The Search for Latino Identity in America
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A rambling stream-of-consciousness on “the essence of what it is to be Latino/Hispanic.”

Poet and journalist Morales explores the difficultly of finding a definition for Latinos in the US. The quest to find such a definition—considering the multiplicity of nationalities, classes, and races in the Latino “community”—seems doomed. The author, however, decides to adopt the term “Spanglish” because “it was a word that expressed what we are doing, rather than where we come from.” Beginning with Latino images found in film, television, and music, the author makes interesting points that he follows up with questionable speculation. He argues that the significance of I Love Lucy was in its definition of the American family while being racially mixed at its core, certainly not the norm in the 1950s. But then he speculates that Arnaz’s rumored infidelity was a result of “his insecurity about the public’s accepting him as Ball’s true love.” Later, the author tackles Selena, murdered icon of Tejano music. While noting that Selena was a strong symbol for many Mexican-Americans and possibly for Northern Mexicans as well, she “may have been martyred because she had invoked a powerful storm around her by attempting to be both traditional and contemporary.” A bit more interesting is the author’s take on New York’s Nuyorican Poets Cafe, of which he’s been a part. Unfortunately, Morales gets bogged down in tedious, affected prose: “The netherworld of in-between is netherworld no longer, it is a cool world, a place I thrive in. . . . I cast darkness on the most promising situations and shed light on the most negative ones. My astrological sign is Gemini, and my twin sides are a harmony of opposition, both sides of the human story.” The author eventually concludes that “the working definition for Latinos (or Hispanics) should be ‘everything.’ ”

Impassioned but fragmented.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-26232-9
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2001