Black in Latin America, in Booklist

Booklist hands out the first review for Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s Black in Latin America, the companion book to the television series. The book will be available on July 30th.

Gates expands his focus on the black experience in Latin America. In Brazil, he explores how race consciousness is suppressed and debunks the myth of “racial democracy.” He also examines the substantial black presence in Mexico and Peru, both of which have denied the history of black slavery in their nations and their historic efforts at “whitening” their population by promoting European immigration. In the Dominican Republic, the majority of the population self-identifies as indigenous but would be and are clearly identifiable as black in the U.S. The Dominican aversion to black identity is strongly tied to their historic experience with island-mate Haiti, the first self-independent black republic that has continued to suffer an unforgiving fate in its relationship with the Western world. Gates ends his travel with Cuba, the prime source of sugar for Europeans and therefore the entry point for most African slaves into the Americas, a nation at peace with its mixed races until U.S. involvement imposed a segregationist slant. While Gates’ tour reveals a burgeoning brown (mixed-race) pride, it also reveals lingering valuation of lighter skin.
— Vernon Ford