Editor’s note: We recently conducted an interview with Aaron E. Sánchez, editor of The Schlager Anthology of Hispanic America (publishing this month). Aaron is assistant professor of history at Texas Tech University. He is an intellectual and cultural historian of the U.S. Southwest, with a focus on the Chicana/o/x and Latina/o/x communities in the region. He is the author of Homeland: Ethnic Mexican Belonging Since 1900 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2021).
1) With the new Schlager Anthology of Hispanic America, what were your overall goals in developing the list of entries? What kind of balance/approach were you trying to achieve that might be different from previous anthologies on this subject?
[AS] It would be impossible to put together an exhaustive list of entries for the various populations that fall under Hispanic history because of the time and space they span. Instead, this anthology aims for a diversity of perspectives to give readers a sense of the diversity of experiences of these many communities, while still providing thematic threads that bind them together. The documents in the Schlager Anthology of Hispanic America can be read as a history of the United States through particular communities, and it can also be read as a history of global and hemispheric forces that shaped the United States.
2) What topics/events on the list are particularly hot or burgeoning in terms of current interest among scholars right now?
Transnational, continental, and hemispheric approaches to U.S. history are at the forefront of the field of U.S. history. The Schlager Anthology of Hispanic America is informed by these new and pathbreaking approaches to U.S. history, showing how borders disrupted older communities and forms of knowledge and created new communities and ways of knowing. The documents show how the nation, its communities, and its borders changed over time, not always peacefully but not always destructively either. In the borderlands and middle grounds of the nation’s past and present, humans negotiated with forces outside of and under their control. Without descending into an ahistorical American exceptionalism, the anthology shows how communities and individuals strove to make this nation a more perfect union when its practices fell far short of its lofty principles.
3) Were there any documents that you included that were new to you and particularly surprising or noteworthy?
As a cultural and intellectual historian of Latinos in the United States, I wanted this anthology to include a wide array of cultural productions (like poems and novels) and place them in conversation with more traditional historical sources like speeches and census documents. In the United States, the cultural has often been political, especially among the Hispanic communities whose cultural differences were seen as justification for their exclusion. Cultural productions must be read as primary documents that illustrate larger political and social ideas. If culture was the reason that many Hispanics were excluded, it was also through culture that they imagined a more just nation befitting of their inclusion.
4) Why do you feel it’s important to present a multitude of perspectives through these primary sources?
It is important to include a multitude of perspectives (like race, class, politics, and gender) to illustrate the realities of lived differences and how that impacts the ways that people interact with the world. The various Hispanic communities, too, have had different experiences in the United States. For example, in the midst of the Cold Way, as U.S. politicians feared the spread of communism in the world, the Cuban Adjustment Act gave Cuban refugees fleeing the Castro government a pathway to citizenship and access to a wide range of privileges that other Hispanic communities have not had. This meant that Cuban Americans had higher educational outcomes and higher levels of education attainment and business ownership because their normalized status allowed them to attend college and access bank loans. However, Central American refugees were not extended the same benefits, even though they were also fleeing violent authoritarian governments because of the political position of the U.S. government, which supported those regimes. These two different policies can be seen in the Cuban Adjustment Act and Ronald Reagan’s “Address to the Nation on United States Policy in Central America.”
5) How does the new Schlager Anthology of Hispanic America present a modern approach?
The Schlager Anthology of Hispanic America presents a modern approach because of its diverse perspectives and its emphasis on the notion that the United States has not “always been” one thing or been a certain way. The nation was not and is not trapped in amber. Instead, it is shaped by local, national, and global forces that impact historical continuities and changes.
6) What do you hope students and scholars will gain from The Schlager Anthology of Hispanic America and a study of Hispanic America as a whole?
I hope after consulting The Schlager Anthology of Hispanic America, students and scholars gain an appreciation of the radical acts of imagination that existed in the nation’s past. Despite limited economic opportunities, segregation and exclusion, and so many divides that were marked as difference, people in our past used acts of imagination to see beyond themselves, their limited opportunities, and life experiences to envision broader communities, diverse nations, and a better world.