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Xavier Cugat
An appreciation of Oscar Hijuelos
An appreciation of Oscar Hijuelos

Oscar Hijuelos, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who died Saturday, was a cultural pioneer who wrote elegant novels about ambitious Cuban expatriates and music-loving New Yorkers. He told stories that revealed the texture and passion of the Latino immigrant experience to legions of non-Latino readers for the first time. The son of Cuban immigrants, Hijuelos was born and raised in the upper half of Manhattan, in one of those wonderfully integrated, working-class neighborhoods the United States produced in the middle of the last century. His friends in the West Harlem neighborhood of Morningside Heights were German, Irish, black and Latino. When Hijuelos started writing, taking...