Milton Meltzer Kirkus Reviews - Essay

Kirkus Reviews

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In his The Hispanic Americans], Meltzer gives us the most forthright treatment yet of the force behind Hispanic-American immigration: namely, the devastating effect on the Mexican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican economies of European colonialism and later US government and business practices…. Except for the relatively prosperous first-wave Cubans, Hispanic Americans find themselves "at the bottom of the job ladder" and have received a "dismal" education here…. Meltzer describes the wretched conditions of farm workers, somewhat alleviated by the union movement, that are better known to YA readers, and the effective slave labor system that traps illegals. He emphasizes that the Hispanic-American experience is not uniform: In New York, Hispanic-Americans have revitalized Jackson Heights, where newsstands sell papers from Bogota, Buenos Aires, Guayaquil, and Santo Domingo; yet in Spanish Harlem, an older Puerto Rican community, "the people live poorly." Their very numbers make their problems urgent: one in four New Yorkers is of Hispanic origin, as is 28 percent of the Los Angeles population and 40 percent of Miami's; and this group is growing nearly four times as fast as that of all others in the nation. To these facts and descriptions Meltzer adds an earnest chapter, similar to that in his Chinese Americans …, on the folly and evils of racial stereotypes and discrimination. He ends with the example of San Antonio's Chicano mayor, elected in 1981, and the hope that Hispanic-Americans can overcome the obstacles to organizing for political action. Essential.

A review of "The Hispanic-Americans," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1982 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. L, No. 6, March 15, 1982, p. 351.