South Florida often celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. We recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanics and Latin Americans to the United States and celebrate their heritage and culture.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 50.5 million people or 16 percent of the population are of Hispanic or Latin American origin. Hispanics have had a profound and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of their community.
Yet recently some politicians have singled out Hispanics as the cause of many of the nation’s problems. The politicians’ ability to go after a marginalized group with support from a considerable percentage of the electorate shows that more education and awareness is needed about Hispanics and their contributions to our society.
In Tales From Alturas: The Puerto Rican Mystique, Emma Chaves, local author and one of the founders of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women- Miami, shares her keen and ardent knowledge of the Island and the Hispanic diaspora. This is a colorful chronicle of the struggles Hispanic families endure in a difficult world caught between the past and an uncertain emerging future.
The author, a Kendall resident, has created a unique world in which universal themes, such as romance, love and loss, love for one’s family and for one’s homeland are pursued, as well as themes more specific to some groups than to others, such as machismo and discrimination.
Emma Chaves’ Tales from Alturas masterfully tackles issues that often plague certain families, such as adultery and the sexual conundrums of marital life.
Chaves’ stories address:
• The demonization of Hispanics by politicians as symptom of misunderstanding Hispanic contributions to United States;
•Machismo in Hispanic culture and efforts to eradicate it;
• Hispanics in the Anglo imagination — Latin lover, dangerous immigrant, subservient worker;
• The integral role of the family in Hispanic identity and survival in the U.S., and
• Puerto Rican identity — American, Latino — or both?
“Without dreams, it’s impossible to live,” says one of the characters from Tales from Alturas. Chaves’ work explores the dreams specific to Hispanic culture as well as the dreams shared by all of humanity.
“I can’t speak for all Hispanics. I can more accurately relate to the Puerto Rican culture which is slightly different from the Hispanic norm because of its Anglicization as a possession of the United States and because the Island is considered ‘other’ by many Hispanics, as well as ‘other’ by its American counterparts,” Chaves said.
“For Puerto Ricans, dreams, fantasies, dramatized poetic readings, symbolize the hope or expectation of something grander when, in reality, opportunities for improvement, as Lola says, are ‘few and non-recurring.’ Dreams and fantasies release the imagination to soar infinitely to places unknown and, at the same time, are a salve for pain or afflictions, as they are for the characters in Tales from Alturas.
Emma Chaves was born in Brooklyn, NY, of Puerto Rican parents. At age 12 she moved with her mother and sister to the mountain town of Lares in Puerto Rico for health reasons.
She later moved to Miami with her husband. She was the center director and community developer for the Community Action Agency in the predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood of Wynwood.
Chaves, who has a Master of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Miami, has been active in several Puerto Rican community organizations and was one of the founders of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women-Miami.
Chaves will be speaking about her book on Saturday, Dec. 5, 10 a.m., at the Pinecrest Branch Library, 5835 SW111 St.