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September 07 , 2010

The Idea of Race in Latin America, 1870-1940


From the mid-nineteenth century until the 1930s, many Latin American leaders faced a difficult dilemma regarding the idea of race. On the one hand, they aspired to an ever-closer connection to Europe and North America, where, during much of this period, "scientific" thought condemned nonwhite races to an inferior category. Yet, with the heterogeneous racial makeup of their societies clearly before them and a growing sense of national identity impelling consideration of national futures, Latin American leaders hesitated. What to do? Whom to believe?

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Latin American political and intellectual leaders' sometimes anguished responses to these dilemmas form the subject of The Idea of Race in Latin America. Thomas Skidmore, Aline Helg, and Alan Knight have each contributed chapters that succinctly explore various aspects of the story in Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Mexico. While keenly alert to the social and economic differences that distinguish one Latin American society from another, each author has also addressed common issues that Richard Graham ably draws together in a brief introduction. Written in a style that will make it accessible to the undergraduate, this book will appeal as well to the sophisticated scholar.

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