Our America | Felipe Fernández-Armesto

Summary of: Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States
By: Felipe Fernández-Armesto


Dive into the riveting account of US Hispanic history with Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s ‘Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States’. This narrative sheds light on the deep historical roots of Hispanics in America, predating Anglo-Americans as the inhabitants of the US territory. As we embark on this journey, we will uncover the pivotal role Hispanics played in the development of multicultural United States. Fernández-Armesto takes us back to the times of Spanish explorers, the role of colonies, and the intertwining destinies of the Hispanic and Anglo-American populations. An enlightening and engaging read, this book serves to reveal an often overlooked aspect of American history.

Embracing Multiculturalism in the US

Felipe Fernández-Armesto, a University of Notre Dame history professor, emphasizes the importance of recognizing and embracing Hispanic history in the United States. He argues that Hispanics were present on the national territory before any other intruders, including Anglo-Americans, and have made crucial contributions to the country. To fully embrace a multicultural future, Fernández-Armesto believes Anglo-Americans must acknowledge and honor the historic roots of Hispanics in the US.

The Dark Side of Spanish Colonization

The Spanish were the first to establish dominance in North America with Christopher Columbus’s landing on San Juan Bautista. The locals ceded control to them initially, but things took a turn for the worse as the Spaniards plundered communities and caused genocide. Smallpox spread inflicted significant damage to the Indigenous population. Puerto Rico became the economic backbone of the Spanish Empire with sugar plantations built through slavery. Spanish explorers moved to Florida in the search for gold and established settlements that did not survive beyond the 1570s. Though the author presents the exploits of the Spanish colonizers with pride, the cost of these ventures to the locals is irreparable, and their exploitation cannot be overlooked.

Spanish Exploration of North America

In the 16th century, Esteban de Dorantes claimed to have seen the emerald city of Cíbola, inspiring more Spaniards to explore North America. Francisco Vázquez de Coronado introduced horses to Native Americans, transforming their ability to hunt and make war. However, smallpox spread by previous Spanish explorers had decimated Indigenous populations. The Spanish never fully colonized the plains due to Apache and Comanche raids on their outposts in Texas, pushing them into Arizona and California.

Shifting Territories

Following Britain’s victory in the Seven Years War, Canada and Florida were acquired from France and Spain, respectively. However, Spain regained Florida and displaced France in Louisiana by siding with the American patriots during the Revolutionary War.

The Unsettling History of Immigration in the US

The 1804 acquisition of Louisiana by the US resulted in a wave of immigrants and conflict with Mexico. In California, Mexicans clashed with Anglo immigrants over slavery and land. The gold rush in 1849 led to increased tension, and Mexican immigration ended with the completion of the continental railway. The US’s attitude towards immigrants has fluctuated depending on the need for laborers, as can be seen in its history.

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