Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico: Defining Racial Difference

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Law, Mexico, Monographs on 2016-09-07 21:11Z by Steven

Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico: Defining Racial Difference

University of Oklahoma Press
2016-10-20
304 pages
Illustrations: 3 b&w illus., 2 maps, 18 tables
6″ x 9″
Hardcover ISBN: 9780806154879

Robert C. Schwaller, Assistant Professor of History
University of Kansas, Lawrence

On December 19, 1554, the members of Tenochtitlan’s indigenous cabildo, or city council, petitioned Emperor Charles V of Spain for administrative changes “to save us from any Spaniard, mestizo, black, or mulato afflicting us in the marketplace, on the roads, in the canal, or in our homes.” Within thirty years of the conquest, the presence of these groups in New Spain was large enough to threaten the social, economic, and cultural order of the indigenous elite. In Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico, an ambitious rereading of colonial history, Robert C. Schwaller proposes using the Spanish term géneros de gente (types or categories of people) as part of a more nuanced perspective on what these categories of difference meant and how they evolved. His work revises our understanding of racial hierarchy in Mexico, the repercussions of which reach into the present.

Schwaller traces the connections between medieval Iberian ideas of difference and the unique societies forged in the Americas. He analyzes the ideological and legal development of géneros de gente into a system that began to resemble modern notions of race. He then examines the lives of early colonial mestizos and mulatos to show how individuals of mixed ancestry experienced the colonial order. By pairing an analysis of legal codes with a social history of mixed-race individuals, his work reveals the disjunction between the establishment of a common colonial language of what would become race and the ability of the colonial Spanish state to enforce such distinctions. Even as the colonial order established a system of governance that entrenched racial differences, colonial subjects continued to mediate their racial identities through social networks, cultural affinities, occupation, and residence.

Presenting a more complex picture of the ways difference came to be defined in colonial Mexico, this book exposes important tensions within Spanish colonialism and the developing social order. It affords a significant new view of the development and social experience of race—in early colonial Mexico and afterward.

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What is Afro-Latin America?

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science, United States on 2016-09-06 02:23Z by Steven

What is Afro-Latin America?

African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)
2016-09-04

Devyn Spence Benson, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Latin American
Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina

From Mexico to Brazil and beyond, Africans and people of African descent have fought in wars of independence, forged mixed race national identities, and contributed politically and culturally to the making of the Americas. Even though Latin America imported ten times as many slaves as the United States, only recently have scholars begun to highlight the role blacks and other people of African descent played in Latin American history. This course will explore the experiences of Afro-Latin Americans from slavery to the present, with a particular focus on Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia. We will also read some of the newest transnational scholarship to understand how conversations about ending racism and building “raceless” nations spread throughout the Americas and influenced the Civil Rights movement in the United States.

In doing so, the course seeks to answer questions such as: What does it mean to be black in Latin America? Why has racism persisted in Latin America despite political revolutions claiming to eliminate discrimination? How have differing conceptions of “race” and “nation” caused the rise and decline of transnational black alliances between U.S. blacks and Afro-Latin Americans?

Last Tuesday, I began my eighth year of university teaching, but my first day at my new institution – Davidson College. Feeling both like a newbie (I was still unpacking boxes of books last week) and like an old pro, I dove right into teaching two introductory courses—Afro-Latin America and History of the Caribbean—passing out the course description pasted above. Both of my courses were cross-listed with Africana and Latin American Studies and fell under my purview as the new professor of Afro-Latin America. Mine is a joint position and the first untenured new hire for both Africana and Latin American Studies. I was initially shocked when I saw the advertisement last summer and remain shocked in many ways that both Africana and Latin American Studies at Davidson were interested in hiring an Afro-Latin Americanist as their first faculty position (other than chair) in two relatively young departments…

Read the entire article here.

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When Black Is Brown: The African Diaspora in Mexico

Posted in Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Live Events, Mexico, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-09-01 00:58Z by Steven

When Black Is Brown: The African Diaspora in Mexico

The Museum of African American Art
Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza
Macy’s 3rd Floor
4005 Crenshaw Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90008
2016-06-05 through 2016-09-18
Opening Reception: 2016-06-05, 14:00-17:00 PDT (Local Time)

WHERE BLACK IS BROWN: The African Diaspora In Mexico opens Sunday, June 5, 2016, with a public reception from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at The Museum of African American Art. The opening will feature a drumming procession of African and Azteca dancers and musicians, a dramatic performance, and a talk and tour by the exhibit’s curator, Dr. Toni-Mokjaetji Humber, Professor Emeritus, Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

WHERE BLACK IS BROWN is an innovative, multidimensional project that includes photographs, artifacts, and installations that document the African presence in Mexico from the Ancient Olmecs — Mother Culture of the Americas — through the colonial enslavement period, to contemporary Mexico. In addition to the visual components, Dr. Humber has incorporated educational programs and activities to compliment the exhibit. She will conduct middle and high school tours of the exhibit with activities for students to better understand the culture and historical contributions of African Mexicans.

