Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism

New Pr. Aug. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781595589170. $25.99. SOC SCI
“Race isn’t real, but racism is.” So affirms Gómez (law, Univ. of California Los Angeles; Manifest Destinies) in this bold, incisive interrogation of “the how and why of Latinx identity becoming a distinctive racial identity” from 1848 to 2020. Gómez documents how U.S. violence against Latin America led to today’s large Latino/a population. The U.S. annexed half of Mexico in the 1840s, turned Puerto Rico into a glorified colony, quashed Latin American reform movements, and ruthlessly exploited the region for cheap labor and natural resources. She also unpacks Mexico’s and the Dominican Republic’s lionization of mestizaje (racial mingling), which tended to erase Black and Indigenous identities. Gómez then turns to the U.S. By “strategically claiming whiteness as a shield against racism,” Latinos enacted “complicity in enforcing White-over-Black racial logic.” Formally white but treated as a racially subordinate group based on phenotype and language, Latinos suffered segregation, disenfranchisement, poverty, and violence—six hundred Mexican Americans died by lynching between 1848 and 1928.
VERDICT While not all Latinos agree with Gómez’s call for censuses to treat “Latino” as a race and not an ethnicity, she delivers a rigorous and provocative study of the liminal zone Latino/as inhabit in America’s racial continuum. Required reading.
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