A briskly written yet sophisticated introduction to Latin America that will be greatly welcomed by nonspecialists and experts alike. Chasteen paints on a very broad canvas, but he succeeds in capturing with enviable conciseness the major ingredients of Latin America's uniqueness and complexity. Especially welcome is his graceful integration of Brazil into the overall picture, which general histories of Latin America often lack. He first takes the reader from the European conquest through the colonial consolidation by Spain and Portugal before looking at the role of indigenous communities in the new order imposed by the Europeans and African slavery's social and cultural consequences. He then follows with the independence movements and the uneven attempts at nation-building in the nineteenth century; race, ethnicity, religious and liberal ideologies, and the roles of key individuals are also covered. Chasteen concludes with the recent return to economic liberalism, this time in the context of open elections, continuing poverty, and social exclusion of large segments of the population. A stellar performance.