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This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the event which signaled not only the emergence of the United States as a global superpower but also a host of domestic transformations in the nation, particularly around the issues of civil rights. All soldiers, but especially African-American and Latino soldiers, returned from the war as changed men and women. Some had encountered staggering brutality on the battlefields of Europe, Asia and North Africa; others were exposed to societies where ethnicity and skin color mattered much less to social hierarchies than they did in the United States. Military service emboldened many veterans of color to push for equal treatment in the United States—whether at the lunch counter or in the school-house. They had served their nation with distinction and would not accept the discrimination that characterized their pre-war lives.
How the war changed the lives of Latinos, in particular, has been a subject of robust debate in recent years and is at the center of a new collection of essays edited by Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez and B.V. Olguín entitled, Latina/os and World War II: Mobility,Agency , and Ideology. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014). The essays trace the complex ways in which Latinos navigated issues of race, ethnicity, education and gender all the while contributing in critical ways to the war effort. As we mark the 70th anniversary of this watershed conflict in American history, Profs. Rivas-Rodríguez and Olguín have offered us an important resource for understanding the war from various Latino perspectives.