From Chains to Chiles: An Elite Afro-Indigenous Couple in Colonial Mexico, 1641–1688

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2015-05-05 01:25Z by Steven

From Chains to Chiles: An Elite Afro-Indigenous Couple in Colonial Mexico, 1641–1688

Ethnohistory
Volume 62, Number 2, April 2015
pages 361-384
DOI: 10.1215/00141801-2854356

Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva, Assistant Professor of History
University of Rochester

This article explores the life of an elite Afro-indigenous couple in the city of Puebla de los Ángeles during the seventeenth century. Through the study of a freedman, Felipe Monsón y Mojica, and his indigenous wife, Juana María de la Cruz, I propose a new approach to the study of the African diaspora in the urban centers of New Spain (colonial Mexico). By combining an extensive corpus of notarial, judicial, and parochial records with isolated references to Puebla’s Nahuatl-language annals, this article also sheds light on city-dwelling native women who married enslaved men. I argue that formal unions of this type held enormous social, political, and commercial potential for Afro-indigenous couples to emerge as new political actors and urban patrons. In particular, the Monsón de la Cruz household rose to a position of preeminence in pardo religious and military corporations through commerce in indigenous agricultural products.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Black Blood Brothers: Confraternities and Social Mobility for Afro-Mexicans

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs, Religion on 2015-04-12 01:30Z by Steven

Black Blood Brothers: Confraternities and Social Mobility for Afro-Mexicans

University Press of Florida
2006-05-30
304 pages
6 x 9
Hardback ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-2942-9

Nicole von Germeten, Associate Professor of History
Oregon State University

Celebrating the African contribution to Mexican culture, this book shows how religious brotherhoods in New Spain both preserved a distinctive African identity and helped facilitate Afro-Mexican integration into colonial society. Called confraternities, these groups provided social connections, charity, and status for Africans and their descendants for over two centuries.

Often organized by African women and dedicated to popular European and African saints, the confraternities enjoyed prestige in the Baroque religious milieu of 17th-century New Spain. One group, founded by Africans called Zapes, preserved their ethnic identity for decades even after they were enslaved and brought to the Americas. Despite ongoing legal divisions and racial hierarchies, by the end of the colonial era many descendants from African slaves had achieved a degree of status that enabled them to move up the social ladder in Hispanic society. Von Germeten reveals details of the organization and practices of more than 60 Afro-Mexican brotherhoods and examines changes in the social, family, and religious lives of their members. She presents the stories of individual Africans and their descendants—including many African women and the famous Baroque artist Juan Correa—almost entirely from evidence they themselves generated. Moving the historical focus away from negative stereotypes that have persisted for almost 500 years, this study is the first in English to deal with Afro-Mexican religious organizations.

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We are Afro-Mexican|”I am Blaxican”

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, United States on 2015-03-16 01:04Z by Steven

We are Afro-Mexican|”I am Blaxican”

Life as Karen: Just setting my soul free.
2015-03-12

Karen Salinas

This week I decided to interview my dad; my inspiration for this project. The interview was conducted in Spanish, the English version is translated!

Esta semana decidi entrevistar a mi papa; la inspiracion para este proyecto.

K: ¿De donde eres? Where are you from?

M: Soy de Santo Domingo Armenta, Oaxaca, pero me fui a Acapulco, Guerrero a la edad de 4 años

I am from Santo Domingo Armenta, Oaxaca, but I moved to Acapulco, Guerrero  when I was 4 years old.

K: ¿En que año te venistes a E.U? Y por que? What year did you migrate to the U.S, and why?

M: Vine a Estados Unidos en 1999, a lo que todos venimos, buscando una vida mejor para nuestras familias

I came to the U.S in the year 1999, for the same reason that we all come here for; a better way of life for our families.

K:  ¿Cuando la gente te pregunta sobre tu origen, que les dices? When people ask about your nationality, how do you respond?

M: Que soy Black-xican.

That I am Black-xican.

K: ¿Te identificas como “negro”? Do you identify yourself as “Black”?

M: Si, me identifico como negro Mexicano

Yes, I identify myself as a black- Mexican…

Read the entire interview here.

