From Columbus to Selena, from lima beans to ""Loisada,"" Ochoa encompasses a diverse Hispanic American historical and cultural experience, using the question-and-answer format that is a series (Sue Heinemann's The New York Public Library Amazing Women in History, p. 112, etc.) standard, and which caters to short attention spans. It makes browsing easy, and allows Ochoa to focus more closely on selected topics with frequent sidebars. In a vital, knowledgeable sweep through the history and immigration patterns of several regions and countries, including Spain, he takes as his major theme their distinctive characters. Not intended for sustained research, this has two bibliographies, one with web sites, to give readers a jump start on their studies.