Writer, public policy consultant. New America Foundation, nonpartisan public policy institute, Washington, DC, Irvine Senior Fellow; California Fellows Program, director. Los Angeles Times, op-ed columnist.
Best Books of 2007 list, Washington Post, for Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America.
Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. Author's essay, "Mongrel America," was included in The Best American Political Writing of 2003, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Gregory Rodriguez is an op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times as well as a senior fellow at the nonpartisan think tank, the New America Foundation. He is a frequent contributor to numerous national publications, with a particular emphasis on race relations and assimilation. His debut nonfiction work, the 2007 Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America, came at an auspicious time; the nation was caught up in a debate over immigration, with more than twelve million illegal immigrants living in the United States, the vast majority of whom came from Mexico and Latin America. The choice of Rodriguez's provocative title was not accidental. As he stated in an interview for Tavis Smiley broadcasted on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television network, "It's a sober, thoughtful history, and my publisher thought, you know what? Throw something at the audience to shake them up." Rodriguez further explained: "These are words and terms that have been used to describe mixed people for the last 500 years. People who didn't belong in strict, rigid racial systems. People who weren't either Black or White, people who weren't Indian or Spanish, in the case of Mexico. People who were mixed and didn't belong, they were called mongrels." In an interview for Altreads, Rodriguez further explicated the central theme of his book: "My essential thesis is that Mexican immigration, over time, will destroy the Anglo-American racial system. It will destroy the way we look at race now." Such a destruction of racial lines would occur through mestizaje, or the concept of mixed races and intermarriage, Rodriguez explained, just as it has occurred in Mexico from the beginning of the European conquest.
In a review for Hispanic Trending, Roger Selbert described Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds as "a history of Mexican-American immigration from the 16th century to the present day—one of the oldest, most continuous and largest migrations of people to the United States." Selbert further noted: "As [Rodriguez] shows quite clearly, because of this history, the future of Mexican-Americans and the future of America are inextricably intertwined, interdependent and mutually reinforcing." Rodriguez traces the history of mixed races in Mexico from the time of the conquest of Hernán Cortés in 1519, and the Spanish attempt at keeping two separate racial groups intact: one European and the other Indian. However, as Rodriguez demonstrates, this policy failed from the outset because of intermarriage between the two groups. Such intermarriage has created a tendency among Mexicans not to be labeled by race, Rodriguez contends, and this in turn may help to break down racial classification in the United States. Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush noted that Mexico's history of "conquest and intermixing with the indigenous people" created a higher "tolerance for mixing" than slavery and "stricter definitions of race" apparent in U.S. history. Thus, in Rodriguez's opinion, the arguments and fears over assimilation or non-assimilation of Mexican immigrants are overblown. With such a tradition of intermarriage and assimilation, this large, new block of immigrants in the United States is likely to accept middle-class values. At the same time, however, the United States is becoming increasingly a "mongrel" nation, a positive term, Rodriguez believes. "In essence, we are all ‘mestizos’ now," Selbert wrote.
Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds earned praise from many reviewers. In a reviewer for Foreign Affairs, Walter Russell Mead stated that the book should be "required reading for anybody interested in the future of the United States." Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that the book will be "of great interest to the demographically inclined, and those who wonder what America will look like at the tricentennial." Likewise, a Publishers Weekly contributor termed the book "a thorough and accessible history of Mexico that emphasizes the legacy of mestizaje, mixed races, among Mexico's inhabitants." A review for the Economist stated that Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds was an "excellent book," and San Francisco Chronicle writer Josh Green called it "meticulously researched and ambitious in scope."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America, p. 20.
Chicago Tribune, January 2, 2008, Bill Murray, review of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds.
Economist, November 8, 2007, review of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds.
Foreign Affairs, January 1, 2008, Walter Russell Mead, review of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds.
Los Angeles, October 1, 2007, Robert Ito, review of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds, p. 96.
Publishers Weekly, December 31, 2007, review of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds, p. 43.
San Francisco Chronicle, March 2, 2008, Josh Green, review of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds, p. 1.
Altreads,http://www.altreads.com/ (January 8, 2008), "Chat with Gregory Rodriguez."
Banderas News,http://banderasnews.com/ (June 30, 2008), Bill Murray, review of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds.
Hispanic Trending,http://juantornoe.blogs.com/hispanictrending/ (June 30, 2008), Roger Selbert, review of Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds.
Los Angeles Times Online,http://www.latimes.com/ (June 30, 2008), author information.
New American Foundation Web site,http://www.newamerica.net/ (June 30, 2008), author information.
Texas Book Festival Web site,http://www.texasbookfestival.org/ (June 30, 2008), "Gregory Rodriguez," author information.