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Land of the Cosmic Race

Posted in Anthropology, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2015-03-08 01:34Z by Steven

Land of the Cosmic Race

Sociological Forum
Volume 30, Issue 1 (March 2015)
pages 248-251
DOI: 10.1111/socf.12157

Martha King
Graduate Center
City University of New York

Land of the Cosmic Race: Race Mixture, Racism, and Blackness in Mexico. Christina A. Sue. New York: University of Oxford Press, 2013.

In Land of the Cosmic Race: Race Mixture, Racism, and Blackness in Mexico, Christina A. Sue makes significant theoretical and empirical contributions to the field of racial and ethnic studies and to its growing subfield of comparative investigation. These contributions are more impressive because they stem from Sue’s dissertation and compose her first book. Her study is an ambitious ethnography exploring Mexicans’ negotiation of racial and national ideology at a micro level, as well as the themes of mestizaje (race mixture), racism, racial identity construction, and blackness in everyday discourse. Sue’s qualitative approach richly blends various sources: participant observation, interviews, and focus groups. Her fieldwork was conducted between 2003 and 2005 in Mexico’s urbanized Veracruz region, which lies on the coast southeast of Mexico City. As in comparable metropolitan areas in Mexico, the majority of residents are mestizo while a smaller proportion is indigenous. Veracruz, however, is unique because it is home to a higher proportion of people of African descent and its residents have more phenotypical variation. It was a major gateway for African slaves and has acted in recent years as an entry point for migrant black Cubans.

For much of Mexico’s colonial period, blacks outnumbered whites (p. 11). Finding segregation increasingly difficult to maintain because of race mixing, colonial authorities implemented a hierarchical caste system based on race, color, culture, and socioeconomic status with Spaniards at the top, then mixed-race individuals, Indians, and Africans at the bottom. During the postrevolutionary period, Mexican leaders and elites celebrated mestizo identity as the foundation of Mexican nationalism and distinction. This ideological turn was intended to cope with indigenous marginalization and social divisions and evade the period’s rampant scientific racism that would see Mexico as a less capable or worthy nation due to its black and indigenous population.

This postrevolutionary ideology is the foundation for Mexico’s contemporary national ideology. Sue describes contemporary national ideology as composed of three pillars. The first pillar is that of mestizaje, which upholds race mixture as positive and quintessentially Mexican (p. 15). The second pillar is nonracism, meaning Mexico is a country free of racism. Sue’s informants consistently confirm that because Mexico’s national identity is based on race mixture, then racism is inconceivable. The third pillar is nonblackness or the “minimization or erasure of blackness from Mexican national image, both as a separate racial category and as a component of the mestizo population” (p. 16). Sue argues persuasively that these three pillars are complementary in facilitating racial discrimination and the privileging of whiteness in Mexico.

Sue’s overarching question is how do individuals respond to, manage, and resolve the contradictions between Mexico’s national ideology and their daily experiences of white privilege and discrimination toward people of African descent (p. 5). Sue’s data persuasively show that mechanisms and discourse at the micro level play pivotal parts of reproducing ideology and social hierarchy in Mexico. Her work reminds us that elites do not, on their own, develop and maintain dominant ideologies. Instead, “the social force behind ideology lies in the popular realm” (p. 8)…

Read the entire review here.

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A Student Traveling Through Costa Chica Picked Up A Camera to Let Afro-Mexicans Tell Their Story

Posted in Anthropology, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Mexico on 2015-03-01 22:03Z by Steven

A Student Traveling Through Costa Chica Picked Up A Camera to Let Afro-Mexicans Tell Their Story

Remezcla
2015-02-25

Andrew S. Vargas

It’s Black History Month once again, and while it seems like every other day of the calendar year has been dedicated to some cause or another, the concept of Black history is particularly relevant to us as Latinos. With historically documented African populations from Buenos Aires up to Veracruz, including just about every country along the way, a new generation is starting to realize that our African heritage has been systematically erased from our national narratives over the centuries…

…One young filmmaker and anthropology student of Afro-Salvadoran descent, feeling sympathy for the plight of invisible Afro-Mexicans, took it upon himself to make a very independent documentary exploring Afro-Mexican identity in the coastal communities of La Costa Chica — a region spanning the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca that has the highest concentration of Afro-descendants in Mexico. Titled Así Somos: Afro Identities in the Coast, the short doc admittedly features an extremely raw and unpolished style, but director Andy Amaya does a fairly good job of letting his subjects speak for themselves as they reflect on experiences with discrimination, their Afro-linguistic heritage and labels like ‘negro’ vs. ‘afromexicano’…

Read the entire article here.

