“Latinos Are the Harvest of the U.S. Empire”: Puente Hosts Award-Winning Journalist Juan Gonzalez at DVC


Renowned investigative journalist and co-host of Democracy Now!, Juan Gonzalez, spoke earlier this semester to Diablo Valley College students, faculty and staff about the impacts of US economic interests on Latin American migration patterns, which he chronicled in his groundbreaking book, Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America.

“Latinos are the harvest of the United States empire,” said Gonzalez. “Latin America has been pillaged by US capital since independence. Now immigrants come home to the US to reclaim a piece of that wealth.

“The immigration system is racial profiling those Brown immigrants,” he added. “Change does not occur unless people demand [it].”

With Latinos being the most represented ethnic group among DVC’s student body today, efforts to highlight Latino voices have become central to community college programs like the Puente Project, which champion intergenerational Latino college students who are educationally underrepresented in four-year institutions across the state. 

Anthony Gonzales, professor of English at DVC and co-coordinator of Puente, along with English Professor Stephanie Razo, organize yearly author visits like the one that brought Gonzalez to DVC on Oct. 24. For this year’s Puentistas—all of whom have read Harvest of Empire—the author visit was a space to discuss their impressions and experience reading the book.

Gonzales said he hopes students “see a model of someone who uses their passions to find a path and to shine a light when there is some kind of injustice that people need to know more about.” 

Gonzales, who has been following Juan Gonzalez’s journalism for years, began assigning excerpts from Harvest of Empire when he started to teach for Puente seven years ago. The book was made into an award-winning documentary in 2012.

Juan Gonzalez was born in Puerto Rico and raised in El Barrio of New York City. In Harvest of Empire, he details his account growing up along with those of other families from the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America who have struggled to navigate their homelands’ relationship with US imperialism and immigration policy.

“I was tired of the story being told by people who did not experience it,” Gonzalez told the DVC community. 

Alejandra Cortez, a Puentista majoring in architecture at DVC, was one of the students selected to speak at the event. She said the book informed her about her own family’s history and strengthened her connection to her identity.Harvest of Empire has shown me how good US leaders are at hiding their previous track records in our classrooms, but also shown me the beauty within the enormous presence of Latinos in the United States,” said Cortez.

She added that Gonzalez “taught me so much about myself through this book within the weeks of reading it.”

“I grew to love learning once more as I had never been able to before.”