Latino U.S.A.: A Cartoon History
Latino USA represents the culmination of Ilan Stavans’s lifelong determination to meet the challenges of capturing the joys, nuances, and multiple dimensions of Latino culture within the context of the English language. In this cartoon history of Latinos, Stavans seeks to combine the solemnity of so-called “serious literature” and history with the inherently theatrical and humorous nature of the comics. The range of topics includes Columbus, Manifest Destiny, the Alamo, William Carlos Williams, Desi Arnaz, West Side Story, Castro, Guevera, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Neruda, Garc?a M?rquez, the Mariel Boatlift, and Selena. Stavans represents Hispanic civilization as a fiesta of types, archetypes, and stereotypes. These “clich? figurines” include a toucan (displayed regularly in books by Garc?a M?rquez, Allende, and others), the beloved Latino comedian Cantinflas (known as “the Hispanic Charlie Chaplin”), a masked wrestler, and Captain America. These multiple, at times contradictory voices, each narrating various episodes of Latino history from a unique perspective, combine to create a carnivalesque rhythm, democratic and impartial. For, as Stavans states, “History, of course, is a kaleidoscope where nothing is absolute.” Latino USA, like the history it so entertainingly relates, is a dazzling kaleidoscope of irreverence, wit, subversion, anarchy, politics, humanism, celebration, and serious and responsible history.