A GRIPPING STORY
How far would
you go to protect
those you love?
Time: The not-too-distant future

Afghan War veteran Mano Suarez is out of work and struggling to support his family in a Los Angeles barrio wracked by riots and revenge attacks by supremacist vigilantes. Mano’s troubles seem over when he finally lands a job. But Mano’s new employer is about to change his life. She’s a rich Latina with a radical agenda: to redraw the map of the United States. Under her spell, Mano soon finds himself questioning his loyalty to his country — and his wife. (Read the first chapter.)

 
 
 
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Read the book before its a movie.

 

A 3-minute excerpt of the award presentation by Edward James Olmos
Edward James Olmos reading from the judges’ notes during the presentation:
“The author’s devotion to his readers and his work exceeds any I’ve seen.”
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AMERICA LIBRE REVIEWS & AWARDS
 
"thrilling and vibrant"
New York Times best selling author James Rollins
 
"a sweeping, intense novel of extremism, fear and consequences”
Publishers Weekly
 
"provocative”
USA TodayX
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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"Raul Ramos y Sanchez is poised to cement his star status in the new Latino literary renaissance."
Wendy Coakley-Thompson, DC Publishing Industry Examiner
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AMERICA LIBRE Product Details
 384 pages - Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (July 29, 2009)
Language: English - ISBN-10: 044650775X - ISBN-13: 978-0446507752
Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 1.2 inches - Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
 
America Libre: A First Place Winner in the 2010 Books Into Movies Awards
“America Libre” took top honors in the Action and Adventure category. Other winners were: “Hungry Woman In Paris,” by Josefina Lopez; “The Heartbreak Pill,” by Anjanette Delgado; “The Case Runner,” by Carlos Cisneros; “There’s A Coqui In My Shoe ,” by Marissa de Jesus Paolicelli; “Across A Hundred Mountains,” by Reyna Grande; “Meant To Be,” by Rutino Lara, and “Day Of The Dead,” by Mary J. Andrade.

 

CHAPTER ONE
 
The origins of any political revolution parallel the beginnings of life on our planet. The amino acids and proteins lie inert in a volatile primordial brew until a random lightning strike suddenly brings them to life.

José Antonio Marcha, 1978
Translated by J. M. Herrera

 
The trouble had started two weeks earlier. Enraged at the fatal police shooting of a young Latina bystander during a drug bust, a late-night mob descended on a Texas Department of Public Safety complex and torched the empty buildings. By morning, a local newscast of the barrio’s law-and-order meltdown mushroomed into a major story, drawing the national media to San Antonio. Since then, the presence of network cameras had incited the south side’s bored and jobless teenagers into nightly rioting.

Seizing the national spotlight, the governor of Texas vowed looters would be shot on sight. Octavio Perez, a radical community leader, angrily announced that force would be met with force. He called on Mexican-Americans to arm themselves and resist if necessary.

Disdaining Perez’s warning, Edward Cole, a twenty-six-year-old National Guard Lieutenant, chose a provocative location for his downtown command post: the Alamo.

“This won’t be the first time this place has been surrounded by a shitload of angry Mexicans,” Cole told his platoon of weekend warriors outside the shutdown tourist site. A high school gym teacher for most of the year, Lieutenant Cole had been called up to lead a Texas National Guard detachment. Their orders were to keep San Antonio’s south side rioting from spreading downtown.

Now Cole was fielding yet another call over the radio.

“Lieutenant, we got some beaners tearing the hell out of a liquor store two blocks south of my position,” the sentry reported.

“How many?”

“I’d say fifty to a hundred.”

“Sit tight, Corporal. The cavalry is coming to the rescue,” Cole said, trying his best to sound cool and confident. From a two-day training session on crowd control, he’d learned that a rapid show of strength was essential in dispersing a mob. But the colonel who had briefed Cole for the mission had been very clear about the governor’s statement.

“Your men are authorized to fire their weapons only in self-defense,” the colonel had ordered. “And even then, it had damn well better be as a last resort, Lieutenant. The governor wants to deter violence, not provoke it.”

Lieutenant Cole had never seen combat. But he was sure he could deal with a small crowd of unruly Mexicans. After all, he had eight men armed with M-16A automatic rifles under his command. Cole put on his helmet, smoothed out his crisply ironed ascot, and ordered his men into the three reconditioned Humvees at his disposal.

“Let’s move out,” he said over the lead Humvee’s radio. With the convoy underway, Cole turned to his driver. “Step on it, Baker. We don’t want to let this thing get out of hand.” As the driver accelerated, the young lieutenant envisioned his dramatic entrance . . .

Bullhorn in hand, he’d emerge from the vehicle surrounded by a squad of armed troopers, the awed crowd quickly scattering as he ordered them to disperse . . .

Drifting back from his daydream, Cole noticed they were closing fast on the crowd outside the liquor store. Too fast.

