Student Soldiers: Puerto Rican Youth in High School Military Programs, review of Citizen, Students, Soldier: Latina/o Youth, JROTC, and the American Dream By Gina M. Pérez

Academia’s attitude towards military matters sharply differs from that of the political establishment, mainstream media, and the general public. In short, after the first Gulf War, a hero cult started to replace the post-Vietnam War distrust of the military. The 9-11 attacks consolidated the image of the soldier as a hero.  This is especially relevant for traditionally underrepresented populations such as African Americans, Puerto Ricans and Latino.

With the exception of Puerto Ricans, Latinos have been traditionally underrepresented in the military. This situation is rapidly changing as Puerto Ricans have kept their exceptionally and historically high enrollment rate in the military while Latinos in general are enrolling in greater numbers. Hence, a question that scholars and policy makers should contemplate is: what does military service or/and experience mean for a population which has been marginalized and demonized to the point that a leading Republican presidential hopeful openly bashes them?

It is for all these reasons that Gina Pérez’s Citizen, Students, Soldier: Latina/o Youth, JROTC, and the American Dream is a refreshing, timely and a badly needed contribution to our understanding of military and paramilitary institutions and their impact on Latino, and in particular, on Puerto Rican communities.

Gina Perez

Pérez, a cultural anthropologist, studies the JROTC’s (Junior Reserve Officer Training Cadet Corps) cadets of the Fairview High School in South Lorain, Ohio. Latinos make a full quarter of Lorain’s population. Numbering 13,000, Puerto Ricans are by far the largest Latino subgroup representing 20 percent of the city’s total population and over 80 percent of the Latino population (p. 53).

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