“Recognition of an African root in the Mexican heritage, both ancient and modern, has been rendered invisible in the ideological consciousness of what it means to be Mexican,” Dr. Humber states. “This research will present a face of Mexico that has been hidden, denied, and disparaged, yet one that is vital to Mexican history and culture.”

The exhibit is designed to further the understanding of African influence and contributions in the Americas and to foster greater understanding among African American, Chicano/Latino, and Indigenous communities about their historical connections and their intermingled sangre (blood) that has produced beautiful and dynamic peoples of the Americas.

For more information, click here.

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Afro-Mexican Constructions of Diaspora, Gender, Identity and Nation

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs on 2016-08-28 02:32Z by Steven

Afro-Mexican Constructions of Diaspora, Gender, Identity and Nation

University of The West Indies Press
April 2016
234 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-976-640-579-3

Paulette A. Ramsay, Senior Lecturer in Spanish
University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

Paulette Ramsay’s study analyses cultural and literary material produced by Afro-Mexicans on the Costa Chica de Guerrero y Oaxaca, Mexico, to undermine and overturn claims of mestizaje or Mexican homogeneity.

The interdisciplinary research draws on several theoretical constructs: cultural studies, linguistic anthropology, masculinity studies, gender studies, feminist criticisms, and broad postcolonial and postmodernist theories, especially as they relate to issues of belonging, diaspora, cultural identity, gender, marginalization, subjectivity and nationhood. The author points to the need to bring to an end all attempts at extending the discourse, whether for political or other reasons, that there are no identifiable Afro-descendants in Mexico. The undeniable existence of distinctively black Mexicans and their contributions to Mexican multiculturalism is patently recorded in these pages.

The analyses also aid the agenda of locating Afro-Mexican literary and cultural production within a broad Caribbean aesthetics, contributing to the expansion of the Caribbean as a broader cultural and historical space which includes Central and Latin America.

Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Foreword Father Glyn Jemmott Nelson
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • 1. Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Mexico through the Distorted Lens of Memín Pinguín
  • 2. Constructions of Gender and Nation in Selected Afro-Mexican Folktales
  • 3. Masculinity, Language and Power in Selected Afro-Mexican Corridos
  • 4. Place, Racial and Cultural Identities in Selected Afro-Mexican Oral and Lyric Verses
  • 5. Afro-Mexico in the Context of a Caribbean Literary and Cultural Aesthetics
  • Conclusion
  • Photographs
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
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The Other California: Land, Identity, and Politics on the Mexican Borderlands

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Mexico, Monographs on 2016-08-23 00:03Z by Steven

The Other California: Land, Identity, and Politics on the Mexican Borderlands

University of California Press
January 2017
188 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780520291638

Verónica Castillo-Muñoz, Assistant Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara

The Other California is the story of working-class communities and how they constituted the racially and ethnically diverse social landscape of Baja California. Packed with new and transformative stories, the book examines the interplay of land reform and migratory labor on the peninsula from 1850 to 1954, as governments, foreign investors, and local communities shaped a vibrant and dynamic borderland alongside the booming cities of Tijuana, Mexicali, and Santa Rosalia. Migration and intermarriage between Mexican women and men from Asia, Europe, and the United States transformed Baja California into a multicultural society. Mixed-race families extended across national borders, forging new local communities, labor relations, and border politics.

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Nation and the Absent Presence of Race in Latin American Genomics

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-07-29 19:30Z by Steven

Nation and the Absent Presence of Race in Latin American Genomics

Current Anthropology
Volume 55, Number 5 (October 2014)
pages 497-522
DOI: 10.1086/677945

Peter Wade, Professor of Social Anthropology
University of Manchester

Vivette García Deister, Associate Professor
Social Studies of Science Laboratory
National Autonomous University of Mexico

Michael Kent, Honorary Research Fellow in Social Anthropology
School of Social Sciences
University of Manchester

María Fernanda Olarte Sierra, Assistant Professor
Department of Design
University of the Andes, Bogotá, Colombia

Adriana Díaz del Castillo Hernández, Independent Researcher
Consultoría en Estudios Sociales Sobre Educación, Salud, Ciencia y Tecnología, Bogotá, Colombia

Recent work on genomics and race makes the argument that concepts and categories of race are subtly reproduced in the practice of genomic science, despite the explicit rejection of race as meaningful biological reality by many geneticists. Our argument in this paper is that racialized meanings in genomics, rather than standing alone, are very often wrapped up in ideas about nation. This seems to us a rather neglected aspect in the literature about genomics and race. More specifically, we characterize race as an absent presence in Latin America and argue that genomics in the region finds a particular expression of race through concepts of nation, because this vehicle suits the deep-rooted ambiguity of race in the region. To make this argument we use data from an ethnographic project with genetics labs in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.

