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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 tearingthe hell out of a liquor store two blocks south of my position," the sentry reported.
"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.
What People are Saying About This
"America Libre is a story of what we all struggle with when we decide where we stand on the issue of immigration."--(Professor Edward J. Mullen, University of Missouri-Columbia)
"Ramos's scenario of U.S. Hispanics taking up arms to fight for their dignity gives us Manolo Suarez, an honorable man whose radical conversion provides insights into the hopes and disappointments of the U.S. Latino experience."--(Miguel De La Torre, Ph.D. - Director of the Justice and Peace Institute, Iliff School of Theology)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Frankly, when I first picked up America Libre I didn't know what to expect. I suspected it might be very militant and inflammatory in its perspective; a call for violent revolution. But actually, quite the opposite is true. America Libre is a passionate cry for tolerance, understanding and moderation. Raul Ramos y Sanchez's saga is a plea for justice and sanity.and perhaps most of all, a sobering cautionary tale. It urges us all to remember the genuine principles upon which our great nation was founded. The book is also one helluva read. The characterization is rich and complex, and the story takes the reader on a pulse-quickening and frightening journey into an American heart of darkness that becomes disturbingly more plausible with each passing day. The lead character, Manolo Suarez, is a man who has served his country honorably only to find a world gone mad in which there are virtually no options left for him and his family. The gut-wrenching choices he is forced to make serve as the crux of the novel. America Libre is a landmark, thought-provoking work. The novel raises a red flag. And it reminds us that if we do not remain vigilant, that flag could someday turn out to be red, white and blue. I urge you to read it. And think about it.
In El Paso, a cop shoots and kills a Latina youth. The Hispanic community in the border city is outraged and rioting occurs. The Texas Governor calls in the National Guard to quell the riots and prevent looting. Shots are fired and twenty-three Latinas are killed. Across the country there is horror from many quarters and defense of the use of force from others. However, Latinas explode in outrage. In Los Angeles tensions between Hispanics and Anglos are boiling over with every incident and rumor escalating the tension. Wealthy Ramon Garcia creates the La Defensa del Pueblo to protect Hispanics from the Anglo backlash. Unemployed former Army Ranger Manolo "Mano" Suaraz is one of the veterans who enlist over the objection of his frightened wife as he obtains work as a bodyguard. Soon La Defensa del Pueblo begins to ally with local Hispanic gangs. Civil war seems imminent as the government sets up "Quarantine Zones" and internment camps to isolate Hispanics from the general population. This is an exciting timely tale that makes a strong warning to beware of the fast growing populace turning angry. The case Ramos y Sanchez makes is supported by the potential backlash to the anti-immigration assault and the Judge Sotomeier attacks. Although no exploration into how other races like Asian-Americans and African-Americans, or foreign countries or terrorist groups react to the American racial civil war, fans enjoy Ramos y Sanchez's entertaining but admonitory thriller that avers liberty and libre are the same or else. Harriet Klausner
AMERICA LIBRE Paul Ramos Y Sanchez Grand Central Publishing $13.99 - paperback ISBN: 978-0-446-50775-2 353 pages Reviewer: Annie Slessman Paul Ramos Y Sanchez has written a powerful book in AMERICA LIBRE. A story that outlines what can happen to law abiding citizens when the state of the economy is such that jobs are few if not non-existent and idleness turns to destruction. Manolo Suarez just wants to provide for his family and keep them safe in the barrio of Los Angeles, California. After working years as a mechanic for a local auto dealership he has lost his job as so many other have and spends each day trying to feed his family. He takes on a new job with a recycling company and is surprised when he is paid his salary without putting in the hours and effort Manolo expects to contribute. He finds himself in the front office reading disturbing literature about the awakening of a Hispanic movement who believes the government and people of America is targeting their people for failure. Manolo was born in the U.S. and is a decorated soldier who fought for his country. His beliefs are shaken when children of a neighbor are killed when riots occur in his neighborhood. Indeed the entire Southwestern United States is embroiled in a civil war that tests Manolo and his peaceful beliefs. When Manolo is hired by a Hispanic resistance group as their security officer, he finds he is capable of more violence than he perceived. The story is a heart-wrenching account of Manolo's struggle with the violence that surrounds him and how he adapts to that struggle. The characters are strong, believable and too often, recognizable in today's society. This book is a good read and will be followed with Manolo's continuing struggle in the sequel, EL NUEVO ALAMO.