The idea for historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s new book came from a chance encounter while on the lecture circuit in 2007. The Notre Dame professor was in Colorado Springs, delivering a speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy, when one instructor mentioned that he wanted the U.S. to be welcoming to immigrants. The instructor also said: “people who come here must learn the native language.”
“I quite agree,” said Fernández-Armesto. “Everyone should learn Spanish.” The Air Force instructor seemed surprised, so Fernández-Armesto reminded him that “Colorado” itself is a Spanish word.
This was an “Aha” moment for Fernández-Armesto, a 63 year-old British historian of Spanish descent. “I discovered,” he said, “that these nice, cultured, well-educated people had little understanding of the country’s Hispanic past.” So he set out to write a book that examined American history from a fresh perspective. “I wanted to go beyond the traditional, from east to west, sea-to-shining-sea narrative,” he said. “The truth is that U.S. history crosses the continent in both directions, as well as from south to north.”
The result is Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States. “The U.S. has a longer Hispanic past than an Anglo (white) past,” he said, “and without acknowledging this, we are incapable of understanding what America is – and what America will be in the future.”
Here are five takeaways from Our America:
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