The discussion on race in Latin America has frequently taken on the character of the apocryphal blind travelers and their attempts to describe the elephant. Different students of the subject have asserted the primacy of ethnicity, language, color, or racial self-identification to an understanding of the often-elusive concept called race and its importance in the Latin American social structure. All these perspectives have captured important aspects of the issue, but all also in some ways fall short, leaving important dimensions of what might be called the problem of race unexplained. Sociologist Edward Telles, a veteran student of race and color in Latin America, skillfully helps us navigate these treacherous waters with his multidimensional study Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America.

Drawing on research done by the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA), Telles and his colleagues...

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