An American Language

The History of Spanish in the United States

By Rosina Lozano

“This is the most comprehensive book I’ve ever read about the use of Spanish in the U.S. Incredible research. Read it to understand our country. Spanish is, indeed, an American language.” — Jorge Ramos

An American Language is a tour de force that revolutionizes our understanding of U.S. history. It reveals the origins of Spanish as a language binding residents of the Southwest to the politics and culture of an expanding nation in the 1840s. As the West increasingly integrated into the United States over the following century, struggles over power, identity, and citizenship transformed the place of the Spanish language in the nation. An American Language is a history that reimagines what it means to be an American — with profound implications for our own time.


  • First Book Award, 2018, Immigration and Ethnic History Society
  • PROSE Award for Language and Linguistics, 2019, Association of American Publishers


  • An American Language provides an original discussion of linguistic citizenship and offers insight into the historical racialization of Spanish-speakers. . . . Lozano skillfully garners archival sources to offer an insightful comparative analysis of the changing status of Spanish in the United States, and the role that Spanish-speakers — from treaty citizens to Chicanos — played in refusing second-class citizenship based on their use of Spanish.” — Journal of American History
  • “Rosina Lozano’s An American Language: The History of Spanish in the United States is an outstanding contribution to historiography. It will become a standard reference on language in the American Southwest. Its wealth of primary sources and thematic interventions in a variety of topics brilliantly demonstrates just how much can be uncovered by a focus on that most basic of topics—language.” — Southwestern Historical Quarterly
  • An American Language is a well-written and -researched account of the complicated history of language in the United States and its relationship to power and people.” — History of Education Quarterly
  • An American Language is not only an important book because the conflict over who gets to speak Spanish in the U.S. continues, but because Lozano does a thorough job at documenting and telling the history of Spanish in U.S. society. Lozano has made a significant contribution not only to the history of Spanish, but to language policy, politics, and planning. It is an asset to language rights advocates and pushes the boundaries of Spanish in the U.S. as a field of inquiry.” — Spanish in Context
  • “...a sophisticated and intricate narrative about the foundational history of Spanish in the United States, as well as the history of ethnic Mexican U.S. citizens (treaty citizens, Mexican immigrants, and U.S.–born citizens of Mexican descent).” — Journal of Arizona History
  • “...con este título la profesora Lozano hace una valiosa aportación al estudio de la historia de los hispanohablantes en el sur de los Estados Unidos, analizando su contexto político y social. La autora ha demostrado con este trabajo tan revelador que se pueden abrir nuevos caminos dentro de esa fructífera vía, aún poco investigada.” — Journal of the Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies
  • “Original and provocative, beautifully written and argued, An American Language tells a story of our nation’s past that brilliantly illuminates our present: that the United States of America was born multilingual.” — John Mack Faragher, Howard R. Lamar Professor Emeritus, Yale University
  • “In this timely and important book, Rosina Lozano reveals that little is as all-American as the Spanish language. An American Language opens up a whole new way of envisioning the century that followed the U.S.-Mexican War and introduces a powerful new scholarly voice.” — Karl Jacoby, author of The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire
  • “Lozano has given us an original and imaginative story of contests over power, governance, and belonging that places language—and the Spanish language in particular—at the center of her analysis. In so doing, she offers a new and rich perspective on the development of the American Southwest since the middle of the 19th century, on the deeper meanings of American culture and politics, and on the complex ways in which citizenship is constructed.” — Steven Hahn, author of A Nation without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830–1910
  • “This deeply original history explains how Spanish speakers in the United States interacted with government power in the century after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. An American Language has something novel and urgent to say about identity, pluralism, and the state. Lozano has written an ambitious and important book.” — Brian DeLay, author of War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War
  • “This book is a tour de force with powerfully important implications. It definitively refutes reigning assumptions that the United States has always been a monolingual Anglophone nation and that recent and current immigration poses an unprecedented threat through its language diversity. Lozano presents detailed accounts of the historical role of Spanish as a state-sanctioned language and demonstrates how this was an important crucible of identity and power in the U.S. past. An American Language reveals a hidden history of the Spanish language in the United States.” — George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place