Racial Subordination in Latin America: The Role of the State, Customary Law, and the New Civil Rights Response

Article excerpt

RACIAL SUBORDINATION IN LATIN AMERICA: THE ROLE OF THE STATE, CUSTOMARY LAW, AND THE NEW CIVIL RIGHTS RESPONSE by Tanya Kateri Hernández Cambridge University Press, 2013, 247 pp. $90 (hardcover)

THE RELATIVE SUCCESS OF INDIGENOUS GROUPS STANDS in contrast to the enduring marginalization of Afrodescendants. With Racial Subordination in Latin America: The Role oj the State, Customary Law, and the New Civil Rights Response, Tanya Kateri Hernández joins a small but devoted group of English-language scholars bringing to light the historic oppression and present-day struggles of this community of 150 million, whose enslaved ancestors played a formative role in Latin American nation-building, society, and culture.

Hernandez's book begins by eviscerating the myth of racial democracy that prevails in Latin America - that is, the notion that Latinos, by virtue of being majority mestizo, cannot possibly be racist. This trope of "racial innocence," as Hernández calls it, ignores a legacy of racial inequality that traces back to slavery. Her aim is to expose how Latin American society has invoked seemingly egalitarian national ideologies to maintain white supremacy, disguising powerful barriers to Afro-descendant progress.

She does so persuasively, making good use of statistical information, case studies, linguistic analyses of the colloquialism negro, and historical immigration laws. …

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