By Linda Tishler Levinson
American Latinos have been critical to the development of American culture.
That belief is the idea behind a book written by Stephen Pitti, a professor of history and American studies and director of the Ethnicity, Race and Migration Program at Yale University
“American Latinos and the Making of the United States” looks at five Latino Americans who lived from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries and their contributions to American culture.They include exiled Cuban priest Félix Varela, Mexican-American author María Amparo Ruíz de Burton, Puerto Rican historian and collector Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Guatemalan civil rights organizer Luisa Moreno and Mexican-American politician Edward Roybal.
“They’ve been critical to the development of the American culture,” Pitti said of Latino Americans. “They really have contributed to every walk of life,” he said listing contributions in art, journalism, medicine and the military as examples.
“This is particularly true when it comes to issues of fairness and equality,” Pitti said. “Latinos have brought a particular vantage point on American democracy.” That viewpoint has helped move American democracy forward and has helped Americans live to their values, he said.
The book came out of an effort by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service to tell more about Latino History in the United States. The book is published by Eastern National, a nonprofit association based in Pennsylvania whose mission is to promote understanding and appreciation of national parks and other public trusts.
“We were extremely impressed when we first read the essays,” said George Minnucci, CEO of Eastern National. “These stories of the Latinos’ impact on American history need to be told. The significance of Latino heritage commemorated within the national park system is considerable, and we wanted to make these stories available as a publication.”
Pitti is a Mexican-American originally from California. He has been on the faculty at Yale for 15 years. In 2008, he was appointed master of Ezra Stiles College at Yale, from which he graduated in 1991. He received a doctorate in history from Stanford University and held a postdoctoral appointment at the University of California at San Diego.
He is a specialist in the history of Latinos in the United States, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, immigration from Latin America, and civil rights struggles since World War II. He is the author of “The Devil in Silicon Valley: Race, Mexican Americans, and Northern California.”
“American Latinos and the Making of the United States” is available at www.eParks.com.