Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

El Norte

The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America

by Carrie Gibson

A sweeping saga of the Spanish history and influence in North America over five centuries, from the acclaimed author of Empire’s Crossroads

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 576
  • Publication Date February 18, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4836-0
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $23.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 576
  • Publication Date February 05, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2702-0
  • Dimensions 6.125" x 9.25"
  • US List Price $30.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date February 05, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4635-9
  • US List Price $30.00

About the Book

Because of our shared English language, as well as the celebrated origin tales of the Mayflower and the rebellion of the British colonies, the United States has prized its Anglo heritage above all others. However, as Carrie Gibson explains with great depth and clarity in El Norte, the nation has much older Spanish roots—ones that have long been unacknowledged or marginalized. The Hispanic past of the United States predates the arrival of the Pilgrims by a century, and has been every bit as important in shaping the nation as it exists today.

El Norte chronicles the sweeping and dramatic history of Hispanic North America from the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century to the present—from Ponce de Leon’s initial landing in Florida in 1513 to Spanish control of the vast Louisiana territory in 1762 to the Mexican-American War in 1846 and up to the more recent tragedy of post-hurricane Puerto Rico and the ongoing border acrimony with Mexico. Interwoven in this stirring narrative of events and people are cultural issues that have been there from the start but which are unresolved to this day: language, belonging, community, race, and nationality. Seeing them play out over centuries provides vital perspective at a time when it is urgently needed.

In 1883, Walt Whitman meditated on his country’s Spanish past: “We Americans have yet to really learn our own antecedents, and sort them, to unify them,” predicting that “to that composite American identity of the future, Spanish character will supply some of the most needed parts.” That future is here, and El Norte, a stirring and eventful history in its own right, will make a powerful impact on our national understanding.

Praise for El Norte

Shortlisted for the Mark Lynton History Prize

El Norte is the book that Americans, Anglo and Hispanic, should read as an education on their own American place or role . . . This is a serious book of history but also an engaging project of reading the future in the past . . . What is particularly fascinating about this book is that its encyclopedic project is not a rewriting of history but a recitation of readings. Almost each historical event is retold through memory, recording, evaluation, and discussion. This is history as dialogue. It leaves the mourning authority of archives and takes its place as a long conversation, presupposing that truth can be reached through an extended pilgrimage, a journey through violence, discrimination, racism, exploitation, and the inferno created by occupation.”—Julio Ortega, New York Times Book Review

“An important correction to centuries of American history . . . Of course no recent public figure has done more to stoke such prejudices than our current president. Gibson’s sprawling work makes a major contribution by reminding us of the falseness of Donald Trump’s xenophobic narrative. Her rich account leaves no doubt that America is a vastly more interesting place because of the millions of Hispanic immigrants who have been arriving on our shores for more than 600 years.”—Guardian

“This history debunks the myth of American exceptionalism by revisiting a past that is not British and Protestant but Hispanic and Catholic. Gibson begins with the arrival of Spaniards in La Florida, in 1513, discusses Mexico’s ceding of territory to the U.S., in 1848, and concludes with Trump’s nativist fixations. Along the way, she explains how California came to be named after a fictional island in a book by a Castilian Renaissance writer and asks why we ignore a chapter of our history that began long before the Pilgrims arrived. At a time when the building of walls occupies so much attention, Gibson makes a case for the blurring of boundaries.”—New Yorker

“[Gibson] writes engagingly of moments of violence and injustice, deprivation and discrimination, music and muses: Her paragraphs on the early-20th-century Texas society women who bickered over how to restore the Alamo, for instance, would do justice to the pen of an Edith Wharton.”—Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Wall Street Journal

“Compelling . . . A detailed and anecdote-rich summary of how far back the Hispanic presence goes in what is now the US, how extensive and wide-ranging it remains, and how complex it will continue to be.”—Matthew Restall, Times Literary Supplement

“A century before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Spanish came to the Americas. This wide-ranging history traces the story of Spanish-speaking people in the New World, from Columbus through the Mexican-American War to the border wall.”—Newsday

“In El Norte, Carrie Gibson torpedoes a popular understanding of North American history by searching beyond the Anglo-centric lens through which it’s often taught. By widening the lens of history and refocusing it on the Spanish roots of North America instead of the traditional focus on the continent after Anglo colonization, El Norte traces an underrepresented history of North America in accessible terms, all while doing some serious narrative-busting.”—Jezebel

“Ambitious . . . [Chronicles] 600 years through the lens of Hispanic-infused geography, culture, and governance. In the telling, [Gibson] provides a revealing historical perspective on our current political climate. From today’s vantage point, very little of this complex and often bloody saga is admirable or inspiring, Still, Gibson tells it with authoritative gusto . . . Overflows with rich detail, revealing often startling truths that this reviewer, for one, never encountered in the textbooks of his adolescence.”—Washington Independent Review of Books

