Living in Spanglish The Search for Latino Identity in America

Ed Morales

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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To be Latino in the United States in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has meant a fierce identification with roots, with forebears, and with the language, art, and food your people came here with. Indeed, America is a patchwork of Hispanic sensibilities—from Puerto Rican nationalists in New York to recently arrived Mexicans in the Rio Grande valley—that has so far resisted homogenization while managing to absorb much of the mainstream culture.

In this book, journalist and poet Morales explores this vast, diverse community—of Dominicans, Cubans, Mexicans, Colombians, Salvadorans, and Puerto Ricans—a community that has far more common interests and traditions to unite it than to divide it. He identifies this group’s multicultural sensibility as “Spanglish,” asserting that it describes not only a common tongue but “an attitude that is quintessentially American.” Living in Spanglish profiles several groups of Hispanic immigrants struggling to move beyond identity politics into a postmodern melting pot.


Praise for Living in Spanglish

"Spanglish is not only a lexicon but a state of mind that knows no boundaries, a kind of Yiddish rephrased by Cesar Chavez, with echoes deep into the past and ramifications everywhere in our centerless future."—Ilan Stavans, author of The Hispanic Condition and On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language

"Living in Spanglish is a timely book as [this country] confronts a fragmented racial and ethnic future and as the influence of Latinos grows. Morales takes us on a tour that ranges from music to movies to literature, highlighting how Latinos have striven to integrate their native roots with their experience in the United States. This is a fascinating read, and Morales is a bright thinker."—The Boston Globe

"Living in Spanglish neatly captures dialectics of the contemporary Latino experience in ways that blend the eclectic with broad historical sweep. Its interplay of the marginal with the mainstream is a unique and useful approach that makes its narrative accessible to those not entirely familiar with things Latino, yet challenging to those who think they are."—Angelo Falcon, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund

"Morales understands that multiculturalism and diversity have taken on the aura of modern buzz words; they've become shorthand, employed by liberals and conservatives so they can revel in pious ideological modes of discourse. He wants to remove this important theme from both its narrow academic and its charged politicized context, and instead dramatize the impact of race- and culture-mixing on modem America."—The Washington Post

"Living in Spanglish is thoughtful, enlightening, and empowering as a history of the cultural and political contributions of Latinos. Everyone from Cesar Chavez and the Young Lords to Carmen Miranda and Jennifer Lopez gets reclaimed as part of the centuries-old Spanglish legacy of Latinos on and off the U.S. mainland."—The Village Voice

"Topples sterotypes and posits Latinos' comparatively relaxed approach
qlto multiracialism as an alternative to the black/white binary"—Vibe Magazine

"In Living in Spanglish, cultural engagement teams with progressive political savvy to make for some vibrant and thoughtful bilingual takes on the Latino implosion busily reshaping la cultura americana in our times."—Juan Flores, author of From Bomba to Hip-Hip: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity

"Living in Spanglish freeze-frames the wave of Hispanic cultures, giving us its origins, its lines and curves, its diverse components, and finally, its course. And Morales does all this while riding within the belly of the wave itself."—Benicio del Toro

"Spanglish a spoken hybrid of Spanish and English, which has become increasingly prevalent in Latino communities is for Morales a metaphor for the developing multiracial America, where one's identity "is about not having to identify with either black or white, while at the same time having the capacity to be both."—Publishers Weekly

"In a playful, dancing tour of the Latino/Hispanic/Chicano/Nuyorican/Mestizo origins of Spanglish, the author meditates on his own coming to terms with Latino identity as well as positing the larger point that 'We have spent the last several centuries preparing for our role as the first wholly postmodern culture.' [Morales'] ideas are provocative and engaging . . . substantive food for thought."—Keir Graff, Booklist

"Impassioned . . . Poet and journalist Morales explores the difficulty of finding a definition for Latinos in the U.S."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Living in Spanglish
1.THE ROOTS OF SPANGLISHThe Pachuco does not wish to return to his Mexican origin, nor it would seem does he wish to blend into North American life.--OCTAVIO PAZ, The Labyrinth of Solitude 
Puerto Rico, 1974 This is not the place where I was born.--MIGUEL PIÑERO 
Greater East Los Angeles, February 20, 6:30 P.M. Home away from home away from home.--LUIS VALDEZ 
To be Spanglish is to live in multisubjectivity; that is, in a space where race is indeterminate, and where class is slipperier than ever. As an integral part of their history,
Read the full excerpt


  • Ed Morales

  • Ed Morales is a longtime Village Voice contributor whose work has appeared in a variety of national magazines and newspapers. He is also a poet whose work has appeared in Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Iguana Dreams, and Boricuas.