In This Review
Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Transformation

Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Transformation

By Sonia Cardenas and Rebecca Root

University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022, 344 pp.

Targeting undergraduates, this easy read is also a useful reference for a broader audience seeking an accessible, comprehensive review of the evolution and impact of human rights advocacy in Latin America. Latin Americans were involved in the drafting of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and ever since then, the region has played a leading role in defining global human rights norms. This assessment by Cardenas and Root is stronger on politics than economics and richer in its coverage of international organizations and networks than in its slight assessment of the role of U.S. foreign policy in the region. But the authors’ overarching judgments are sound. They celebrate the remarkable progress made by most countries in the region in advancing democracy and human rights over the last 50 years and note the measurable improvements in popular access to health care and education as well, even if reform is too often punctured by distressing setbacks. Today, with the ease of travel and communications, conversations on concepts such as “intersectionality”—the interaction of various forms of discrimination—occur with equal fluency in Santiago as they might in San Francisco.