Professor Discusses Central American Immigration
Dr. Carlos Cordova is the first to write a book on the experience in the United States
November 28, 2005 6:23 PM
When Carlos Cordova conducted his research in his native El Salvador in the early 1970’s, the federal government considered him a subversive and people in the villages he visited nicknamed him Che Guevara and Fidel Castro because of his beard and long hair.
Now, he has cut his hair, goes by Dr. Cordova and has written the first-ever comprehensive book on the Central American immigration experience in the United States.
There has never been a book published that discusses the Salvadoran and Central American experience and immigration patterns on a national level. Cordova has taken nearly three decades of research on the latter subject and compiled them into a 196-page book called “The Salvadoran Americans.” The book covers the immigration laws and status of the Central American refugees once they arrived.
Other chapters discuss the reasons for immigration and waves of migrations of Central Americans since the 1870s. It also provides concrete numbers and recent demographics to better analyze the new populations and their adjustment issues. Two years ago Greenwood Press contacted him about writing the book for their “The New Americans” series.
“I had been planning to write a book on the topic for some time,” said Cordova. “When Greenwood Press contacted me they gave me the motivation to do so.”
Cordova has first hand insight on the topic of his book. He himself migrated from El Salvador when he was 15-years-old. He came to the United States in search of a better education and economic opportunity.
After graduating from Balboa High School he went on to receive his B.A. in Sociology and his master’s degree in anthropology and art at SF State. In 1986 he earned his doctorate in education at the University of San Francisco. Throughout his academic career he was heavily involved in the Central American community helping newcomers settle in to life in the U.S. and he made yearly trips to El Salvador and other Central American countries to continue his research.
He began teaching at SF State in 1974 and taught the first course on Central America in 1975. He taught the course for nearly 30 years before deciding to take time off to write the book that he had been putting off for years.
“It was a lot of work,” explained Cordova. “It took me about two years to write but now that it’s done it’s the first nationwide sociological book on what Central Americans in the U.S. have gone through during the last 20 years.”
Cordova said that the reason why a book like his had never been written is because most people from Central America come to the U.S. not to become scholars who study sociology, but instead come largely to work in agriculture and business.
“I’m a Salvadoran immigrant,” said 20-year-old Child Development major Karla Valencia, “and I’m glad that there’s finally a book that (discusses) some of the things that I have gone through. I’m really looking forward to picking it up.”
Valencia will have her chance to pick up the book next semester at the campus bookstore since Cordova plans to use his book as required text for his Central Americans in the U.S. class. The book is also set to be used in other colleges and universities like UC Berkeley and Holy Names College in Oakland. The book is also available through the Greenwood Press Web site and other online booksellers.
Cordova is relieved that the book is finally written and available to the public. The only thing that he would change if he had the chance is the title.
“I wanted it to have a catchy title,” said Cordova. “When I was in Nicaragua I saw a tag on the side of the building that said ‘Yankee go home’. A few days later someone wrote underneath it, ‘And take me with you.’ That would have been a great title.”
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