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Mestizaje and Public Opinion in Latin America

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2015-03-01 02:50Z by Steven

Mestizaje and Public Opinion in Latin America

Latin American Research Review
Volume 48, Number 3 (2013)
pages 130-152
DOI: 10.1353/lar.2013.0045

Edward Telles, Professor of Sociology
Princeton University

Denia Garcia
Department of Sociology
Princeton University

Latin American elites authored and disseminated ideologies of mestizaje or race mixture, but does the general population value them today? Using the 2010 Americas Barometer, we examined public opinion about mestizaje in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru using survey questions that modeled mestizaje both as a principle of national development and as tolerance for intermarriage with black or indigenous people. We found that most Latin Americans support mestizaje, although support varies by country and ethnicity. Across countries, we find partial evidence that the strength of earlier nation-making mestizaje ideas is related to support for mestizaje today, and that strong multicultural policies may have actually strengthened such support. Ethnoracial minorities showed particular support for the national principle of mestizaje. Finally, we discovered that the national principle of mestizaje is associated with more tolerant attitudes about intermarriage, especially in countries with large Afro-descendant populations.

Ideas of mestizaje, or race mixture, are central to the formation of many Latin American nations and are assumed to predominate in much of the region today (Hale 2006; Holt 2003; Telles 2004; Wade 1993). Concepts of mestizaje stress racial fusion and the inclusion of diverse racial elements as essential to the nation; hence mestizos, or mixed-race people, are considered the prototypical citizens. Although racial hierarchies characterize Latin American socioeconomic structures (Telles, Flores, and Urrea-Giraldo 2010), ideas of mestizaje have stood in contrast to ideas of white racial purity and anti-miscegenation historically held in the United States (Bost 2003; Holt 2003; Sollors 2000). While ideas of mestizaje emerged as Latin American state projects in the early twentieth century, they are often hailed as widely shared ideologies that are central to Latin Americans’ understanding of race and race relations (Knight 1990; Mallon 1996; Whitten 2003).

Despite Latin America’s diverse racial composition and the fact that an estimated 133 million Afro-descendant and 34 million indigenous people reside there, according to recent data—numbers far higher than in the United States (Telles, forthcoming)—racial attitudes in Latin America have, surprisingly, been understudied. Despite clues from ethnographic research, we lack nationally representative evidence on the general population’s feelings about mestizaje. In this article, we examine support for mestizaje and its variations across nation and ethnicity in eight Latin American countries with large nonwhite populations: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. These countries represent more than 70 percent of Latin America’s population and are home to the vast majority of both Afro-descendants and indigenous people in the region. We focused on two dimensions of the mestizaje ideology: as a national development principle and an individual intermarriage principle. The first, which is closely related to the national narratives developed by elites during nation making, maintains that race mixture is good for the nation. The second addresses tolerance for intermarriage in one’s family—often considered the ultimate marker of racial and ethnic integration (Alba and Nee 2003; Gordon 1964).

Our examination of eight Latin American countries provides new contexts for thinking about racial attitudes, beyond the large literature that is dominated by the case of the United States. Since racial meanings are context dependent, the study of Latin America may complicate social science understandings of racial attitudes more generally. As Krysan (2000, 161) wrote, “This complexity forces those who have developed their theories in an American context to take care not to rely too heavily on uniquely American values, principles, politics, and racial histories.” Latin America differs from the United States in that nothing like mestizaje ideology exists in the United States. Moreover, understanding racial attitudes is important because they may guide behaviors, even though attitudes are often more liberal than actual behaviors (Schuman et al. 1997). In particular, the degree to which the public embraces mestizaje may be important for understanding whether the ideology has implications for racial and national identity and democratic politics in Latin America, including whether the population would support or resist measures to combat racial discrimination and inequality…

Read the entire article here.

