we all struggle with when we decide where we stand on the issue of immigration."--(Professor Edward J. Mullen, University of Missouri-Columbia)
"Ramos's scenario of U.S. Hispanics taking up arms to fight for their dignity gives us Manolo Suarez, an honorable man whose radical conversion provides insights into the hopes and disappointments of the U.S. Latino experience."--(Miguel De La Torre, Ph.D. - Director of the Justice and Peace Institute, Iliff School of Theology)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story was both thought-provoking and an action-packed page turner, which is a rare combination indeed. The plot device of having a single event mushroom into something huge reminded me of Tom Clancy novels like Debt of Honor. Once I got to the book, I went from cover to cover during the space of a plane trip over a long weekend. Let's hope that the story is a worst case scenario that never comes to pass.
Raul Ramos y Sanchez has gifted us with an astonishingly brilliant, highly polished novel. The characters come to life as their stories unfold, and their missions become clear in this intense, yet intimate drama. America Libre is definitely a novel whose time has come. Educational, passionate and elegantly written, America Libre has Oscar, Cannes Festival winner written all over it.
I found America Libre to be an exceptionally well-written and eye opening account of an important issue facing the nation today. Full of action, historically accurate and currently relevant - the author is clearly well versed in the true power of the press and the potential impact from exploitation of the media towards a political gain. I look forward to the sequel.
Mano is a very appealing mix of strength, intelligence, and most importantly, a family man of unwavering moral commitment.
The book shows how small events can lead to catastropic results - how one of Amerca's biggest social problems grows to endanger the whole nation!
This book is very well-written, and brings a different perspective to the social issue of immigration facing America. For many, this book shows both sides of the issue, and gives a much greater understanding of the problems faced. The characters have great depth, and truly force the reader to empathize with their position in what may be one of the biggest social issues to face the United States in decades. It is also action packed, and will keep your attention until the very end. I am looking forward to the next chapter in this story - would like to see how this fictional version of what may really happen - will play out.