We are all Americans of the New World, and our most dangerous enemies are not each other, but the great wall of ignorance between us. - Juan González, Harvest of Empire
In 2011, Juan González, journalist and co-host of Democracy Now!, published the book Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America, a five-century study of U.S. involvement in Latin America. In 2012, this award-winning book was transformed into a 90-minute feature-length documentary directed by Eduardo López and Peter Getzels. The book and the film examine the direct correlation between U.S. political, economic and military interventions throughout Latin America and the unprecedented wave of migration. In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 53 million Latinos live in the U.S., making up 17% of the population.
González narrates the film and explains that the massive migration of Latinos to the U.S. were (and are) in direct response to the needs of an empire; the empire in this case is the U.S. and the needs are more natural resources and regional political influence. The film uses archival footage and interviews with prominent Latino immigrants in the U.S. to further the “empire” case; personal migration testimonies from Guatemalan political activist and 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, Dominican Pulitzer Prize-Winning author Junot Díaz, Grammy award-winning Nicaraguan singer and composer Luis Enrique, and more are shared. The documentary highlights the wars for territorial expansion that gave the U.S. control of Puerto Rico, Cuba and more than half of Mexico. It also outlines some of the covert political and military operations that installed tyrannical regimes in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. On a lighter note, the film also does a wonderful job emphasizing the achievements of Latinos in their homelands in spite of, and in direct relation to, suppression and oppression.
They never teach us in school that the huge Latino presence here is a direct result of our own government’s actions in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America over many decades — actions that forced millions from that region to leave their homeland and journey north. – Juan González, Harvest of Empire
Prior to watching this documentary, I had a laypersons understanding of the immigration debate. Now, I believe I am able to fully appreciate the impact of U.S. involvement in Latino countries and the desperation that the people of those countries feel as a result of those interventions. This is an important documentary in this day and age when people resembling the stereotypical Latino image can be arrested and detained for their looks. I highly encourage everyone interested in the migration, immigration and/or U.S. involvement in Latin American to watch this documentary.Related Resources: Harvest of Empire Zinn Education Project: Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America (Book) The Washington Post: Harvest of Empire, Editorial Review by, Stephanie Merry The New York Times: Why They Come Here: “Harvest of Empire”, About Immigration Gozamos: Film Review by, Ilene Palacios SFGate: Harvest of Empire Review by, Peter Hartlaub