Parsing Race and Blackness in Mexico

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-10-30 16:02Z by Steven

Parsing Race and Blackness in Mexico

Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews
Volume 43, Number 6 (November 2014)
pages 816-820
DOI: 10.1177/0094306114553216a

Enid Logan, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Minnesota

Land of the Cosmic Race: Race Mixture, Racism, and Blackness in Mexico, by Christina A. Sue  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013. 234pp. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 9780199925506.

In Land of the Cosmic Race, Christina Sue offers an ambitious, data-rich ethnography set in the “blackest” area of Mexico: the port city of Veracruz. She asks how the local population understands and negotiates racial and national identity, and in particular, how they make sense of the tricky issue of blackness in Mexico. Sue is one of a comparatively small number of sociologists who study race relations in Latin America, as most scholarship in this area has come from the fields of anthropology and history. Though the study is grounded in Veracruz, Sue’s larger intent is to analyze racial dynamics in contemporary Mexico writ large.

Sue “centralizes the racial common sense” of Mexican mestizos, a population that she estimates to comprise up to 90 percent of the total (p. 6). Mestizo is a broad category including anyone of “mixed-race” ancestry: Spanish, indigenous, or African. And in large part because Mexico defines itself as a mestizo nation, almost everyone in Mexico identifies as mestizo as well. Within the broad racial category of mestizo, Sue states, there are crucial distinctions of color, which are too often ignored. She sets out to analyze these distinctions in her study.

She writes that Mexican mestizos negotiate the dynamics of race and color in “an ideological terrain littered with contradiction” (p. 18). While elite ideology asserts that racism in Mexico is non-existent, implies that there are no blacks in Mexico, and is officially celebratory of race-mixing (or mestizaje), the lived experiences of most Mexicans, Sue claims, are “replete” with contradictory attitudes and events (p. 5). Sue uncovers in her research a general distaste for intercolor relationships from the point of view of those whose racial capital they would degrade, a clear aesthetic preference for whiteness, and a wealth of strongly-held negative beliefs about blacks and…

Read or purchase the review here.

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Negro? Prieto? Moreno? A Question of Identity for Black Mexicans

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-10-26 17:33Z by Steven

Negro? Prieto? Moreno? A Question of Identity for Black Mexicans

The New York Times
2014-10-25

Randal C. Archibold, Bureau Chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean

JOSÉ MARÍA MORELOS, Mexico — Hernán Reyes calls himself “negro” — black — plain and simple.

After some thought, Elda Mayren decides she is “Afromexicana,” or African-Mexican.

Candido Escuen, a 58-year-old papaya farmer, is not quite sure what word to use, but he knows he is not mestizo, or mixed white and native Indian, which is how most Mexicans describe themselves.

“Prieto,” or dark, “is what a lot of people call me,” he said.

This isolated village is named for an independence hero, thought to have had black ancestors, who helped abolish slavery in Mexico. It lies in the rugged hills of southwestern Mexico, among a smattering of towns and hamlets that have long embraced a heritage from African slaves who were brought here to work in mines and on sugar plantations in the 16th century.

Just how many people are willing to share that pride may soon be put to the test as Mexico moves to do something it has not attempted in decades and never on its modern census: ask people if they consider themselves black.

Or Afromexican. Or “moreno,” “mascogo,” “jarocho,” or “costeño” — some of the other terms sometimes used to describe black Mexicans.

What term or terms to use is not just a matter of personal and societal debate, but a longstanding dilemma that the government is hoping finally to resolve…

Read the entire article and view the slide show here.

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Student Blog: Why questioning the existence of Afro-Mexicans is problematic

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-10-05 21:18Z by Steven

Student Blog: Why questioning the existence of Afro-Mexicans is problematic

Baker Institute Blog
Insight and analysis from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University
2014-08-25

Sharae DeWitt
Rice University, Houston, Texas

Race has been closely tied to Mexican identity since the Mexican Revolution in 1910. The national ideology is centered on mestizaje, referring to the mixing between Spaniards and indigenous peoples. According to this belief, true “Mexicanness” is linked to being mestizo, or someone who is exclusively of Spanish and indigenous descent. Some Mexicans believe in fact that racism in the country has been erased due to the mestizo heritage, but this belief overlooks the exclusion of African heritage and those of African descent living in Mexico from the country’s history and ideology.