“Substantial, well-written, thoroughly researched, and timely.”—Choice Connect

“A diligent, informative, and highly readable chronicle.”—Washington Times

“Rejecting the implications of the label ‘minority,’ Gibson instead tells the history of Latinos as equal protagonists in the American story . . . Comes at a pivotal moment in Latino history.”—Jesuit Review

“An ambitious history of the U.S. that focuses on the country’s often overlooked Hispanic origins . . . Gibson covers five centuries of events, people, and immense cultural shifts . . . Throughout Gibson gives full personhood to indigenous groups and tribes, placing their experiences in context, and she takes care to elucidate the evolving concept of race and the toxic trope of the U.S. as a white nation, an idea that stubbornly refuses to fade, resurfacing in our own divisive times . . . Gibson’s exhaustively researched and well-written chronicle is an essential acquisition for all American history collections.”—Booklist (starred review)

“A sweeping and accessible survey of the Hispanic history of the U.S . . . Gibson uses this inventive and appealing lens to guide readers chronologically from the initial European incursions into the Western hemisphere to the present day . . . Unusual and insightful . . . Provides a welcome and thought-provoking angle on the country’s history, and should be widely appreciated.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“What does it mean to be Hispanic? Is one Hispanic if one does not speak Spanish or Portuguese, or does ethnicity extend beyond the borders of language? . . . Gibson soundly concludes that the history of the Spanish ‘is central to how the United States has developed and will continue to develop,’ lending further utility to her work. Though much of this history is well-documented in the scholarly literature, it’s undeniably useful to have it in a single survey volume for general readers.”—Kirkus Reviews

“In this enlightening and exhaustively researched work, Carrie Gibson has accomplished the monumental task of recovering an extraordinary and consequential Hispanic past traditionally written out of American history. Her narrative is far reaching, vividly detailed, and a gift to assessing the American experience and evolving identity.”—Jack E. Davis, author of The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea, winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for History

“Carrie Gibson has written an epic history which will significantly change the way we look at American history, from the Georgia in which she grew up to the California coast. She chronicles the way in which Hispanic people—Spanish, Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican—shaped places like the American South and Southwest in a way not captured by our standard narrative, which inaccurately relies overly on British colonization and America’s westward expansion. In so doing, she challenges and dispels the stereotypes of the ‘Black Legend,’ which has cast Hispanics as villains in the American story, either cruel or incompetent or both. Along the way, she takes the readers on Spanish travels to the Chesapeake and Canada as well as settlements that stand to this day, from New Madrid, Missouri to Mesilla, New Mexico and Tampa. Her research is meticulous in detail and her writing propels the reader through 500 years to transport them to today.”—Richard Parker, author of Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America

“A sweeping story of our Hispanic roots that links the dreamers of the Conquest with the Dreamers of the present, ranging across a continent’s history from first contacts in Florida to intersecting empires on Vancouver Island. In connecting places across the United States with their Hispanic pasts, Carrie Gibson connects our America with what one Cuban called Nuestra América, blurring borders at a time when others are building them up.”—Paul Gillingham, author of Cuauhtémoc’s Bones

Praise for Empire’s Crossroads

“Gibson knows how to hold a reader’s interest with gems of fact and sometimes poetic prose.”—New York Times Book Review

“Ambitious . . . With rare narrative verve and a gift for synthesis, Gibson compresses the islands’ histories into a wide-ranging, vivid narrative.”—Observer (UK), “Best History Books of 2014”

“A rich and thorough history of the Caribbean from colonialism to the present day . . . Carrie Gibson’s thoughtful and extensively researched Empire’s Crossroads is a revelation. It is both a readable and in-depth study . . . A valuable work that is required reading for scholars and students . . . Impassioned and anecdotally rich.”—Christian Science Monitor

“There can never be too many books about the Caribbean, a region whose diversity and cultural richness is unparalleled, and Carrie Gibson’s new offering is a welcome addition to the canon.”—BBC History (UK)

“[An] epic history of the Caribbean . . . Vivid and thought-provoking.”—Spectator (UK)

“Gibson’s social history focuses heavily on the destructive legacy of slavery, the bitter divisiveness of racism, and the brutality and inequalities of the opulent sugar plantations that dominated Caribbean economies for 300 years . . . Gibson tells [the story] in fluid, colorful prose peppered with telling anecdotes.”—Foreign Affairs

“A marvelously rich and inclusive panorama of five centuries of Caribbean history . . . A work that brings fresh energy, assurance and insight to an area that is not often the focus of historians. Gibson’s study is sure to gratify academics, history buffs, and anyone intrigued by the Caribbean’s colorful, volatile, and multifaceted societies.”—Library Journal