restricted access Race and Nation in Modern Latin America (review)
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Hispanic American Historical Review 84.2 (2004) 335-337

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Race and Nation in Modern Latin America. Edited by Nancy P. Appelbaum, Anne S. Macpherson, and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt. Foreword by Thomas C. Holt. Afterword by Peter Wade. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. Photograph. Illustrations. Maps. Figure. Notes. Bibliography. Index. xvi, 329 pp. Cloth, $59.95. Paper, $19.95.

I edited a similar anthology, Race and Class in Latin America (Columbia Univ. Press, 1970), which contained papers from a conference that had taken place five years earlier. When reviewing the present book, I naturally asked myself, "How much have the perspectives on 'race' and Latin American society changed since 1965?" The black/white racial dichotomy prevailing in the United States renders it hard for North Americans to understand Latin America's fluid multiethnicity. Our 1965 conference presenters, including scholars such as Florestan Fernandes and Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, were largely Latin American, and so that did not have to be explained. While their colleagues in 2003 seem to be all North Americans, they do, in fact, agree that "there are no essential races" (p. 32), just categories based on cultural as well as physical characteristics. The basic importance of mestizaje is recognized by all. They also stress the more recent concept of gender, but without any radical feminist overtones.

With all respect for the authors of the foreword, introduction, and afterword, what I find of interest are the various empirical studies on a regional level by (I suppose) mostly younger historians. They form a remarkably homogenous group, even though their topics vary considerably, which makes their studies more comparable. Sarah Chambers analyzes the subtle changes between indigenous and mestizo identities in nineteenth-century rural Arequipa. James Sanders, on the other hand, shows the achievement of indigenous populations in the Cauca region of Colombia, who ultimately saved their communities from the rapacious Conservative and [End Page 335] Liberal Parties. Several essays find themselves wholly or partly within the borders of the history of ideas: for example, Alexandra Stern's exploration of the cult of the mestizaje and eugenics in Mexico of the 1920s and 1930s. Gerardo Rénique analyzes another, less sophisticated, aspect of Mexican revolutionary ideology: the anti-Chinese racism prevalent in the border state of Sonora. In "Searching for 'Latin America,'" Aims McGuiness starts with a street brawl in Panama in 1856, but his article mainly relates to the ideological struggle envisioned between the "Saxon" and "Latin races." Anne Macpherson presents a fascinating bit of little-known history concerning the "Battle Myth" of 1898 in Belize. With so many racial taboos, the role of dark mothers had to be hidden from view.

The mighty shadow of slavery's past falls over some of the essays. Barbara Weinstein's focuses on the aggressive attitude of most Paulistas against Getúlio Vargas and the rest of Brazil, particularly the dark-skinned Nordestinos who followed him in the brief civil war of 1932. The naked racism of the Paulistas is shocking. They were the sons or grandsons of the poor—largely Italian immigrants who replaced African slaves on the coffee plantations. The author does not discuss if generational change was involved. Sueann Caulfield has analyzed 450 trial records in Rio de Janeiro during the 1918-40 period, in which mostly working-class males were accused of "deflowering" women, also working class and including "whites," "pardos," and "blacks." Usually, the parents of the girl sued the offender to force him marry her. But I fear that color designations are too unreliable to lend themselves to serious analysis.

Lillian Guerra presents an interesting discussion of racial policies during Tomás Estrada Palma's Cuban presidency (1902-6). Dark-skinned war veterans quite naturally claimed some compensation after their sacrifice. The president, on the other hand, maintained that the basis of the war had been raceless; in fact, he favored the defeated Spaniards. Guerra shows that the dark-skinned veterans also differed in their view of race. For one such veteran, Senator Martín Morúa, she says, "[B]lacks were a separate race from mulattos...