Mexican society has all but ignored the historical presence and economic contributions of Africans, despite the fact that Mexico imported about 200,000 African slaves during the colonial period. Throughout Mexico’s history, Africans were viewed as the lowest race within the colonial caste system. Intellectuals and government leaders debated the economic merits and capabilities of Africans. In the end, Afro-Mexicans lost touch with their African roots as the ideal of mestizaje stipulated assimilation, and Mexico’s national identity was built around this concept. The black presence in Mexico was essentially written out of history after the war for independence and during the revolution, with the government only classifying people as white, Indian or mestizo…

Read the entire article here.

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Land of the cosmic race: race mixture, racism, and blackness in Mexico [Villarreal Review]

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-08-28 20:37Z by Steven

Land of the cosmic race: race mixture, racism, and blackness in Mexico [Villarreal Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1989-1991
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2014.920094

Andrés Villarreal, Professor of Sociology
University of Maryland, College Park

Land of the cosmic race: race mixture, racism, and blackness in Mexico, by Christina A. Sue, New York, Oxford University Press, 2013, xi + 234 pp., £15.99 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-19-992550-6

A powerful official ideology promoted by the Mexican Government since the early twentieth century glorifies the mestizo, defined as the descendant of both indigenous and Spanish peoples, as a symbol of national identity. This same ideology holds racism to be inexistent in contemporary Mexico, and negates the contribution of individuals of African descent to Mexican history and to the racial make-up of the nation. Despite the importation of many thousands of slaves during the colonial period, blacks have been essentially erased from the national consciousness. Christina Sue’s outstanding ethnographic study uncovers how Mexican men and women work to reconcile this official national ideology which they vehemently espouse, with their own lived experiences in which individuals with a darker skin tone are routinely discriminated in everyday life, and in which African ancestry is clearly evident in some regions of the country.

Research on racial attitudes in Indo-Latin American countries such as Mexico has focused mostly on the mestizo–indigenous dichotomy. However, Sue convincingly argues that distinctions along a colour continuum within the mestizo population have an important effect on individuals’ life chances. Framing discussions in terms of colour rather than race allows many Mexicans to make comparisons without violating the national ideology according to which racial classifications are no longer relevant.

In contrast to the official ideology of non-racism, Sue finds evidence of tremendous racial prejudice among her subjects in the coastal city of Veracruz. Veracruzanos with a lighter skin tone enjoy preferential treatment socially and in work settings. Employers often code their preference for workers with lighter skin tones by soliciting candidates with ‘good presentation’, a term whose meaning is fully known by job applicants. Racial prejudice is also evident within family units. Family members use a variety of gatekeeping techniques to prevent the entry of dark-skinned individuals into their families through marriage. A woman interviewed by Sue reports that her mother-in-law refuses to speak to her because she is darker than her husband (94). Veracruzanos also agonize over children inheriting the phenotype of a darker parent. Reflecting the disappointment that his daughter inherited his darker skin tone, one father notes: ‘I wouldn’t have cared if she was ugly like me, but I wanted her to have green eyes … like her mother or be light like her mother. But she came out ugly like me’ (74). As in other parts of Latin America, Sue finds that Veracruzanos systematically equate whiteness with beauty and higher social standing. Darker family members are routinely insulted and devalued, while lighter members receive more resources and attention…

Read the entire review here.

