Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America

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Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America

By Gregory Rodriguez
Pantheon, 2007
336 pp. $27.00
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This awkwardly named volume is required reading for anybody interested in the future of the United States. Mexican Americans are the largest component of the vast wave of immigrants from Latin America who are reshaping the economy and demographics of the United States. Rodriguez offers the best available account of the origins, history, ideas, and aspirations of this growing minority. His book is an answer both to the ethnocentric polemics of the Chicano movement and to the concerns of observers such as Samuel Huntington. Rodriguez responds to concerns about whether Mexican Americans will truly "belong" with an in-depth discussion of the values and character of a population that is both an old minority and a new immigrant presence. Beginning with a quick historical survey of the ethnic and cultural origins of Mexico and the American Southwest, Rodriguez argues that heterogeneity and assimilation are intrinsic elements of Mexican identity and that this latest wave of immigrants is likely to contribute to American pluralism while perpetuating the individualism, work ethic, and love of freedom that play such a large role in American political thought. If Rodriguez is right -- and he argues persuasively -- then much of the cultural pessimism about the United States' prospects in the twenty-first century may need revision.

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