Tomás F. Summers Sandoval Jr., Pomona College Professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o History, has authored Latinos at the Golden Gate: Creating Community and Identity in San Francisco, among the first books detailing the experiences of Latin American immigrants and their descendants in San Francisco over the course of a century and a half. The book focuses on Latinos' efforts to forge lives of dignity and meaning in the Bay, paying special attention to those moments when these mostly Spanish-speaking migrants coalesced to express pan-ethnic solidarity, identity and community.
The development of this identity formed through struggle—latinidad—rose from the Gold Rush and grew through the civil rights era on many fronts, including churches, college campuses, the press and via protests. Latinos at the Golden Gate chronicles and illuminates that rise and adaptation to life in new social and political settings.
According to Summers Sandoval, the diversity within San Francisco's Spanish-speaking population was uncharacteristic of other 19th century urban locales, and even 20th century ones.
"The presence of a diverse Latin American-descent population in San Francisco is a product of the economic and political linkages between the Bay and specific parts of Latin America. This interconnectedness also shapes the experiences of Latinos once they arrive at the Golden Gate as they struggle to create a place for themselves in the city," Summers Sandoval says.
Stephen J. Pitti of Yale University says the book, "fills one of the largest holes in Latino historiography and helps readers of all stripes to better understand the centrality of Latinos in the making of the city."
But in the 21st century, the story is much bigger than San Francisco alone. With Latin American immigration picking up from nations other than Mexico, San Francisco's kind of diversity is fairly characteristic of many communities today. Summers Sandoval writes, "This history transcends the limits of a social history confined to one city; it serves the larger story of the making of ‘Latino America.'"
Latinos at the Golden Gate: Creating Community and Identity in San Francisco (The University of North Carolina Press, 2013, 256 pages, $39.95) is written for both general and academic audiences.
Check out his blog, Latino Like Me.