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Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Communications/Media Studies, Economics, Europe, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Latino Studies, Law, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, Social Science, South Africa, United States, Women on 2014-08-22 20:45Z by Steven

Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach

Oxford University Press
2014-08-01
528 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches
Paperback ISBN: 9780199920013

Tanya Maria Golash-Boza, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of California, Merced

Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach engages students in critical questions related to racial dynamics in the U.S. and around the world. Written in accessible, straightforward language, the book discusses and critically analyzes cutting-edge scholarship in the field. Organized into topics and concepts rather than discrete racial groups, the text addresses:

  • How and when the idea of race was created and developed
  • How structural racism has worked historically to reproduce inequality
  • How we have a society rampant with racial inequality, even though most people do not consider themselves to be racist
  • How race, class, and gender work together to create inequality and identities
  • How immigration policy in the United States has been racialized
  • How racial justice could be imagined and realized

Centrally focused on racial dynamics, Race and Racisms also incorporates an intersectional perspective, discussing the intersections of racism, patriarchy, and capitalism.

Table of Contents

  • List of Excerpts
  • Letter from the Author
  • About the Author
  • Preface
  • Part I: The History of the Idea of Race
    • 1. The Origin of the Idea of Race
      • Defining Race and Racism
      • Race: The Evolution of an Ideology
      • Historical Precedents to the Idea of Race
      • Slavery Before the Idea of Race
      • European Encounters with Indigenous Peoples of the Americas
      • Voices: The Spanish Treatment of Indigenous Peoples
      • The Enslavement of Africans
      • The Need for Labor in the Thirteen Colonies
      • The Legal Codification of Racial Differences
      • Voices: From Bullwhip Days
      • The Rise of Science and the Question of Human Difference
      • European Taxonomies
      • Scientific Racism in the Nineteenth Century
      • The Indian Removal Act: The Continuation of Manifest Destiny
      • Freedom and Slavery in the United States
      • Global View: The Idea of Race in Latin America
    • 2. Race and Citizenship from the 1840s to the 1920s
      • The Continuation of Scientific Racism
      • Measuring Race: From Taxonomy to Measurement
      • Intelligence Testing
      • Eugenics
      • Voices: Carrie Buck
      • Exclusionary Immigration Policies
      • The Chinese Exclusion Act
      • The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924
      • Birthright Citizenship for Whites Only
      • Naturalization for “Free White People”
      • How the Irish, Italians, and Jews Became White
      • The Irish: From Celts to Whites
      • The Italians: From Mediterraneans to Caucasians
      • The Jews: From Hebrews to White
      • African Americans and Native Americans: The Long, Troubled Road to Citizenship
      • African Americans and the Long Road to Freedom
      • Native Americans: Appropriating Lands, Assimilating Tribes
  • Part II: Racial Ideologies
    • 3. Racial Ideologies from the 1920s to the Present
      • Voices: Trayvon Martin
      • The 1920s to 1965: Egregious Acts in the Era of Overt Racism
      • Mass Deportation of Mexicans and Mexican Americans
      • Internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans
      • Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
      • Voices: Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu
      • The Civil Rights Movement and the Commitment to Change
      • Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
      • Sit-Ins
      • Freedom Rides
      • Old Versus New Racism: The Evolution of an Ideology
      • Biological Racism
      • Cultural Racism
      • Color-Blind Universalism
      • Global View: Cultural Racism in Peru
      • The Maintenance of Racial Hierarchy: Color-Blind Racism
      • Four Frames of Color-Blind Racism
      • Rhetorical Strategies of Color-Blind Racism
      • The New Politics of Race: Racism in the Age of Obama
    • 4. The Spread of Ideology: “Controlling Images” and Racism in the Media
      • Portrayals of People of Color on Television and in Other Media
      • Portrayals of Blacks