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Pigmentocracies: Educational Inequality, Skin Color and Census Ethnoracial Identification in Eight Latin American Countries

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2015-02-27 02:28Z by Steven

Pigmentocracies: Educational Inequality, Skin Color and Census Ethnoracial Identification in Eight Latin American Countries

Research in Social Stratification and Mobility
Available online: 2015-02-25
DOI: 10.1016/j.rssm.2015.02.002

Edward Telles, Professor of Sociology
Princeton University

René Flores
University of Washington

Fernando Urrea Giraldo, Professor of Sociology
Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia

Highlights

  • We use two measures of race and ethnicity – ethnoracial self-identification as used by national censuses and interviewer –rated skin color to examine educational inequality in eight Latin American countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.
  • We find that inequality based on skin color is more consistent and robust than inequality based on census ethnoracial identification.
  • Census ethnoracial identification often provided inconsistent results especially regarding the afro-descendant populations of Colombia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
  • Skin color inequality was particularly great in Bolivia and Guatemala.
  • Parental occupation, a proxy for class origins, is also robust and positively associated with educational attainment.
  • In other words, both class and race, especially as measured by skin color, predicts educational inequality in Latin America.

For the first time, most Latin American censuses ask respondents to self-identify by race or ethnicity allowing researchers to examine long-ignored ethnoracial inequalities. However, reliance on census ethnoracial categories could poorly capture the manifestation(s) of race that lead to inequality in the region, because of classificatory ambiguity and within-category racial or color heterogeneity. To overcome this, we modeled the relation of both interviewer-rated skin color and census ethnoracial categories with educational inequality using innovative data from the 2010 America’s Barometer from the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) and 2010 surveys from the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA) for eight Latin American countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru). We found that darker skin color was negatively and consistently related to schooling in all countries, with and without extensive controls. Indigenous and black self-identification was also negatively related to schooling, though not always at a statistically significant and robust level like skin color. In contrast, results for self-identified mulattos, mestizos and whites were inconsistent and often counter to the expected racial hierarchy, suggesting that skin color measures often capture racial inequalities that census measures miss.

Read the entire article here.

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Racial Passing in the U.S. and Mexico in the Early Twentieth Century

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, United States on 2015-02-06 21:58Z by Steven

Racial Passing in the U.S. and Mexico in the Early Twentieth Century

RSF Review: Research from the Russell Sage Foundation
Russell Sage Foundation
New York, New York
2015-01-22

This feature is part of an ongoing RSF blog series, Work in Progress, which highlights some of the ongoing research of our current class of Visiting Scholars.

During his time in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation, Visiting Scholar Karl Jacoby (Columbia University) is completing a book that examines the changing race relations along the U.S.–Mexico border at the dawn of the twentieth century. Drawing on interviews, archival research, and the unique biographical details of one individual in particular, his book will analyze the distinct systems of racial classification found in the two countries despite their geographical proximity, and show how the border shapes race relations in both countries.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Jacoby discussed the growing field of “microhistory,” and detailed his current research on the elusive figure of Guillermo Eliseo (also known as William Ellis), an African American who was able to “pass” as an upper-class Mexican in the United States, and whose life’s story sheds critical insight on the racial regimes of both Mexico and the U.S. during the Gilded Age.

Q. Your current research fits into a practice that some have called “microhistory”. What is microhistory? How do we connect these highly detailed narratives to larger social issues of a given era?

There is, alas, no precise definition of “microhistory,” perhaps because it is a relatively new approach, with no professional association, no journal, no annual meeting. My preferred way of thinking about it is as a small story that helps us to rethink the large narratives that we tell about the past. Microhistorians tend to be drawn to quirky, peculiar events (Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre) or people (Natalie Zemon Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre) that simultaneously demonstrate the cultural practices that prevailed in the past and the capacity of individuals to evade or reshape these practices. My account of William Ellis / Guillermo Eliseo, for example, sketches the increasingly confining limits that segregation imposed on African Americans after emancipation as well as the ways in which the color line could often prove unexpectedly porous.

