"Americanos Todos": Redefining U.S. Latino and Latina Identity during the Second World War, Roberto Hasbun, UG '21 (2304636)
During World War II, around 500,000 Latinos and Latinas enlisted in the U.S. armed forces and countless others supported the war efforts on the homefront. Despite their paramount contributions, Latinos remain excluded in historical accounts of the war. American historiography struggles to include Latinos as agents capable of shaping national narratives, a legacy of exclusion that this research aims to challenge. There is a small but growing number of historians that have spearheaded the effort to uncover Latino wartime experiences. My research is based on forty-seven interviews from the U.S. Latino and Latina World War II Oral History Project at The University of Texas at Austin. These interviews demonstrate that Latino wartime experiences were pluralistic, gendered, and encompassed a range of multiracial encounters. I ultimately argue that the war influenced the emergence of new forms of identity by confounding what it meant to be “Latino” and “American” and catalyzed movements for inclusion that formed a Latino civil rights consciousness. The racism and discrimination Latinos encountered overseas prompted them to fight for inclusion and denounce second-class citizen treatment. Their wartime service increased feelings of self-worth and belonging, empowering Latinos to be less willing to tolerate discrimination in the post-war era. Nonetheless, while some Latinos embraced newly-found notions of Americanness, others became disenchanted with the United States. In these ways, the war presented itself as a watershed moment for the construction and refinement of U.S. Latino identity.