News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Thursday, May 2, 2013

By Far the Best of an Exciting Trilogy

This recent Amazon review of PANCHO LAND by journalist Leonel Martinez captures the essence of the novel so well, I think it merits its own blog post. Thank you, Leonel, for taking the time to pen your insights.

By Far the Best of an Exciting Trilogy

A review by Leonel Martinez

A few years ago, when I read the first book of the Class H Trilogy, "America Libre," I wondered why no novelist had thought about this plot before. Picture this:

After months of steadily increasing violence between Hispanics and non-Hispanics across the southwest U.S., cities throughout the nation erupt in flames. Finally, Congress passes legislation to approve the erection of large walls around inner-city barrios, transforming them into quarantine zones like the Japanese internment camps of World War II.

But the violence increases until the truth is obvious: The United States is in an all-out civil war against Latino insurgents, derisively called "Panchos."

This is the focus of Cuban-born author Raul Ramos y Sanchez's three cautionary war tales about a Latino secession from the U.S., "America Libre," "House Divided," and "Pancho Land." The latest installment, "Pancho Land," is by far the best.

The main character, Manolo "Mano" Suarez, is an unemployed mechanic and military veteran who finds himself the reluctant leader of the Latino insurgency. But in "Pancho Land," he fights a more personal war as well, becoming increasingly embroiled in conflicts with his rebellious son, Ramon. As if that's not enough, Suarez works with the movement's diplomat to fend off the rebels' more radical elements and ensure the Latino secessionists can one day be recognized by the United Nations as a legitimate government.

The book surpasses the others at least in part because Ramos seems to have gained confidence with each. The characters in "Pancho Land" are more complex, the plot more intricate, and the political lessons more striking.

When the insurgents choose Latinos to infiltrate the U.S., for example, they recruit those of lighter skin or with African features because most Americans tend to stereotype Latinos as brown. And Ramos drives the point home by emphasizing a fact that would surprise most in the U.S: There are more black people who speak Spanish in the Western hemisphere than those who speak English.

Read these books, and they will reaffirm what I hope most of us know: The only enemy is extremism.


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