Two Mexican brothers, Jose Luis and Francisco Salazar, and their families migrate to the U.S. shortly after the U.S. entry into World War II. The story depicts their struggles as they come to grips with a new, often hostile environment. Later, the family prominently figures in two of the most tragic, yet stirring incidents in Mexican-American history.
The first involves the all-Hispanic rifle company that as part of the Texas Volunteer Division lost its colors at the Battle of the Rapido River in Italy during the Second World War, when 156 badly-mangled Hispanic soldiers were ordered to cross the Rapido River against a known German force of more than 3000 men. Only 23 U.S. soldiers came back, and of those, ten would later die. Yet before the war was over, that unit would win more medals for bravery than almost any other rifle company in all of American history.
The second calamity came in the early 1950’s, when some 200 Mexican-Americans, African-Americans and Filipino migrants went on strike in the harvest fields of South Texas. Though the movement was washed away by the winds of history, within the seeds of that defeat were the victories that came a generation later in the San Joaquin Valley of central California.
It is in California that “America — The Promised Land” finally begins to live up to its billing as a new generation of Salazars at last succeed in fulfilling the dreams they had fought for so long to enrich their lives in soul-satisfying ways.
By James Tipton
Even the name, Alejandro Grattan-Domínguez, sounds like the name of a man of letters, but here at Lakeside, Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez is known to most of us as just Alex.
We continue to admire his presence each month in the pages of El Ojo del Lago, the magazine Alex has edited for the past 17 years and which is now the most widely-read monthly English magazine produced in Mexico. In 2009, Grattan became the editor of El Ojo del Mar, a sister-publication for the west coast of Mexico.
Grattan was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. His father, Alexander Grattan — a rancher who loved books and who was a descendant of one of Ireland’s most celebrated statesmen, Sir Henry Grattan — fell in love with Juanita Dominguez, a señorita from down Mexico way. She lived in San Luis Potosí where her uncle had a cabaret. Her uncle staged plays for American miners working in the area. Juanita, age 16, was mistress of ceremonies. When Grattan’s father went to San Luis Potosí to buy a bull, he visited the cabaret, saw Juanita and fell in love with her.
The Dark Side of the Dream, the highly-acclaimed historical novel by Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez, is now available as an eBook and a softcover at Amazon.com. Both versions contain a historical preface and an epilogue to update the story of one Mexican family’s struggle while pursuing the dream of a better life in America.
Reviewers in the USA and Mexico have given the book rave reviews. It paints a vivid picture of Mexican immigration to the USA by focusing on one Mexican family that left Chihuahua City in December 1941. The story is reminiscent of The Grapes of Wrath and embodies a powerful message similar to the Roots television mini-series from 1977. PBS says: “It explores the uniqueness of the Mexican-American experience, yet this historical novel places it within the context of universal human dilemmas — sure to be an award-winning film.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alejandro Grattan-Domínguez was born in El Paso, Texas, the oldest son of an Irish father and a Mexican mother. After flunking out of college twice, he finally made good at Texas A& M, before going on to SMU, (a transfer he likens as going from a concentration camp to a luxury resort) where he earned a BA in English Literature.
Reader and Media Reaction
* “It explores the uniqueness of the Mexican-American experience, yet this historical novel places it within the context of universal human dilemmas — sure to be an award-winning film.” – Public Broadcasting System (PBS) – USA
* “Satisfies, yet angers. The pain, misery and hope for a better tomorrow erupts from this book…a novel with a soul.” — Copley News Service – USA
* “A terrific first novel . . . the stirring saga of a Mexican family in the US during the 40s and early 50s will remind readers of Steinbeck’s classic ‘The Grapes of Wrath’.” – The Alameda (Ca.) Journal – USA
* “It brings you to tears and instills terror . . . a panoramic and absolutely gripping historical novel.” – The Calgary Sun – Canada
* “The delight of a great read is not forgotten, and like Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ the story sings without preaching.” – Guadalajara Reporter – Mexico
* “With a riveting narrative and lean but lyrical prose, the novel is a profoundly moving epic about immigrants from Mexico who came to Texas shortly after the US entered WWII.” — Texas Review of Books – USA
* “A monumental historical novel. Marvelously vivid portrait of both the tragedy and triumph of one Mexican family in the US.” – Booklist—USA
* “The author deals not in simplistic black and whites, but in the world of grays, which is, of course, where the truth usually resides.” – El Paso Herald – USA
* “Filled with many complex characters . . . dozens of scenes of great emotional power… much wry humor. A historical novel that stays in one’s mind long after it has been read.” – MRTA – Mexico
* “The author has a refreshing contempt for stereotypes. Impartially, he heaps scorn on cultural chauvinists at both ends of the spectrum. . . at home with both the Mexican and American sides of his heritage.” – Beyond Borders – Mexico
Two authors chat before the monthly Meet The Author luncheon at Lake Chapala. Alejandro Grattan-Domínguez, on the left, is the author of The Dark Side of the Dream. Roberto Moulun is the author The Iguana Speaks My Name. Both books were recently published by Egret Books, an English-language publisher based in Guadalajara.