Media and art are representations of culture and identity. Not surprisingly, the Latino community in the United States has found ways to express itself via the various artforms that exist including the visual arts, dance and theater in addition to publishable mediums like books, movies, and music.
For this Hispanic Heritage Month, Noticiero Móvil wanted to share some of the titles to books, films, and albums that have shaped and continue to inform the history and contributions of the U.S. Hispanics to the nation. The following are our picks and some include links to how you can borrow them from the Washoe County Library System.
Five books about U.S. Hispanic history
Below is a list of five books by Hispanic and Latino authors that deal with a wide range of issues on what it means to live in the U.S.
Some of these books look at the history of the Latino people who have been in the U.S. since its founding, the language and culture wars that still permeate American politics today, the experiences of migrants at borders and the issues of cross cultural communication.
Collectively, these books have withstood the test of time and are widely regarded as some of the best Hispanic American writing published to date.
“Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States”, Felipe Fernández-Armesto (2014)
Latinos have been a crucial part of the history of the United States over the course of the last 500 years — yes, even before its creation. Eventually with the U.S. incorporating large swathes of territory from Mexico in the 1800s and with the more recent immigration from Latin America, this community will continue to be a significant part of the history of this country.
“Translation Nation: Defining a new American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States”, Héctor Tobar (2005)
Tobar takes the readers on a journey throughout the United States, focusing on the burgeoning Spanish-speaking communities that exist all across the country. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, the author showcases communities in states such as Florida, Texas, New York, Nebraska, and even Idaho. By doing so he aims to show how Hispanic communities create their own definition of the American Dream.
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldúa (1987)
This Chicano classic is a book of essays and poems about reimagining the U.S./Mexico border. Anzaldúa grew up as a queer feminist in Texas and describes how the borderlands are not only a geographic space, but also sociological spaces that occurs wherever distinct cultures interact with each other, regardless of how close to an actual border they are.
“George Washington Gómez”, Américo Paredes (1990)
Originally written in the 1930’s but not published until 1990, this novel is set in the Rio Grande Valley at a time when Anglo-American settlers were stealing land by force from the long established Tejano population. A quote from the book summarizes how the story went in reality, “I was born here. My father was born here and so was my grandfather and his father before him. And then they come, they come and take it, steal it and call it theirs.”
“All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands”, Stephanie Elizondo Griest (2017)
After spending years as an international journalist, Griest returns to her native Texas borderland community to find it has been ravaged by the drug wars and now has an 18 foot high steel wall. Thinking that this is perhaps a unique experience to the U.S./Mexico border she then moves to New York along the border with Canada to find that the indigenous Mohawk tribe has also suffered from being located near a border that has separated their nation. She also realizes the effects of capitalist societies on the destruction of language and traditional ways of life.
5 movies about Latino culture in the U.S. and Latin America
Books are a great way to learn about the history of Latinos in the U.S., but there’s nothing like a great movie to really get the point across and showcase our talent.
Here is a list of some of the top Hispanic films in the U.S. of all time. These include some mainstream hits, as well as a few lesser known features like “My Family.” Despite the fact that the U.S. population is nearly 20% of the total, their representation in Hollywood is lacking at a mere 6%.
Still these films instill pride in many Latinos as they see their lives and cultures portrayed on the big screen.
This heartbreaking story introduced Selena’s music to the wider world and turned Jennifer Lopez into a star. Following the true story of Tejana Selena Quintanilla, the movie shows the meteoric rise and tragic death of a Latinx superstar.
“West Side Story” (1961)
Reminiscent of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” West Side Story is about intercultural strife and love. Set in New York City in the 1950’s, the main plot revolves around a growing romance between the Puerto Rican María and Irish-American Tony. Their love is put to the test when rival street gangs, the Sharks and the Jets, fight to keep them apart. Considered one of the greatest American films of all time, the feature was actually an adaptation of a broadway musical. A new 2021 movie adaptation by Steven Spielberg is set to come out in December 2022.
“My family” (1995)
An epic story depicting three generations of a family. It starts when the first immigrants arrived from Mexico in the 1930’s and continues to follow their children and grandchildren as they grow up in 20th century Los Angeles. “My family” deals with subjects such as immigration, racism, inner-city strife, love/marriage, and even the contemplation of old age and how the decisions we make affect future generations. This film has been a classic for more than two decades.
This animated film is set in Mexico and features an all Latino cast for the voiceovers. “Coco” follows one of the most beloved and famous traditions to come out of the country, the celebration of the Day of the Dead. “Coco” is one of the top 20 highest grossing animated films of all time and was made by the celebrated film company, Pixar.
“Stand and Deliver” (1988)
Set in East Los Angeles during the gang plagued 1980’s, “Stand and Deliver” is about a Mexican-American teacher in a working class Chicano neighborhood who brings his students into academic success. The Library of Congress in 2011 deemed the feature film to be of significant cultural or historical importance to the fabric of the United States.
5 albums by Latinx artists that keep us grooving
Creating a list of favorite or best Hispanic American albums is hard.
Different generations have bought, sold, and listened to music in different ways. CD’s seemed to have been the golden era on this list, but other notable artists such as Daddy Yankee, Gloria Estefan, and the group Santana are worth mentioning for their total high record sales and general contribution to the culture of Latin music in the United States.
Here is a list of our picks for the top albums by Hispanic American:
Ricky Martin. Album: “Ricky Martin” (1999)
With 7 million sales in the U.S. alone, this self-titled album stands alone as the top selling by a Latin American artist of all time. “Livin la Vida Loca” was the top song from the Puerto Rican artist, but he has many other hits. The album was also a major international hit selling more than 15 million records worldwide.
Jennifer Lopez. Album: “J.Lo” (2001)
This is the second time that Jennifer Lopez appears on this list as she also starred in the movie Selena (mentioned above), which jump-started her career. At one point in 2001, Lopez had the number one album in America as well as the number one movie with “The Wedding Planner.” Indeed “J.Lo,” as she is known by fans, has secured her position as a major artist in American entertainment history.
Selena Quintanilla. Album: “Dreaming of You” (1995)
This album was released the same year that Selena was tragically murdered, ending her career prematurely. This album sold over 3 million records in the U.S. alone, and solidified Selena, posthumously, as a global best-selling performer.
Cardi B. Album: “Invasion of Privacy” (2018)
With her smash hit single, “Bodak Yellow”, Cardi B has been in the limelight since 2017. She single-handedly holds the record for longest running charting album of all time by a female rapper, breaking the previous 20 year record of Lauren Hill. Firmly in the time of Internet streaming, record sales are not as good of an indicator of success today. Make no mistake however, Cardi B is ruling the world and has become one of most successful artists today. The Dominican American native of the Bronx is very proud of her roots and her city.
Bad Bunny. Album: “YHLQMDLG” (2020)
Releasing his album just before the coronavirus pandemic hit did not seem to slow the meteoric rise of this Puerto Rican artist, also known as Bad Bunny. The album has sold 1.4 million records during a time when most artists just have individual songs streamed. Bad Bunny is known for his eclectic style, but it is his unique music that makes this modern artist stand up should-to-shoulder with some of the greatest Hispanic American musicians of all time.