Q&A with Carlos E. Cortés, author of “Rose Hill”

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Interviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2015-02-05 02:02Z by Steven

Q&A with Carlos E. Cortés, author of “Rose Hill”


A poignant memoirist, Carlos E. Cortés brings his past to life in Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before its Time, portraying multiracial relationships and the impact they had on the development of his identity. Sometimes hilarious and at times tragic, this powerful narrative takes the reader on a journey of self-realization that speaks to us on both personal and universal levels.

Let’s start at the beginning. Why did you write your memoir?

Actually, it started as a gift to my family. I simply wanted to chronicle family stories and personal recollections in a roughly chronological format, with the hope that others in the family would later add their own stories. I wasn’t thinking about publishing it…

…Let me change the subject. Multiracial and culturally mixed families are much more common now than while you were growing up. Do you think it’s still just as difficult for a child to negotiate a mixed cultural background?

I hope not. I think not. My mixed-identity experience of growing up was set in a particular time and place: racially-segregated, religiously-divided, class conscious early post-World War II Kansas City, Missouri.

I’ve interacted with lots of young people, including high school students, who have seen “A Conversation with Alana.” Those interactions have made it clear to me that having a mixed background can still involve special challenges. However, America today is much more open to “mixed” people…

Read the entire interview here.

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Of Loving and Zimmerman

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-07-05 23:33Z by Steven

Of Loving and Zimmerman

Univision Communications, Inc.

Carlos Cortés, Professor Emeritus of History
University of California, Riverside

In my last blog I addressed the question of Latino identity by examining the controversy in “Is the New Pope Latino?” I responded with an emphatic “yes” (in about 500 words). Since then, three separate items relating to Latino identity have caught my eye.

First was the Census Bureau’s report that, between 2010 and 2012, the number of multiracial Americans grew faster (6.6%) than any other racial category. That figure does not include marriages between Latinos and non-Latinos, as the federal government correctly classifies us as an ethnic group, not as a race.

Second was the start of the Florida murder trial of George Zimmerman for the February 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. Current articles often explicitly identify Zimmerman as Hispanic. Indeed, he is of mixed ancestry—his mother is Peruvian.

Third, June marked the 46th anniversary of the game-changing Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, which voided state-level anti-miscegenation laws. That decision has given rise to the boom in interracial marriages (now around 15% annually). It also contributed to the recent outpouring of public support for General Mills when it was criticized by some for featuring a biracial family in one of its Cheerios commercials.

As an ethnic group with a long tradition of intermarriage stretching back to our Latin American roots, Hispanics have been way ahead of the U.S. curve.  According to some estimates, by the third generation more than half of U.S. Latinos outmarry—that is, marry someone who is not Latino.

This raises two critical questions: How do children of such intermarriages identify ethnically? How are they identified by others?…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before Its Time

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Judaism, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion, United States on 2012-11-27 04:24Z by Steven

Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before Its Time

Heyday Books
March 2012
192 pages
5.5 x 8.5
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-59714-188-8

Carlos Cortés, Professor Emeritus of History
University of California, Riverside

A riveting memoir of cultural crossfire

“Dad was a Mexican Catholic. Mom was a Kansas City–born Jew with Eastern European immigrant parents. They fell in love in Berkeley, California, and got married in Kansas City, Missouri.

That alone would not have been a big deal. But it happened in 1933, when such marriages were rare. And my parents spent most of their lives in Kansas City, a place both racially segregated and religiously divided.

Mom and Dad chose to be way ahead of their time; I didn’t. But because of them, I had to be. My mixed background meant that, however unwillingly, I had to learn to live as an outsider.”

The son of a Mexican Catholic father with aristocratic roots and a mother of Eastern European Jewish descent, Carlos Cortés grew up wedged between cultures, living a childhood in “constant crossfire-straddling borders, balancing loves and loyalties, and trying to fit into a world that wasn’t quite ready.” In some ways, even his family wasn’t quite ready (for him). His request for a bar mitzvah sent his proud father into a cursing rage. He was terrified to bring home the Catholic girl he was dating, for fear of wounding his mother and grandparents. When he tried to join a high school fraternity, Christians wouldn’t take him because he was Jewish, and Jews looked sideways at him because his father was Mexican.

In his new memoir, Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before Its Time, Cortés lovingly chronicles his family’s tumultuous, decades-long spars over religion, class, and culture, from his early years in legally segregated Kansas City during the 1940s to his return to Berkeley (where his parents met) in the 1950s, and to his parents’ separation, reconciliation, deaths, and eventual burials at the Rose Hill Cemetery. Cortés elevates the theme of intermarriage to a new level of complexity in this closely observed and emotionally fraught memoir adapted from his nationally successful one-man play, A Conversation with Alana: One Boy’s Multicultural Rite of Passage.

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Mediating Racial Mixture

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-05-22 02:53Z by Steven

Mediating Racial Mixture

The Journal of Media Literacy
Volume 55, Numbers 1 & 2 (Cultural Diversity) (2008)

Carlos E. Cortés, Professor Emeritus of History
University of California, Riverside

Which one of the following names does not fit in the set? Barack Obama. Mariah Carey. Halle Berry. Tiger Woods. Ann Curry. Soledad O’Brien. Benjamin Jealous. Carlos Cortés.

Oh, that’s too easy. All of the others—a presidential candidate, a pop diva, an Oscar-winning actress, a professional golfer, two national television newspeople, and the newly-elected president of the NAACP—are visible figures of contemporary American popular culture.
But let’s try another question. What characteristic do they have in common? The answer: they are all the offspring of mixed heritages, part of a major U.S. population shift—the relentless growth of ethnically-mixed Americans.
This phenomenon has myriad implications. Not the least, it has challenged traditional U.S. categorical thinking about race and ethnicity. This includes news media conventions for racially and ethnically identifying individuals and groups (Cortés, 2000).

Two historical trends have converged to hypertrophy this challenge. First, the rise of interracial marriage, particularly since the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision that invalidated the sixteen remaining state-level intermarriage bans. (Mildred Jeter Loving, the African-American woman whose marriage to a white man helped precipitate that landmark decision, died in May of this year.)
Second, the continuous inflow of Latin Americans. Millions are of mixed heritage and come from nations with racial systems quite different than the one that has taken root in the United States. Furthermore, by the third generation, more than half of U.S. Latinos marry non-Latinos, so their children further undermine categorical purity.

The year 2000 census illustrated the impact of these two trends. Through a set of decisions that reflected changing realities, pragmatism, compromise, and external pressure, the Census Bureau addressed mixed heritage in two ways.
First, it repeated the 1990 practice of separating Hispanic heritage (question five on the short form) from race (question six). The result—48 percent of self-identified Hispanics checked white as their racial identity, while 42 percent checked “some other race” (meaning I don’t fit into any of your racial categories).

Second, and for the first time, the 2000 census permitted respondents to indicate more than one “race.” This ended, at least temporarily, the historical “check one” practice that had forced mixed-race respondents to reject either their father or their mother.
These demographic and census category changes have contributed to scholarly dissensus, including deep disagreements over the meaning and use of such terms as “race” and “ethnicity” (Gracia, 2007). They have also raised a challenge for the American news media (Squires, 2007). How should they categorize and label mixed-heritage people?…

Read the entire article here.

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