This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the author of America Libre, Raul Ramos y Sanchez, via E-mail. Mr. Ramos was also generous enough to take reader questions, and so he answered a couple of those as well.
A long-time resident of the U.S. Midwest, Cuban-born Raul Ramos y Sanchez developed a documentary for public television called Two Americas: The Legacy of our Hemisphere, and he is host of MyImmigrationStory.com – an online forum for the U.S. immigrant community. America Libre is his first book and will be part of a trilogy.
Without further, adieu, the interview.
While your novel is fictional, do you think that the story you wrote could ever actually happen in the U.S.?
Raul Ramos: I certainly hope not. At the same time, I think there is a real possibility we may see some kind of ethnic unrest if some of the current trends in the U.S. today continue. Illegal immigration has sparked very heated opposition. That backlash, often directed against all Hispanics, has been more than a war of words. The U.S. has seen a 40% increase in hate crimes against Latinos since 2004. The KKK openly brags about the increase in their membership fed by anti-immigration sentiments. At the same time, the overwhelming majority of Hispanics in the U.S. are legal residents or citizens. These verbal and physical attacks help alienate Latinos. Also, the Hispanic youth population is growing very quickly – and young people are a very volatile group. Finally, much of the U.S. Southwest was once part of Mexico and Spain. Would the hate directed against Hispanics ever fuel a separatist movement? It’s certainly happened in other parts of the world. I wrote AMERICA LIBRE as a cautionary tale to help the U.S. avoid a similar fate.
In America Libre, you point out that Latinos are a very diverse people racially. We have characters like Mano, who are brown-skinned and dark-featured, characters like his co-worker who are darker-skinned, and the character Jo Herrera who is light-skinned with blond hair and blue eyes. That being said, do you consider Latinos to be a race or more of a cultural ethnicity?
Raul Ramos: I think the best place to start is trying to define what Latino really means. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the “official” definition of a Hispanic (or Latino) is someone in the U.S. with origins in a Spanish-speaking country. Now, let’s turn that around. Suppose we took every person in the U.S. from an English-speaking country and labeled them “Britannic.” That would include Whites from England, Blacks from Jamaica, and even Australia’s Aborigines. Would all these “Britannics” be part of the same race? It seems pretty absurd when you look at it that way. For the record, the U.S. Census Bureau lists seven racial categories on its forms. Hispanic is not one of them. Yet every day we see headlines that divide the U.S. population into four groups: White, Black, Asian & Hispanic. This is obviously at odds with the official definition. There are a huge number of reasons for this misconception. But the fact is, the people of Latin America are no more one race than the people of the United States. Personally, I take great pride in my heritage and feel a strong kinship with all Latinos. At the same time, I don’t believe it serves our people or the stability of the United States to create the illusion of a racial bloc. It only breeds fear among mainstream Americans and masks the true need of disadvantaged Latinos behind the accomplishment of Caucasian Hispanics who are less discriminated against.
In the book, the word “Hispanic” is often used. Why did you choose to use this word when there are such strong feelings against it in the Latino community?
Raul Ramos: I am aware there are strong feelings against “Hispanic” in some communities. At the same time, there are other enclaves of Spanish-surnamed people who don’t like “Latino.” It really depends where you are in the United States. To me, we really have much bigger issues to worry about. Let’s use our energies to tackle dropout rates, the DREAM ACT and immigration reform.
Do you foresee America Libre being made into a movie, and if so, do you have favorite actors you would love to have cast for any particular character?
Raul Ramos: We’ve already been offered a film option by an indy producer and gotten a nibble from a major studio. But as yet, my agent has not been able to work out the right deal. I’m hoping the day will come. In the meantime, I’ve gotten enough interest in the casting for a movie version of AMERICA LIBRE that I created a place on my author’s website where visitors can vote on their favorite star to play the role. If you’d like to take part, visit http://www.RaulRamos.com and scroll down just a bit in the left hand column.
Thank you Mr. Ramos for generously taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you the best of luck and look forward to reading EL NUEVO ALAMO when it comes out next year.
For more information about the author, please visit RaulRamos.com