When VDARE.COM's Brenda Walker blogged last year about the novel America Libre, she referred to it as "Marxican". The author, a Cuban-American called Raul Ramos y Sanchos, [Email him] didn't like this and protested. I responded and offered to review his book if he would send me a copy. My life was rather chaotic right after I got it, so I am only now posting this review, for which I apologize. But apparently America Libre is to be reissued by a major publisher and a sequel, El Nuevo Alamo, is planned. So perhaps this is timely after all.
Sanchos and Brenda both have a point. America Libre is not exactly a left-leaning book. But if I were to describe its tone, it is nationalistic along linguistic and cultural lines, advancing a kind of Pan-Hispanic identity. Its basic plot: in the not so distant future, the U.S. fractures along the lines of Hispanics vs. Everyone Else. American mistreatment of Hispanics galvanizes them and creates a unity that bridges their ethnic and racial differences.
Raul Ramos y Sanchez is a decent writer and I enjoyed his book as entertainment. The main Hispanic characters all had some depth and humanity. But one problem with the book is that its non-Hispanic characters too often seemed like negative media stereotypes . They were either intensely racist, utterly cowardly or bumbling idiots. This struck me as going beyond what even Hollywood. It isn't like the folks he mentions don't exist—but they aren't exactly typical. The American white community is intensely polarized around the topics of immigration and multiculturalism. This just wasn't depicted, but the obligatory white nationalist villain did figure prominently.
I view America Libre as one Hispanic man's view of how Hispanic secession might unfold. Significantly, Ramos's view isn't that different than the military author Thomas Chittum in his nonfiction book Civil War II: The Coming Breakup Of America. Both authors see the mostly Hispanic parts of the Southwest going their own way at some point in the future.
One thing that was missing from America Libre an explanation of what supposedly transforms America from its present politically-correct path into a country willing to start interning Hispanics, as it did the Japanese 60 years ago. In the Japanese case, of course, there was an obvious trigger: Pearl Harbor. In Civil War II, Chittum suggests that a major economic downturn might force the dropping of a lot of government transfer programs now important to the Hispanic and black population.
But we are in a situation now where every recent major candidate for the presidency, with the exceptions of Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo, pretty overtly courted the Hispanic vote. The US hasn't set up internment camps for Arabs or Muslims since 9/11—despite a state of war. It hasn't even curtailed Muslim immigration. Figures like Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs who want to address immigration issues seriously are barely mainstream enough to get on TV, despite their popularity with viewers.
Too much endorsement of them can result in career and/or social ruination in much of the country today. The closest thing the US has to an effective "right wing" may be found in religious fundamentalism—again a movement that has actively courted Hispanics with a degree of success.
I can imagine scenarios, like peak oil, another depression, a flu pandemic or nuclear terrorism that might seriously stress the US and polarize it along broad ethnic lines. But America Libre needed more credible detail about what could change the national character so much.
The characters in the novel include a black Hispanic man and a blonde Hispanic woman. This might add marketability if the book is ever made into a film—you can vote on Ramos's website on whether the blonde woman should be played by Cameron Diaz, Julie Gonzalo, or Alexis Bledel. But it struck me as formulaic. In fact, the deep internal divisions in Hispanic culture along racial lines seemed glossed over to me.
America Libre mentions that 95% of the slaves who were imported to the New World wound up in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, there aren't 20 times as many descendants of African slaves—even accounting for the fact that here are a lot of people mixed race in Latin America. Basically, slavery in Latin America appears to have more intensely restricted the slaves' ability to reproduce than in North America. (Wikipedia puts it this way: "Sugar plantations were disproportionate consumers of fresh slaves, owing to their high death rate." In Brazil, owners felt they would profit if they could keep a male slave alive and working for five years.) Arguably, this should reduce in fewer, but more bitter, blacks.
And Mexico, Venezuela and other Latin American countries have very active political movements identified with the indigenous peoples. How will these folks react to the creation of a pan-Hispanic identity? America Libre talks some about how divisions got overcome by common humiliation. But, again, more credible detail would have been helpful.
The secession of the U.S. Southwest would be a dream come true for those forces who are serious enemies of US allies (i.e. Al Qaeda) or potential rivals of the US (China). How these might react to the devolution of the US needed to be developed more.
What is developed is the intense emotion that many Hispanics feel about their participation in the US—that it's not a fair partnership, denying them justice and dignity. The point for VDARE.COM readers: it will difficult for this alienation to be addressed through immigration policy—be it Bush's attempt to open the doors to all "willing [a.k.a. cheap and exploited] workers", or the reduction advocated by immigration reform patriots.
But at least reduced immigration reduction will mean fewer alienated Hispanics.
Globalization and its accompanying immigration hasn't been a wildly happy experience on either side of the Hispanic/Anglo divide. But nationalists on both sides of the Rio Grande are kept at each others' throats, which has meant the relatively small minority of wealth-owners on both sides of the border have gotten a chance for the grand experiment of merging both countries' workforces.
As a progressive, I believe that Anglo nationalists and Hispanic nationalists plausibly can and should come to some solution both like better than the status quo. Each might find it easier to deal with another ethnically-identified side, rather than with an elite that sells both sides out and takes a big chunk. Wealth can be theoretically redistributed in ways that the broader population perceives as in their benefit. In America Libre, it is assumed that the Anglo masses would side with the rich, often non-Anglo. But they might just as easily say "This isn't our fight-why bother?" I heard that among quite a few guys in National Guard units in Los Angeles during the riots
America Libre helps explain some of the emotions that are likely to play an important role in any serious readjustment in present situation. It may offer a view from an Hispanic nationalist perspective that VDARE.com readers maybe able to understand, and to figure out how to deal with, better than they would a purely Marxist analysis.
Randall Burns [email him] holds a degree in Economics from the University of Chicago. He works in the information technology sector and is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. Burns has been active in furthering the introduction of immigration, trade, and tax realities into the progressive agenda. In 2004, he helped create the Kucinich campaign's position paper on H-1b/L-1 visas.