Click to expand image Albion Printing Press
Albion press, Hopkinson & Cope. 1845. National Museum of American History

Albion Printing Press

Albion Printing Press

The press here created small documents. Following the Mexican-American War, presses like this became increasingly available in Latino communities in the U.S. West. Since then, Latinas and Latinos across the United States have been telling their own stories by using print and later digital technologies to set the record straight.

Latino newspapers, novels, autobiographies, and other printed works bring fresh perspectives to U.S. history. Before today’s age of digital communication, printing presses were used to share words and images with large audiences.

 In the 1800s, Latina and Latino writers began publishing their stories, reports, and ideas in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Santa Fe, San Francisco, and other U.S. cities. During this period, most writers and publishers were Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Chilean, among others. The earliest Spanish language newspapers in the United States include El Misisipi, printed in New Orleans between 1808–1810 and El Habanero, printed in Philadelphia and then New York City between 18241826. Newspapers published by Chileans in San Francisco in the late 1800s give testament to largely unknown experiences of the thousands of chilena and chileno migrants who stayed in California following the Gold Rush (1848–1855). After facing racism and mob violence, about half of their original number, mostly miners, returned to Chile. Their newspapers demonstrate the historical diversity of the U.S. Latino experience.

Since the 1800s, Latina and Latino journalists, writers, and artists have struggled to make their communities visible and their perspectives heard, especially within English language media. Their work combats many of the anti-Latino stereotypes that circulate in U.S. culture. The earliest of these stereotypes are anti-Mexican, appearing in widely read adventure novels that became popular after the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). By the end of the century, authors like María Amparo Ruiz de Burton wrote books like The Squatter and the Don in English to tell the story of the Mexican American War from the viewpoint of California’s land-owning Mexicans, called Californios. At the same time, Cuban and Puerto Rican political exiles began moving increasingly to U.S. cities like New York City, Philadelphia, Tampa, and Key West. Their newspapers advocated for their islands’ independence from Spain and discussed topics such as racial equality and democracy that are still relevant to today. One of Latin American’s best known political thinkers, the Cuban writer José Martí, founded the newspaper “Patria” in New York City, which was published between 1892–1898. Few in this generation of Cuban and Puerto Rican writers expected the Spanish American War, which led to conditional independence for Cuba and the annexation of Puerto Rico by the United States.

Click to expand image Graphic reproduction of a 1846 Mexican-American War recruitment poster reading “To Arms! To Arms! Volunteers for the Mexican American War!”
“To Arms! To Arms! Volunteers for the Mexican War!” 1846. Courtesy of University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History

Recruiting Poster

Posters like this were printed en masse across the United States to recruit the almost 75,000 men who volunteered to fight in the Mexican-American War (1846–1848)—known by Mexicans as the North American Invasion. U.S. public opinion was divided over the war, with many considering it unprovoked and motivated to by pro-slavery politicians.  
Click to expand image Title page for The Squatter and the Don book.
The Squatter and the Don. María Amparo Ruiz de Burton (C. Loyal), San Francisco, 1885. Loan from the University of Houston Arte Público Press / Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Program

The Squatter and the Don

In this book, a wealthy Californio family struggles to hold on to their ranches after the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). It reflects the experiences of many elite Mexican landowners in California. During this time, new Anglo-American migrants, called squatters, started claiming lands belonging to Californios for themselves.
Click to expand image A historical print of soldiers engaged in combat while women and children flee Mexico City during the 1847 U.S. attack on the city.
Gate of Belen: Mexico, the 13th September, 1847 Garita de Belen: Mexico, el dia 13 de Septembre de 1847. 1847. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division [LC-DIG-pga-08752]

Civilians Flee the U.S. Invasion of Mexico City, 1847

The Mexican-American War (1846–1848) was documented by prints, or mechanically reproduced images, appearing in newspapers, magazines, and books. This print shows the U.S. Army’s invasion of Mexico’s City. After the war, the United States annexed about half of Mexico’s territory, the land between today’s states of California and Texas.
Click to expand image Illustration of Sotero Figeroa with arms crossed standing in front of a printing press and the word “Patria.”
Digital Artwork by Rafael López, 2021.

Sotero Figueroa: Connecting Independence Movements

Raised in Puerto Rico, Sotero Figueroa (around 1851–1923) was a leader in New York City’s Black Spanish-speaking community in the late 1800s. He edited Patria (or Homeland), the newspaper founded in 1892 by Cuban political thinker José Martí. Figueroa worked alongside Puerto Rican and Cuban printers and tobacco rollers who advocated for independence from Spain.

Printing Press in 3D