Latinos in the U.S., as Shorris defines them, are a complex of people of varied ancestry--Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Salvadoreans, for example--``in danger of becoming the largest insignificant minority in American history.'' Moving from the barrios of New York City's Spanish Harlem and East Los Angeles to Miami's Cuban community to Southern farms on which migrant workers endure abominable, Third World conditions to El Paso where Hispanics have launched an assault on the bastions of Anglo economic power, Shorris gives eloquent voice and texture to Latino dreams, history, culture and aspirations . His montage of social analysis, reportage, folkways and oral history is a magnificent portrait of diverse people struggling against stereotyping, racism, exploitation and the racismo which causes one Latino group to demean another. A contributing editor of Harper's , himself married to a Latina, Shorris ( Power Sits at Another Table ) gauges the relentless pressure on Latinos to conform and their resistance to the melting pot. He looks at upwardly mobile professionals, entrepreneurs, exploiters and civil servants; activists and politicians attempting to ``draw their people out of the refuge of metaphysics and family''; gang members in revolt and workers earning 18 cents per hour. He assesses innovative bilingual education programs, traces the Latino influence on American English, cuisine, films and music, and charts the brutal daily war between immigration agents and illegal border-crossers, a war that leaves hundreds of nameless corpses each year. Exploring the widening rift between the Roman Catholic Church and the Latino community, Shorris visits a curandero (healer) and delves into Mexican American Santeria, a spiritistic folk religion. He incisively critiques contemporary Latino writers and painters, and profiles such figures as Cesar Chavez, Paul Rodriguez, Roberto Clemente, exiled Cuban poet Jorge Valls and Jaime Inclan, director of a family therapy clinic on Manhattan's Lower East Side. A definitive, energizing, brilliantly searching group portrait. QPB main selection; BOMC selection; $75,000 paperback floor; author tour. (Oct.) .