“Stop, Baker! Stop!” Cole yelled.

The startled driver slammed on the brakes, triggering a chain collision with the vehicles trailing close behind. Shaken but unhurt, Cole looked through the window at the laughing faces outside. Instead of arriving like the 7th Cavalry, they’d wound up looking like the Keystone Kops.

Then a liquor bottle struck Cole’s Humvee. Like the opening drop of a summer downpour, it was soon followed by the deafening sound of glass bottles shattering against metal.

“Let’s open up on these bastards, Lieutenant! They’re gonna kill us!” the driver shouted.

Cole shook his head, realizing his plan had been a mistake. “Negative, Baker! We’re pulling out.”

But before the lieutenant could grab the radio transmitter to relay his order, the driver’s window shattered.

“I’m hit! I’m hit! Oh, my God. I’m hit!” the driver shrieked, clutching his head. A cascade of blood flowed down Baker’s nose and cheeks. He’d only suffered a gash on the forehead from the broken glass, but all the same, it was as shocking as a mortal wound. Never one to stomach the sight of blood, Baker passed out, slumping into his seat.

Cole couldn’t allow himself to panic; with no window and no driver he was far too vulnerable. Mind racing, he stared outside and soon noticed a group of shadowy figures crouching along the roof of the liquor store. Were they carrying weapons?

“Listen up, people. I think we might have snipers on the roof! I repeat, snipers on the roof!” Cole yelled into the radio. “Let’s lock and load! Have your weapons ready to return fire!”

On the verge of panic, the part-time soldiers fumbled nervously with their rifles as the drunken mob closed on the convoy, pounding against the vehicles.

The window on Cole’s side caved in with a terrifying crash. The rattled young lieutenant was certain he now faced a life or death decision—and he was determined to save his men. With the radio still in hand, Lieutenant Edward Cole gave an order he would forever regret.

“We’re under attack. Open fire!”

When it was over, twenty-three people lay dead on the black pavement beneath the neon sign of the Rio Grande Carryout.

* * *

“The Rio Grande Incident,” as it came to be known, led every newscast and spanned every front page from Boston to Beijing. Bloggers went into hyper-drive. Talk radio knew no other subject. Protests erupted in many American cities, usually flash mobs that drew a wide spectrum of extremists.

Outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, tens of thousands chanting “Rio Grande” burned American flags alongside an effigy of Texas Governor Jeff Bradley. Massive demonstrations multiplied across Latin America, Asia, and Europe in the days that followed. The prime minister of France called the confrontation “an appalling abuse of power.” Germany’s chancellor labeled it “barbaric.” Officials in China declared it “an unfortunate consequence of capitalist excess.”

Fed by the media frenzy, the destruction and looting on San Antonio’s south side escalated. In less than a week, riots broke out in other Hispanic enclaves across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

Many Americans were shocked by the sudden turmoil in the Southwest, yet, in hindsight, the origins of the discontent were easy to see.

As the United States entered the second decade of the twenty-first century, a severe recession was underway. With unemployment benefits running out, millions of Americans sought any kind of job, saturating low-rung job markets. From farms to fast food chains, Hispanics were pitted against mainstream workers in a game of economic musical chairs.

Only a few years earlier, the election of the nation’s first African-American president, Adam Elewa, had brought hope to Hispanics and all minorities. But Elewa was voted out after one term following a renewal of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Elewa’s successor, Carleton Brenner, resumed what many were calling the War on Terror II. With widespread public support, Brenner quickly launched a wave of overseas military deployments and stiffened border security.

The tighter borders stemmed the flow of illegal immigrants. But the presence of millions of undocumented Hispanics already within the country was a political quagmire that remained unresolved. More significantly, Latinos born in the U.S. had long overtaken immigration as the prime source of Hispanic growth thanks to birth rates that soared far above the mainstream average. The nation’s Hispanic population had exploded — and the lingering economic slump had created a powder keg of idle, restless youth.

Fear of this perplexing ethnic bloc among mainstream Americans had given rise to an escalating backlash. Armed vigilante groups patrolling the Mexican border had shot and killed border crossers on several occasions. Inside the border, anyone with a swarthy complexion was not much safer. Assaults by Anglo gangs against Hispanics caught in the wrong neighborhood were now commonplace. “Amigo shopping,” the epidemic of muggings on illegal immigrants who always carried cash, was rarely investigated by police. Graffiti deriding Hispanics was a staple in schools and workplaces. Another burning cross in the yard of a Latino home was no longer news.

Meanwhile, politicians had discovered a wellspring of nativist passion. In a scramble for votes, a deluge of anti-immigration and “English-only” ordinances had been passed over the last decade by state and local governments as Washington’s inability to resolve the thorny immigration issue continued. Most of these laws were struck down by federal judges. Yet local politicians persisted in passing new ones. The strident nativist vote was too powerful to resist. This conflicting patchwork of laws created an unforeseen side effect. Fleeing the legislative backlash, most Hispanics—both legal and illegal—were now concentrated in “safe haven” communities, usually in crowded urban areas.  