Microhistory may focus on discretely bounded subjects, but its aspirations are expansive. The underlying concept is that by immersing oneself in places or peoples one can lend precision and particularity to what can otherwise seem like unduly broad or abstract generalizations, allowing for more accurate discussions of past social issues.

Q. You have focused on the curious case of Guillermo Eliseo, or William Ellis, an African American who was freed from slavery and went on to “pass” as a Mexican businessman in the US during the Gilded Age. What enabled his passing during this era? Was Ellis mostly an aberration, or was “passing” a widespread phenomenon?

Passing is a profoundly difficult topic to research because it was such a secret practice. As a result, unsurprisingly, estimates of the numbers of passers from Black to white at the turn of the last century are all over the map. Sociologists working in the early twentieth century, comparing the actual count of African Americans in the census with the expected count, computed that some 25,000 blacks were passing every year. Walter White of the NAACP, who often passed (temporarily) to investigate lynchings in the South, estimated in the 1940s that the total was closer to 12,000. Other commentators admitted that “[n]o one, of course, can estimate the number of men and women with Negro blood who have thus ‘gone over to white,’” although they hastened to add that “the number must be large.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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Passing the Line

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, United States on 2015-02-06 20:45Z by Steven

Passing the Line

Karl Jacoby
2012-12-20

Karl Jacoby, Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York

Who was Guillermo Eliseo?

Such was the question that any number of people asked themselves during the Gilded Age as this enigmatic figure flitted in and out of an astonishing array of the era’s most noteworthy events—scandalous trials, unexpected disappearances, diplomatic controversies. To many, the answer was obvious. The tall, exquisitely dressed figure with the carefully coifed mustache, was an upper-class Mexican—in fact “the wealthiest resident of the City of Mexico” and “a prominent Mexican politician.”

For confirmation, one needed to look no farther than his elegant appearance and his frequent journeys south of the border. Indeed, based on his connections with Latin America, he was widely believed to be, if not a Mexican, than a “Spaniard” or “a Cuban gentleman of high degree.” At least a few observers, however, ventured a quite different answer: despite the widespread acceptance of Eliseo’s “Latin-American extraction,” he was not of Hispanic descent at all. Rather, he was just “an ordinary American mulatto” named William (or W.H.) Ellis, who had managed to play an elaborate game of racial passing

Read the entire article here.

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Tracking the First Americans

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Mexico on 2015-01-11 00:25Z by Steven

Tracking the First Americans

National Geographic
January 2015

Glenn Hodges, Staff Writer

New finds, theories, and genetic discoveries are revolutionizing our understanding of the first Americans.

The first face of the first Americans belongs to an unlucky teenage girl who fell to her death in a Yucatán cave some 12,000 to 13,000 years ago. Her bad luck is science’s good fortune. The story of her discovery begins in 2007, when a team of Mexican divers led by Alberto Nava made a startling find: an immense submerged cavern they named Hoyo Negro, the “black hole.” At the bottom of the abyss their lights revealed a bed of prehistoric bones, including at least one nearly complete human skeleton.


Photograph by Paul Nicklen.  Set upside down to keep its teeth in place, the skull of a young woman found in an underwater cave in Mexico has put a face on the New World’s first inhabitants.

Nava reported the discovery to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, which brought together an international team of archaeologists and other researchers to investigate the cave and its contents. The skeleton—affectionately dubbed Naia, after the water nymphs of Greek mythology—turned out to be one of the oldest ever found in the Americas, and the earliest one intact enough to provide a foundation for a facial reconstruction. Geneticists were even able to extract a sample of DNA.


Photograph by Timothy Archibald. Re-Creation: James Chatters, Applied Paleoscience; Tom McClelland.  Divers who discovered her bones named her Naia. A facial reconstruction reveals that the first Americans didn’t look much like later Native Americans, though genetic evidence confirms their common ancestry.

Together these remnants may help explain an enduring mystery about the peopling of the Americas: If Native Americans are descendants of Asian trailblazers who migrated into the Americas toward the end of the last ice age, why don’t they look like their ancient ancestors?

Read the entire article here.

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