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Biography: ‘The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire,’ by Karl Jacoby

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States on 2016-07-22 18:41Z by Steven

Biography: ‘The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire,’ by Karl Jacoby

The Dallas Morning News
2016-06-24

Karen M. Thomas, Professor of Journalism
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

From all accounts, Guillermo Enrique Eliseo commanded attention. The elegantly dressed Mexican-born Wall Street baron in Gilded Age Manhattan was known for his gold watch, fine taste and ability to strike business deals on both sides of the border. He also had a huge secret.

Eliseo began life not on a Mexican hacienda but across the border on a Texas plantation where he was born into slavery as William Henry Ellis. How he transformed himself into Eliseo is the topic of The Strange Career of William Ellis.

Karl Jacoby is a stellar researcher, and the topic is fascinating. He ferrets out Ellis’ tale of reinvention from historical documents, news accounts and Ellis’ personal material, including letters to his family. Where records are scarce, such as for the years Ellis was a slave on a Victoria plantation, Jacoby instead turns to what is known about American slavery itself. He describes Texas’ role in trying to keep cotton as king and what life was like in Victoria, a town close to the U.S. and Mexican borders, in the 1800s. By doing so, Jacoby is able to extrapolate Ellis’ experience, motivation and preparation for ultimately redefining his personal racial boundaries

Read the entire review here.

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Across the Border

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States on 2016-07-22 14:40Z by Steven

Across the Border

The Nation
2016-07-21

Michael A. Elliott, Professor of English
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia


William Henry Ellis, (Photo courtesy of Fanny Johnson-Griffin)

A new biography of William Henry Ellis reminds us how much we still don’t know about the elusive history of racial subterfuge in America.

When, in 1912, James Weldon Johnson published his sly and searching novel of racial passing, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, he did so anonymously, leaving readers to assume it was a factual account of a light-skinned African American crossing the color line to travel in the world of whiteness. In the aftermath of its publication, Johnson took pleasure in listening to others puzzle over its authorship. He even had “the rarer experience,” as he later described it, of being introduced to someone else claiming to have written the book. The story, it seems, was too good not to be true.

In the long era of Jim Crow, fact could be as strange, if not stranger, than fiction. At precisely the same moment that Johnson was enjoying his literary ruse, a fellow New Yorker calling himself Guillermo Enrique Eliseo was frantically trying to keep his financial interests in Mexico afloat as that country convulsed under wave after wave of political revolt. With each new regime, the businessman sought to curry favor and press for new investment opportunities, but the changes were so rapid that he struggled to find the proper currency in which to pay his taxes. Many of those who knew Eliseo presumed him to be a Mexican from near the US border (though others thought he was Cuban, or even Hawaiian), a well-traveled gentleman active in Latin America’s quest for modernization.

Had Johnson known Eliseo, he might have nodded in recognition. Eliseo had been born as an African-American slave on a South Texas cotton plantation in 1864, just as the entire social order of the region was being transformed by the conclusion of the Civil War. Over the course of a lifetime, Eliseo—or, as he was more commonly known, William Henry Ellis—built both elaborate fictions and an impressive network of business interests that spanned North America and beyond. His biography is the subject of a new book by historian Karl Jacoby, with a title that gives away its story: The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire. Ellis’s life and Jacoby’s reconstruction of it remind us how much we still don’t know about the elusive history of racial subterfuge in America…

Read the entire article here.

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A Tale of Racial Passing and the U.S.-Mexico Border

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States on 2016-07-20 21:18Z by Steven

A Tale of Racial Passing and the U.S.-Mexico Border

The New Yorker
2016-07-20

Jonathan Blitzer


The African-American businessman William Ellis, pictured here around the year 1900, frequently passed as Mexican.
COURTESY FANNY JOHNSON-GRIFFIN

Some people knew him as William Ellis, and others as Guillermo Eliseo. He could be Mexican, Cuban, or even Hawaiian, depending on whom you asked. Everyone seemed to agree that he was spectacularly wealthy and successful. In the dime-store Who’s Who books that were popular at the turn of the twentieth century, his name, in one form or another, appeared regularly. He was a “Banker, Broker, and Miner,” who came to New York from the “Mexican frontier,” an exemplar of the self-made man.