      • Portrayals of Latino/as
      • Research Focus: The Hot Latina Stereotype in Desperate Housewives
      • Portrayals of Arabs and Arab Americans
      • Portrayals of Asians and Asian Americans
      • Portrayals of Native Americans
      • Racial Stereotypes in Films
      • Global View: Racial Stereotypes in Peruvian Television
      • New Media Representations
      • Video Games
      • Social Media
      • Voices: I Am Not Trayvon Martin
      • Media Images and Racial Inequality
      • Raced, Classed, and Gendered Media Images
    • 5. Colorism and Skin-Color Stratification
      • The History of Colorism
      • Research Focus: Latino Immigrants and the U.S. Racial Order
      • The Origins of Colorism in the Americas
      • Does Colorism Predate Colonialism? The Origins of Colorism in Asia and Africa
      • The Global Color Hierarchy
      • Asia and Asian Americans
      • Latin America and Latinos/as
      • Voices: The Fair-Skin Battle
      • Africa and the African Diaspora
      • Voices: Colorism and Creole Identity
      • Skin Color, Gender, and Beauty
    • 6. White Privilege and the Changing U.S. Racial Hierarchy
      • White Privilege
      • Research Focus: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
      • Whiteness, Class, Gender, and Sexuality
      • Whiteness and Racial Categories in Twenty-First-Century America
      • Latino/as and the Multiracial Hierarchy
      • The Other Whites: Arab Americans, North Africans, Middle Easterners, and Their Place in the U.S. Racial Hierarchy
      • Multiracial Identification and the U.S. Racial Hierarchy
      • Voices: Brandon Stanford: “My Complexion Is Not Black but I Am Black”
      • Will the United States Continue to Be a White-Majority Society?
      • Global View: Social, Cultural, and Intergenerational Whitening in Latin America
      • Changes in Racial and Ethnic Classifications
      • Revisiting the Definitions of Race and Ethnicity
  • Part III: Policy & Institutions
    • 7. Understanding Racial Inequality Today: Socio logical Theories of Racism
      • Racial Discrimination, Prejudice, and Institutional Racism
      • Individual Racism
      • Voices: Microaggressions
      • Institutional Racism
      • Global View: Microaggressions in Peru
      • Systemic and Structural Racism
      • Systemic Racism
      • Structural Racism
      • Research Focus: Systemic Racism and Hurricane Katrina
      • Racial Formation: Its Contributions and Its Critics
      • White Supremacy and Settler Colonialism
      • Research Focus: Applying Settler Colonialism Theory
      • Intersectional Theories of Race and Racism
    • 8. Educational Inequality
      • The History of Educational Inequality
      • Indian Schools
      • Segregation and Landmark Court Cases
      • The Persistence of Racial Segregation in the Educational System
      • Affirmative Action in Higher Education
      • Educational Inequality Today
      • Research Focus: American Indian/Alaska Native College Student Retention
      • The Achievement Gap: Sociological Explanations for Persistent Inequality
      • Global View: Affirmative Action in Brazil
      • Parental Socioeconomic Status
      • Cultural Explanations: “Acting White” and Other Theories
      • Tracking
      • Social and Cultural Capital and Schooling
      • Hidden Curricula
      • Voices: Moesha
      • Research Focus: Rosa Parks Elementary and the Hidden Curriculum
    • 9. Income and Labor Market Inequality
      • Income Inequality by Race, Ethnicity, and Gender
      • Dimensions of Racial Disparities in the Labor Market
      • Disparities Among Women
      • Disparities Among Latinos and Asian Americans
      • Underemployment, Unemployment, and Joblessness
      • Voices: Jarred
      • Sociological Explanations for Income and Labor Market Inequality
      • Voices: Francisco Pinto’s Experiences in 3-D Jobs
      • Individual-Level Explanations
      • Structural Explanations
      • Research Focus: Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market
      • Affirmative Action
      • Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment 260
      • Global View: Racial Discrimination in Australia
    • 10. Inequality in Housing and Wealth
      • Land Ownership After Slavery
      • Residential Segregation
      • The Creation of Residential Segregation
      • Discriminatory and Predatory Lending Practices
      • Research Focus: The Role of Real Estate in Creating Segregated Cities
      • Neighborhood Segregation Today
      • Voices: A Tale of Two Families
      • Wealth Inequality
      • Inequality in Homeownership and Home Values
      • Wealth Inequality Beyond Homeownership
