Books: Chronicler of the Barrios

PEDRO MARTINEZ by Oscar Lewis. 507 pages. Random House. $8.75.

In these days of Fidel Castro and the Alliance for Progress, the Latin American peasant has taken his place with the Mets fan as one of nature's most familiar and least understood noblemen. Silhouetted against a tropical sunset, there he stereotypically stands, leaning on his hoe and dreaming dreams of land reform and a greater gross national product per capita.

Genuinely getting to know him comes harder, and therein lies the value of Oscar Lewis, 49, a University of Illinois anthropologist gifted with facile...

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