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By Richard Vasquez
Review by Herb Altman
Of all the groups of people that have come to the USA, the only group that came overland and not by sea were the Mexican Indians, who were here and had established a culture long before the 1500s, when the first Europeans arrived. Now, when Mexicans come back to land that was originally theirs, they are strangers.
The story starts in Mexico in the late 1800s, with each successive, generation forming links in a chain that kept getting stronger and more interesting. By the time the reader gets to Mariana, Samm and David Stiver, it is impossible to put the book down.
Novels that can generate such power are rare, which might be one reason Chicano! has been translated into 13 foreign languages, and is still being read some 25 years after its initial publication. Chicano! is about bigotry and the many ways in which it can be expressed. In the States Latinos are often mocked when they are slow to master English. “Goddamn it, if you want to live in this country, the least you can do is learn the language!” And yet, here in Mexico, we all know gringos who have been down here for 20 years who still can say little more than “¿Donde esta el baño?” and have the notion that the locals are at fault for not speaking to them in a “civilized” language.
(Note: This ground-breaking novel can be found in the LCS library and on the publisher, Doubleday, web site.)