Posted by: gmontealegre | October 13, 2013

Novelist Oscar Hijuelos dies at 62

(Sunday, October 13, 2013 )- Renowned author Oscar Hijuelos died yesterday after he collapsed on a tennis court in New York City, according to the New York Times.

73519863UA006_Hijuelos Hijuelos gained recognition after his novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love became a best seller and won him the Pulitzer prize in 1989.

Hijuelos was born in New York City in 1951 but his subjects were Latinos and their experiences.  He wrote about their experiences as they lived their every day life in America.

Below is the latest essay he wrote for El Diario la Prensa to conmemorate the 100th Anniversary of the paper.

A symbol of shared Latin-ness in NYC

By Oscar Hijuelos

When I was a boy in west Harlem, in the 1950s, my father Jose-Pascual never failed to come home from his cook’s job at the Biltmore hotel without a copy of El Diario in hand. It was, after all, the Spanish language newspaper that had greeted his arrival in New York from Cuba with my mother in 1943.

Looking back I can’t help but think how its offerings about Latino life, from politics to sports, must have provided them comfort from their anxieties, as he and my mother, tried to adjust to their new ambiente.

Like a ray of sunlight, this newspaper surely made my father’s hard working days more enjoyable and, I think, less culturally lonely. For in those times, long before the advent of television stations like Univision and Telemundo– when Spanish language publications were not so easily available as they are now, the newspaper he read faithfully in the evenings after work, surely helped ease the pangs of homesickness that he—and my mother—and so many others of their generation—felt for su patria.

Of course, there was more to its value than just that: aside from acquainting them with our city, El Diario was also a symbol of shared Latin-ness and pride – as important to the lives of my parents and their friends – whether Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or Dominican—as the foods they shared on the weekends, and the music—of mambos, danzones, and rumbas—they danced to at weddings and other celebrations; a beacon of Latin familiarity in a world that could be sometimes resistant to the newly arrived.

I know it’s hard for younger readers to imagine a time when Latinos were especially singled out on the streets of New York for their skin color and language, but for folks of my parents’ generation, contending with prejudice was, indeed, a fact of life.

No doubt, my father, who eventually spoke and read English well, felt less of that estrangement, but for my mother, who never quite got the hang of the English language, El Diario represented a source of news and information that always spoke sympathetically to her needs and point of view, and because of that, it was a publication she cherished to the end of her long lived days.

For those reasons alone, perhaps, I have always taken pride in mentioning El Diario in the novels I have written–and because I have never forgotten just how important it has been to generations of Latinos—from its inception in 1913 to now.

Riding the subways, when I see someone who seems new to this country reading a copy of El Diario, I am both taken back to my parents’ experiences and transported into a future wherein even newer generations, facing the same challenges as they did, can take solace in the knowledge that there exists a newspaper, now one hundred years old, that cares deeply about Latino culture and will always be there for them.

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