Harvest of Empire

by Juan González

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Introduction Summary

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Gonzalez begins his nonfiction exploration of Latin Americans’ place in the United States with a description of the 2006 protests—which Latinos were responsible for leading—that swept across the country in response to so-called Sensenbrenner Bill. This bill, which eventually failed to pass, proposed a series of sanctions that would detrimentally affect the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the US, most of whom come from nations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Gonzalez argues that prior to these grassroots protests, undocumented immigrants were largely politically inactive, perhaps due to fears of deportation. However, the protests of 2006 drastically changed the way the diverse groups within the Latino demographic voted. Gonzalez cites statistics that show increases in the number of Latino voters, support from these voters for Democratic Party candidates, and the willingness of Latinos to advocate for their dignity and human rights.

Although the effects of the protests clearly changed the media narrative surrounding undocumented immigrants at the time, Gonzalez posits that Latino peoples have always been economically and sociopolitically connected to the United States. Gonzalez lists three reasons to support his claim: Latino migrants are tied to the expansion of the U.S. “empire;” Latinos have been relegated to an inferior social class defined by language and culture; and most Latino migrants settled in the U.S. in a “postindustrial” era. 

Gonzalez explains how he has organized the rest of the book based on his hypothesis, highlighting the changes he has made since the first edition was published. At the end of the introduction, Gonzalez outlines his goals for writing the text, expressing his hope that readers will reach a deeper understanding of Latinos in the United States.

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Part 1: Roots, Chapter 1 Summary