A panoramic historical study of President Richard Nixon’s handling of Hispanic affairs, as told by a former White House insider.
In his debut, Ramirez, offers a historical tour de force. Part scholarly study, part ringing celebration of Hispanic-American success, the work is also an intensely personal account of his own evolution as a man juggling dual Mexican and American identities. The analytical meat of the book defends Nixon as the president who effected the most profound changes for the Hispanic community, which began to swell in the United States following World War II. Ramirez focuses on Nixon’s impact on the Mexican population, a “sleeping giant” that quickly catapulted into a major American demographic. “Nixon was the man who grew up with us Mexicans. He knew us, cared about us, and included us,” Ramirez writes. “Let history show that he was the only president who really and truly gave a damn for the Mexicans.” Discussing largely forgotten political operatives such as Robert Finch, Counselor to the President, and Martin Castillo, first Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Opportunities for Spanish Speaking People, the author persuasively makes a case that Nixon, rather than his predecessors Kennedy and Johnson, was truly devoted to the precarious plight of Hispanic-Americans. Sidestepping some of Nixon’s infamous failings, the analysis sometimes borders on hagiographic. Also, it can be a bit self-referential, detailing maybe too meticulously the author’s privileged vantage point (a lengthy section of the book is entitled “Why I am the One Who Can Tell the Story”). Ramirez bluntly informs readers that the book is “a sine qua non for understanding the rise of the Chicanos and Nixon’s part in it,” and his arguments are well-articulated and rigorously sourced, including extensive appendices of pertinent documents.
A thoughtful, if occasionally strident, account of a neglected aspect of Nixon’s presidency.