Outraged by the growing attacks against Hispanics and seeing the anti-immigrant laws as thinly veiled bullying, Latino community leaders in the Southwest had grown increasingly militant. Protest marches and rallies were on the rise. Hispanic separatists, once only fringe groups at the marches, were visibly growing in number. A favorite banner at many of these events reflected an attitude gaining in popularity: “We didn’t cross the border. The border crossed us.”

Now, in a sweltering July, these long-smoldering elements were reaching the flashpoint in the nation’s teeming barrios.

 
< BACK
 

 

AMERICA LIBRE - FICTION OR PREDICTION?
A statement by the author

When I began America Libre in 2004, some thought the book’s premise was unrealistic. An uprising by Hispanics? The idea seemed far-fetched, they said. After the heated debate over immigration sparked a wave of massive demonstrations across the nation in 2007, the skeptics were no longer so certain. I posed the nightmare scenario of America Libre as a wake up call to the dangers of extremism - on all sides of this explosive issue. Hispanic immigration is a hotly debated topic today. Yet it is only the tip of the iceberg. Over the next decade, three other factors will prove equally significant.

The bebé boom 
Even if our borders were sealed tomorrow and not a single illegal immigrant entered the nation, nearly one in five people in the U.S. will still be classified as Hispanic by 2025. In less than a generation, we can expect a “bebé boom” of young Latinos entering the job market. Will our economy find work for them? Or will we have an unstable mass of restless, idle, and alienated youth?

What is a Hispanic?
This often-misused term first coined in the late seventies lumps all people of Latin American and Spanish origin into a single group. The term has morphed into a quasi-racial label that creates the illusion of a monolithic bloc among Spanish-surnamed people. In reality, people labeled Hispanic vary widely in politics, economic status, and race. But the specter of a racial conflict has already stirred a mainstream backlash. As the number of Latinos grows, mainstream fears will intensify. The presence of fringe separatist groups are fueling those fears.

The Gangs
The violent nature of Latino street gangs is no secret. Although their ruthless reign touches almost everyone in the barrios, they have remained apolitical—so far. Will barrio gangs, usually formed in a reaction to prejudice, remain on the sidelines in a growing ethnic conflict? As Hitler, Mussolini, the Sandinistas, the warlords of Somalia, and countless other demagogues have proven, street thugs can quickly become the shock troops of political upheaval. Already, drug gangs often outgun the officers on the U.S. border. 

A conflict in the making
In the eyes of the extremists, the battle lines are already drawn. The manifesto of La Voz de Aztlan says: “We do not recognize capricious frontiers on the bronze continent.” In the words of one Anglo activist interviewed by the author: “There WILL be civil war in this country and THEN all will finally discover what true patriotic Americans are REALLY like.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ranks of extremist groups have grown by 40% over last five years and Latinos have become the number one victims of hate crimes. Indeed, supremacist groups are using the immigration issue --and animosity toward Hispanics -- as a recruting tool. Ray Larsen, an Imperial Wizard of the KKK said, “Illegal immigrants is [sic] bringing us far more members than we did when we were just totally against any ethnic group.”

Ironically, Lou Dobbs’ reconquista diatribe may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.The distortions and hate-filled rhetoric of the dividers are escalating daily. Sadly, history has often been on their side. 

How do we avoid the nightmare scenario of America Libre?

America Libre paints a nightmare scenario. But it is only one possible future.

We must not fall prey to the messages of the hate mongers - on both sides of this issue. Ironically, the only war of secession ever fought on U.S. soil was the War Between the States, a conflict led by English-speaking whites. In fact, statistics on the current wave of immigration* offers some promising facts:

• The proportion of immigrants in the United States today is lower than it was 100 years ago.

• The proportion of immigrants in the United States today is lower than in many other advanced post-industrial societies, including Australia.

• Immigrants to the United States today compare more favorably on a host of demographic and socioeconomic indicators, including how fast they are learning English, than previous waves of immigrants to our country. Critics of immigration may notice lots of Spanish being spoken, but the reality is that more immigrant children go to school than, let's say, the Italian children who were sent straight to work at the turn of the century. That means they pick up the language faster.

Over the next decade, the presence of Hispanics in the U.S. will continue to grow—especially among those under twenty.** Along with that growth will likely come a nativist backlash. Responding to Hispanics with repressive policies and acts of hate could actually drive them into the radical camp, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is the cautionary tale of America Libre. We cannot allow this nation to be divided by hate and fear. The stakes are simply too high.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

*Harvard International Review – July 2006
**U.S. Census Bureau Interim Projections