Inventing Latinos

A New Story of American Racism

A timely and groundbreaking argument that all Americans must grapple with Latinos’ dynamic racial identity—because it impacts everything we think we know about race in America

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR

Latinos have long influenced everything from electoral politics to popular culture, yet many people instinctively regard them as recent immigrants rather than a longstanding racial group. In Inventing Latinos, Laura Gómez, a leading expert on race, law, and society, illuminates the fascinating race-making, unmaking, and re-making of Latino identity that has spanned centuries, leaving a permanent imprint on how race operates in the United States today.

Pulling back the lens as the country approaches an unprecedented demographic shift (Latinos will comprise a third of the American population in a matter of decades), Gómez also reveals the nefarious roles the United States has played in Latin America—from military interventions and economic exploitation to political interference—that, taken together, have destabilized national economies to send migrants northward over the course of more than a century. It’s no coincidence that the vast majority of Latinos migrate from the places most impacted by this nation’s dirty deeds, leading Gómez to a bold call for reparations.

In this audacious effort to reframe the often-confused and misrepresented discourse over the Latinx generation, Gómez provides essential context for today’s most pressing political and public debates—representation, voice, interpretation, and power—giving all of us a brilliant framework to engage cultural controversies, elections, current events, and more.


“This incisive survey of Latino history packs a knockout punch.”
Publishers Weekly
“Gómez reveals that history is not past. Instead, she shows us that as racism evolves, the U.S. commitment to racism remains steady, creating, but never quite controlling, Latinos as a distinct racial group. But if racism’s allure continues to tug powerfully at some segments of the United States, Inventing Latinos reveals that creative resistance is never far away.”
—César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, author of Migrating to Prison
“Written with exceptional clarity and drawing on deep research, Inventing Latinos presents not only a brilliant account of the changing position of Latinxs, but also a nuanced understanding of racism in the U.S. today.”
—Howard Winant, co-author of Racial Formation in the United States
“In this thoughtfully argued study . . . Gómez provides much-needed insight into the true complexity of Latinx identity while revealing the ways in which the dominant culture continues to mask the many racist currents within American society. An insightful and well-researched book.”
Kirkus Reviews
“A rigorous and provocative study of the liminal zone Latino/as inhabit in America’s racial continuum. Required reading.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“[Inventing Latinos] offers a significant and fresh examination of a topical subject—racism in our country.”
Albuquerque Journal
“In her pioneering book, Laura Gómez puts racism, colonialism, white dominance, and community resistance exactly where they should be: at the heart of the conversations about Latinos today, and the nature of race in the United States tomorrow.”
—Ian F. Haney López
“The critically important story of Latinx racial formation told here requires the impressive skills and knowledge of a scholar like Gómez. Inventing Latinos is informed by a hemispheric sweep centered on U.S. empire, an ability to trace history over centuries, and an appreciation of class relations and power.”
—David Roediger, author of How Race Survived U.S. History
Inventing Latinos offers a unique road map for understanding how Latino identity came to be, and where it might be going. Gómez’s discussion of how Latin America’s mestizaje, or mixed-race ideology, is both perpetuated and sometimes re-purposed in the U.S., is one of the book’s many strengths.”
—Ed Morales, author of Latinx and Fantasy Island
“A[n] incisive study of history, complex interrogation of racial construction, and sophisticated legal argument, this title proves especially timely, what with the controversial 2020 census on its way, and expands brilliantly on the work Gómez began in Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race.
“[A] timely and important examination of Latinx identity.”

News and Reviews

New Books Network

Listen to an interview with author Laura Gómez about Inventing Latinos on New Books in Latino Studies


Read an op-ed by author Laura Gómez in Medium’s KNOCK about the Supreme Courts recent DACA decision that failed to go far enough.

Publishers Weekly

Read a review of Inventing Latinos in Publishers Weekly.

Goodreads Reviews