This is a study of two social groups in northwestern Guatemala—Ixil Indians, who constitute more than ninety percent of the approximately 50,000 people in the three municipios examined, and Ladinos, who are local residents oriented to the national culture of Guatemala. The Ladinos are politically and economically dominant despite their smaller numbers, but the authors report an increase of Indian strength in recent years.

The book begins with an introduction largely devoted to the theoretical and conceptual problems of studying plural societies. The authors stress that “most of the world’s societies are multicultural . . . [and] a number of the world’s cultures are split up among several societies” (p. 10). They offer their approach as an alternative to studies of society-cultures as homogeneous, autonomous wholes integrated by value consensus and to traditional monographs on acculturation which focus on the contact between two such units. This thoughtful essay may be read alone.

Five of the six chapters are principally empirical. They include a short survey of the national and geographical setting, a forty-page review of the area’s history which focuses on the colonial period, and three chapters on contemporary ethnic relations. In these three chapters ethnic relations are examined from the viewpoints of the groups, the shared institutions, and the individual. The authors characterize the largest municipio as intermediate “between a ‘colonial situation,’ where one group, whether immigrant or indigenous, is socially, economically, and politically dominant, and a ‘separate-but-equal’ situation of the Swiss, Belgian, or Yugoslav type” (p. 84).

The final chapter on “The Sociocultural Dynamics of the Plural Society” contrasts the “ethnic fluidity” on the national level with the rigid situation on the local level. While the proportion of Indian population in the nation dropped from 64.8 percent in 1921 to 43.3 percent in 1964, local attitudes deny the possibility of ethnic change, and few Indians who stay in their native communities become Ladinos. The authors stress the fact that Ladinos see a dual society of Ladinos and Indians, while Indians see a multiple society of their own Indian group, Ladinos, and many other Indian groups. Any Indian away from his home country is a “stranger” who must be dealt with in terms of the national language and culture. Thus Ladinization is the inevitable result of migration.

The authors support their views with data from archival research, contemporary public records (including local registers and national censuses), interviews (including a typical intergroup relations questionnaire), and personal field observations. This exceptional methodological and technical virtuosity is displayed without fanfare and never allowed to interfere with the subject matter of the book.

This study is important reading for students of Guatemalan society and for all those concerned with intergroup relations and social and cultural change in ethnically diverse populations.