Allentown, Pennsylvania, is a small city located along the Lehigh River in the eastern part of the state. Once the hiding place of the Liberty Bell, Allentown has become a popular destination for Latino immigrants. These Latinos, mostly from Puerto Rico, now make up about a quarter of the city’s population, and their numbers continue to grow. The thirty-one stories collected in The New Face of Small-Town America do not reflect the reality of Allentown alone. With U.S. Census figures showing the arrival of Latinos in more small American cities than ever before, Allentown will continue to serve as an example.
These small cities have already experienced, or are about to experience, the transformation Allentown saw. Few communities embrace such change. It is only when one becomes familiar with a foreign concept (or foreigners) that fear disappears and understanding begins. Edgar Sandoval’s essays show that behind the accents, ethnic customs, and other cultural differences exists a common humanity with universal problems and dreams. The Latinos profiled here want what everybody else wants: to fit in, to prosper, to offer their children a better future, to be recognized as important members of society by the mainstream. They want to coexist. These stories are not just about Latinos in Allentown, after all; they are about Latinos everywhere.