Monday, February 21, 2011

Book Review: "Hispanic New York" - By Catharine E. Wall (World Literature Today)

Reproduced with permission from World Literature Today 
The publication of Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook by Claudio Iván Remeseira, founder and director of the Hispanic New York Project in the American Studies Program at Columbia University, marks a significant milestone in Nueva York studies as an interdisciplinary, multinational field with hemispheric and transatlantic scope. 
The twenty-five texts anthologized in four sections (Historical Perspectives; Race, Ethnicity, and Religion; Language and Literature; Music and Art) represent numerous intersecting social science and humanities disciplines: demographics, literature, journalism, women’s studies, sociology, religion, dialectology, musicology, and art history. Although this selection of readings could not possibly cover, uniformly, every national group or scholarly issue of Hispanic New York, the breadth and depth of the classified bibliography helps compensate for any perceived omission of coverage. 
Extensive subject and name indexes also provide access to the vast range of topics in the readings, and the cover illustration—a demographic map by Alejandro Largo (upon an original idea and design by the book's editor)—cleverly depicts the extent of Hispanic New York.

Several selections are especially noteworthy for New York literary studies. The inclusion of Whitman (“The Spanish Element in Our Nationality,” 1883) and Martí (an 1889 letter and “Our America,” 1891) shows that New York writing is firmly rooted in the United States and Latin American literary traditions. Selections by Bernardo Vega and Jack Agüeros recognize the place of first-person accounts of the immigrant experience in this literary corpus. Antonio Muñoz Molina, in “Spanish in New York: A Moving Landscape” (originally in El País in 2007 as “Paisajes del idioma”), reflects eloquently on Spanish in New York. And Remeseira’s own previously unpublished “A Splendid Outsider: Archer Milton Huntington and the Hispanic Heritage in the United States,” an important contribution to the history of Hispanism in the United States and in New York, exemplifies the genre of the literary essay. 

The centerpiece of the sourcebook's literature selections, “New York City: Center and Transit Point for Hispanic Cultural Nomadism,” is a sweeping survey of cultural institutions, media, literature, and theater (as well as music, graffiti, and art) by the leading expert on Hispanic New York literature, Spanish poet Dionisio Cañas. The original publication of this piece in the collection Literary Cultures of Latin America (2004) is a testament to the place of New York as a center of Latin American culture.
The publication of Remeseira's sourcebook (which will be followed by Hispanic New York: A Cultural Guide, a collection of scholarly essays) has coincided with two other landmark events: the Nueva York (1613–1945) exhibition, a history of the city through Hispanic lenses, at El Museo del Barrio in collaboration with the New-York Historical Society (17 September 2010–9 January 2011), and an art exhibition last year, “Nexus New York: Latin/American Artists in the Modern Metropolis,” also at El Museo. Certainly the occurrence of these three momentous events signals a turning point for the study and appreciation of Hispanic and Latino New York cultures -- CATHARINE E. WALL (Claremont McKenna College)

Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook. Claudio Iván Remeseira, ed. & intro. Andrew Delbanco, foreword. New York. Columbia University Press. 2010. xxiv + 547 pages. $89.50 ($29.95 paper). isbn 978-0-231-14818-4 (14819-1 paper)

1 comment:

  1. This is an outstanding and very much deserved review of what promises to stand as a landmark commentary on Hispanic influence in the cultural fabric of New York City and, indeed, of the United States as a whole. This anthology, with its wealth of cultural and historical information should form part not only of every American Studies reading list in the USA, but also of those for general social studies in colleges and high schools as a contribution to greater understanding and respect for cultural diversity in North American society.



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