Texas police shoot an innocent Latina in a drug raid. Rioting sweeps across the Southwest, and cities throughout the nation erupt in flames.

Vigilante groups respond by launching drive-by shootings in the barrios, and gang members retaliate with their own firepower. Finally, one congressman succeeds in passing legislation that erects large walls around inner-city barrios, transforming them into quarantine zones like the Japanese internment camps of World War II.

But the violence escalates until the truth is inescapable: The United States is in an all-out Civil War against Latino insurgents.

That’s the plot of the novel “America Libre” by Cuban-born author Raul Ramos y Sanchez. And Ramos is scheduled to appear in Bakersfield on Wednesday for a panel discussion of the social issues raised in the book.

The event, which will be held at 6 p.m. at China Palace, 4142 California Ave., is sponsored in part by the Heritage of America Educational and Cultural Foundation, a nonprofit organization that coordinates educational and cultural programs. The discussion, which is part of a Southern California book tour, occurs on Mexican Independence Day, September 16, and at the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15.

“I’ve had Latinos say that my book is subversive,” said Ramos in a telephone interview with La Voz de Kern. “But from the Latino community, it’s been almost universally accepted.”

Calling his book a “cautionary tale,” he explained that it focuses on the dangers of extremism whether from the right or the left. But that doesn’t mean armed insurrection couldn’t happen if extremism isn’t held in check.

“When everybody’s afraid, they do some pretty awful things,” Lopez said. “Little girls shouldn’t go walking in the woods at night because there are big, bad wolves out there.”

Jess Nieto, founder and director of Heritage of America, agreed, saying that the increasing amount of violence against Hispanics makes the issues raised in Lopez’s book timely. Groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, renowned for its legal battles against the Ku Klux Klan, say hate crimes against Latinos have surged in many areas of the country.

“I think the initial premise (Lopez) started out with is not that far from reality,” said Nieto.

And Ramos, the author, knows about extremism.

The graphic designer and advertising writer was born in Cuba under dictator Gen. Fulgencio Batista. His parents divorced, and his mother brought her son to the U.S. in 1957, while his father stayed behind to battle the Batista regime.

Ramos began his project a few years ago as the script for a television movie called “Two Americas” that received the input of scholars from Latin America, Spain, and the United States. But when the funding dried up, he began to write a book instead.

“The book turned out to be completely different than the movie,” he said.

After five months as a self-published edition, America Libre, was acquired by Grand Central Publishing, which was formerly Warner Books and features thriller writers such as David Baldacci and James Patterson.

The publishers also acquired the sequel, El Nuevo Alamo, scheduled for release in 2010. The final installment of what is planned as a trilogy has yet to be named. "America Libre" won the International Latino Book Award for best novel.

Although some may be unnerved by book's plot, it is not biblical prophecy, but an extended parable about what could happen if the nation is seized by xenophobia because of the growing Hispanic population.

Set about 10 years in the future, the 373-page paperback sounds many believable themes. English is declared the nation’s official language, and government no longer conducts business in any other language. All immigrants – whether in the U.S. legally or illegally – are deported. Hispanics and their spouses are classified as “Class H” and tossed into internment camps.

Through it all, the main character, Manolo “Mano” Suarez, an unemployed mechanic and military veteran, finds himself questioning his assumptions about what it means to be a patriot and to defend your culture. Finally, he is drawn into the insurgency.

The panel discussion scheduled to discuss the issues raised in “America Libre” is free of charge and open to the public. Those who plan to attend are asked to RSVP at 325-5098.


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Last updated on Friday, October 19, 2012