Race and national ideology in Mexico: An ethnographic study of racism, color, mestizaje and blackness in Veracruz

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2012-03-07 22:17Z by Steven

Race and national ideology in Mexico: An ethnographic study of racism, color, mestizaje and blackness in Veracruz

Univerity of California, Los Angeles
191 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3280987
ISBN: 9780549234821

Christina A. Sue, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of Colorado, Boulder

A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology

The literature on race relations has shown that racial and color categorization, racial consciousness, national ideologies, discourses on racism and patterns of discrimination have developed very differently in Latin America compared to the United States. Although a number of studies have explored these differences in countries such as Brazil, little research has been done on questions of race and color in Mexico, beyond studies of the Indigenous population. This dissertation begins to fill this gap in the literature by focusing on the role of race and color among Mexico’s population. Using participant observation, semi-structured interviews and focus groups, findings from this study provide detailed insights regarding the real life implications of race and color in Veracruz, Mexico. Specifically, I discuss how Veracruzanos reconcile the national ideology of non-racism in Mexico with their everyday lived experiences with discrimination. In addition, I interrogate the meaning of blackness in the region, both in the sense of racial identification and in reference to the construction of the category “black.” Not only is there extreme hesitancy to identify as “black” and a general dismissal of the role individuals of African descent played in Mexico’s development, blackness is seen as something foreign to the nation. Furthermore, in this dissertation I discuss the role of color in the region and its relation to the national ideology promoting race mixture, discourses on racism and meanings of blackness. I found that the national ideology is not embraced at the ground level in a way in which the founders intended. Instead, there is a clear trend for individuals to adopt mestizaje [race mixture] as a strategy to whiten themselves within the mixed-race category. Regarding discourses on racism, I describe how Veracruzanos, while being extremely reluctant to talk about racial divisions, engage in a proxy discourse based on color to incorporate such distinctions into everyday conversation. Finally, in relation to blackness, a color-based discourse is used by Veracruzanos to distance themselves from the category “black.”

Purchase the dissertation here.

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“Mulatto” women thus embodied white dependency and white power…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, Women on 2012-03-07 21:23Z by Steven

People of mixed racial heritage, or “mulattoes,” symbolized the dependence of white men on black labor, both in the field and in the bed. Marked by their very skin color and other features as products of the white-black encounter in the South, mulatto women were obviously white and not-white, like “our white Caroline.” They were products of the long encounter between white exploiters of labor and black sources of labor, productive and reproductive. Their commodification reminded all that, in the South, every child of an enslaved mother was some form of slave laborer, an arrangement that enabled plantation slavery to function. Every enslaved man, woman, and child was a repository of reproductive capital and a source of production. The white political economy of the South would have collapsed without the legal and cultural fictions that assigned the “mulatto” and other children of African women to the created categories “black” and “enslaved.” Women like the “fair maid Martha,” and “the Yellow Girl Charlott” also, in their phenotypes, illustrated the long past of white sexual assault. “Mulatto” women thus embodied white dependency and white power, and offered men the chance to recapitulate and reexamine the past that had produced both white power and mixed-race individuals. Unwillingly, such women introduced a pornographic history, one obscene yet for that very reason more lusted-after, into the parlors, bedrooms, and above all, the markets of the elite white man’s world. They made flesh the years of white men desiring and depending on women (and men) who were supposedly less than civilized, Christian, or even human.

Edward E. Baptist, ““Cuffy,” “Fancy Maids,” and “One-Eyed Men”: Rape, Commodification, and the Domestic Slave Trade in the United States, 1876,” The American Historical Review, (December, 2001).

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The unwritten rule in the black community appeared to be that it was acceptable to “pass” but unacceptable to be caught at it.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2012-03-07 20:01Z by Steven

Regardless of the criticism directed toward fair-complexioned Negroes who allegedly withdrew into color conscious “blue vein societies,” most black Americans fully understood why some chose to “pass,” namely to reap the benefit of first-class citizenship. Although blacks were careful to guard the secret of those who did “pass”and tended to treat such people as dead, there was always the possibility of exposure and with it humiliation. The unwritten rule in the black community appeared to be that it was acceptable to “pass” but unacceptable to be caught at it. To be exposed was to risk condemnation not only from whites but from blacks as well. Such were the ironies, incongruities, and tragedies of racial, or more specifically color, prejudices.

Willard B. Gatewood, Jr., “The Perils of Passing: The McCarys of Omaha,” Nebraska History, Volume 71, Number 2 (Summer 1990): 67.

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Re-Writing Race in Early American New Orleans

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2012-03-07 15:59Z by Steven

Re-Writing Race in Early American New Orleans

n°5 (December 2011)

Nathalie Dessens, Professor of American History and Civilization
Université Toulouse 2, Le Mirail

This article examines the representation of the racial pattern and pattern of race relations in early American New Orleans. Starting with a historical and historiographical contextualization, the article shows that race relations were more complex than is usually depicted, partly because considerations based on other criteria than race were superimposed on the traditional categories. It concludes that there was not one way of representing races and race relations in the first decades of the postcolonial era, and suggests that these representations greatly varied from one group to another and did not necessarily correspond to the current representation based on the American/Creole dichotomy.

Louisiana’s first century of history accounts both for its inclusion in the antebellum American South and for the specificities it displayed in the young American republic. After six decades of French rule, it became a Spanish colony at the end of the Seven Years’ War, before briefly—and secretly—returning to French rule, in 1800, and being eventually sold, in 1803, to the United States by France. Its colonial past made it a slave colony, like the rest of the Anglo-American South, but it also made its social order slightly different from the rest of the South. Its three-tiered order, although it was by no means an exception in the plantation societies of the North-American continent, contradicted the biracial order that prevailed in most of the South and in the psyche of the new American rulers of Louisiana in the early 19th century.

When Louisiana was turned over to the United States, many historians contend, the old Creole population and the new rulers of Louisiana started conflicting over how to legislate on the racial order and how to deal with race relations in this new territory (then state) of the Union. Until relatively recently, the Creole/American opposition has been set forth by historians of Louisiana as the backbone of racial representations in early American Louisiana.

Recent historiography, however, has tended to show that, if this binary opposition is often a correct representation of the debates over racial questions in early American Louisiana, it is most certainly an oversimplification and cannot account for all the representations of race relations in Louisiana in the first four decades of American rule. This article is a contribution to these new historiographical trends.

Relying on a specific testimony, that of Jean Boze, a Frenchman arrived in New Orleans with the large wave of refugees from the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue at the time of the Haitian Revolution, this article contends that the pattern of race interactions and race relations was much more complex than that defined by the Creole/American opposition. It will first examine the history and historiography of race relations in colonial and early American Louisiana, before examining the way in which testimonies of residents of Louisiana in the early national period may help revisiting the writing of race in the early postcolonial Crescent City…

Read the entire article here.

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