With The Politics of Race in Panama, Sonja Stephenson Watson addresses the shortage within Hispanic literature scholarship of research on Afro-Panamanian literature and the sole focus on West Indian–descended writers in studies on black literature in Panama. Specifically, Watson examines how Afro-Hispanic and West Indian–descended writers, from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century, utilized poetry, novels, plays, and short stories to negotiate and develop an Afro-Panamanian identity. Watson grounds this discussion in a rich analysis that includes nationalism within race debates, anti-imperialism and anti–West Indian attitudes, historical revisionism, and the possibility of postracial writings.

Afro-Hispanic authors in Panama, Watson notes, have from their earliest writings negotiated questions of nationalism, race, and exclusion. Two such writers included the poets Federico Escobar and Gaspar Octavio Hernández. Both wrote at the height of Panama's independence movement from Colombia and during the early...

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