It was one of his life’s many ironies that the pedigreed gatekeepers of American high commerce celebrated his origin story without knowing a thing about his actual origins. William Ellis was born a slave, in Texas, in the eighteen-sixties. Like at least some of his siblings, he was light-skinned, but with a key difference: on the city census that recorded blackness with a “c” (for “colored”), Ellis was somehow spared the label. In his early twenties, he got into the cotton trade after a brief apprenticeship with a white local businessman, shuttling back and forth to the cities in northern Mexico. He started telling people that he was Mexican, and that he had anglicized his name for their convenience, as Karl Jacoby recounts in his fascinating new book, “The Strange Career of William Ellis.” Having grown up just south of San Antonio, along the border, Ellis came to speak fluent Spanish. He quickly grasped the possibilities of bilingualism in the race-riven landscape of the Reconstruction-era South…

Read the entire article here.

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Calidad, Genealogy, and Disputed Free-colored Tributary Status in New Spain

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-07-04 18:35Z by Steven

Calidad, Genealogy, and Disputed Free-colored Tributary Status in New Spain

The Americas
Volume 73, Number 2, April 2016
pages 139-170

Norah Andrews, Assistant Professor of World History
Georgian Court University, Lakewood, New Jersey

In 1787, a group of Indians from the town of Almoloya, part of Apan in the Intendancy of Mexico, aired their grievances against several prominent local leaders. The petitioners claimed that their predominantly Indian community was plagued by a group of free-colored people who were masquerading as Indian nobles, or caciques, and enjoying privileges to which only those with noble lineage were entitled. One of these was exemption from the economically onerous and socially stigmatized royal tribute that had symbolized the relationship between the Spanish monarch and free-colored subjects since the sixteenth century.

To prove that the suspected were indeed tributaries, those lodging the complaint turned to lineage. They named more than a dozen people who lived as caciques, adding that those same individuals were “mixed with blacks and mulatos and should be registered and pay tribute with those of that class.” Despite their attempts to fashion themselves into caciques, the accused families had not erased from communal memory the occupations, castes, and places of origin of various ancestors, all of which could determine reputation, or calidad. Members of the Sánchez family, the petition claimed, were “grandchildren of a negro shoemaker called Martín.” The Granillos were “descendants of Juan Granillo, married to a known mulata servant.” The list of possible free-coloreds was exhaustive.

These “notorious mulatos” had gained exemptions awarded by the Spanish monarchy to Tlaxcalans who had served in Spanish conquests more than two and a half centuries before. Throughout the colonial period, descendants of Tlaxcalans could claim exemption from the tribute and other taxes, as well as land rights and a legal status distinct from those of free-coloreds and other Indians. This concern with the mixture of Indian and African blood resonated where Tlaxcalan, Nahua, or other Indian groups enjoyed place- and genealogy-specific tribute privileges. Apan bordered Tlaxcala, making the presence of Tlaxcalans in Almoloya entirely feasible. But to preserve such a status, the complainants reasoned, the Tlaxcalans should have pursued marital unions that preserved a lineage “without degeneration from the class of Indians or mestizos de españoles,” a caste category specifying a Spanish father and an Indian mother. How, wondered the Almoloya petitioners, could people with a publicly reputed line of free-colored ancestors possibly prove a Tlaxcalan genealogy?

The “pure Indians” of Almoloya, as they called themselves in their initial petition and subsequent documents, relied on genealogy to stake their claims. The petitioners upheld proof of ancestry as a prerequisite for exercising privileges, a legal argument favored by Indian elites at the time. The use of the term “degeneración” in the petition drew on an older rhetoric of purity as well as hereditary concepts that would become popular in the nineteenth century. The repeated references to the “mixed nature” and “inferior calidad” of these individuals undermined their authority as caciques. Indeed, cacique status was predicated on publicly regarded and written genealogies. These ideas rested on the genealogical concept of limpieza de sangre, or blood purity, which had risen to prominence as a form of communal memory following mass conversions of Jews in medieval Iberia. In New Spain, limpieza de sangre would evolve to equate genealogical impurity with the presence of African ancestry as well. Pitting the idea of an inferior, mixed, and mulato calidad against Indian purity, the petitioners used the language of genealogy to upend local hierarchies.

The case of Almoloya shows the prominent place genealogy took in disputes involving local privileges, rivalries, and migration from the 1780s to the 1800s. Ordinary people who engaged in those disputes were well aware of it. In Almoloya’s surrounding jurisdiction, between 1781 and 1788 the number of mulato tributaries nearly doubled, while the number of Indian tributaries dropped by 10 percent. On a register made at the end of the year 1800, no caciques were listed at all, though 407 Indians and 21 mulatos were registered as reserved from payment. The Almoloya caciques failed to prove their genealogy and thus became (or had always been, in…

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