      • Explaining the Wealth Gap in the Twenty-First Century
    • 11. Racism and the Criminal Justice System
      • Mass Incarceration in the United States
      • The Rise of Mass Incarceration
      • Mass Incarceration in a Global Context
      • Race and Mass Incarceration
      • Global View: Prisons in Germany and the Netherlands
      • The Inefficacy of Mass Incarceration
      • Voices: Kemba Smith
      • Mass Incarceration and the War on Drugs
      • Race, Class, Gender, and Mass Incarceration
      • Institutional Racism in the Criminal Justice System
      • Racial Profiling
      • Sentencing Disparities
      • The Ultimate Sentence: Racial Disparities in the Death Penalty
      • Voices: Troy Davis
      • The Economics of Mass Incarceration
      • Private Prisons
      • The Prison-Industrial Complex
      • Beyond Incarceration: Collateral Consequences
      • The Impact of Mass Incarceration on Families and Children
      • The Lifelong Stigma of a Felony: “The New Jim Crow”
      • Research Focus: Can Felons Get Jobs?
    • 12. Health Inequalities, Environmental Racism, and Environmental Justice
      • The History of Health Disparities in the United States
      • Involuntary Experimentation on African Americans
      • Free Blacks as Mentally and Physically Unfit
      • Explaining Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity Today
      • Socioeconomic Status and Health Disparities by Race/Ethnicity
      • Segregation and Health
      • Research Focus: Health and Social Inequity in Alameda County, California
      • The Effects of Individual Racism on the Health of African Americans
      • Life-Course Perspectives on African American Health
      • Culture and Health
      • Global View: Health and Structural Violence in Guatemala
      • Genetics, Race, and Health
      • Voices: Race, Poverty, and Postpartum Depression
      • Environmental Racism
      • Movements for Environmental Justice
      • Voices: The Holt Family of Dickson, Tennessee
    • 13. Racism, Nativism, and Immigration Policy
      • Voices: Robert Bautista-Denied Due Process
      • The Racialized History of U.S. Immigration Policy
      • Race and the Making of U.S. Immigration Policies: 1790 to 1924
      • Global View: Whitening and Immigration Policy in Brazil
      • Nativism Between 1924 and 1964: Mass Deportation of Mexicans and the McCarran Internal Security Act
      • The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act and the Changing Face of Immigration
      • Illegal Immigration and Policy Response
      • The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA ) and Nativism
      • Proposition 187 and the Lead-Up to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (II RIRA)
      • The 1996 Laws and the Detention and Deportation of Black and Latino Immigrants
      • Voices: Hector, a Guatemalan Deportee
      • Nativism in the Twenty-First Century
  • Part IV: Contesting & Comparing Racial Injustices
    • 14. Racial Justice in the United States Today
      • Perspectives on Racial Justice
      • Recognition, Responsibility, Reconstruction, and Reparations
      • Civil Rights
      • Human Rights
      • Moving Beyond Race
      • Intersectional Analyses: Race, Class, Gender
      • Racism and Capitalism
      • Struggles for Racial Justice
      • Racial Justice and the Foreclosure Crisis
      • DREAMers and the Fight for Justice
      • Voices: Fighting Against Foreclosures: A Racial Justice Story
      • Racial Justice and Empathy
    • 15. Thinking Globally: Race and Racisms in France, South Africa, and Brazil
      • How Do Other Countries Differ from the United States in Racial Dynamics?
      • Race and Racism in France
      • French Colonies in Africa
      • The French Antilles
      • African Immigration to France
      • Discrimination and Racial and Ethnic Inequality in France Today
      • Voices: The Fall 2005 Uprisings in the French Banlieues
      • Race and Racism in South Africa
      • Colonialism in South Africa: The British and the Dutch
      • The Apartheid Era (1948-1994)
      • The Persistence of Inequality in the Post-Apartheid Era
      • Research Focus: The Politics of White Youth Identity in South Africa
      • Race and Racism in Brazil
      • Portuguese Colonization and the Slave Trade in Brazil
      • Whitening Through Immigration and Intermarriage
      • The Racial Democracy Myth in Brazil and Affirmative Action
      • Racial Categories in Brazil Today
      • Research Focus: Racial Ideology and Black-White Interracial Marriages in Rio de Janeiro
  • Glossary
  • References
  • Credits
  • Index
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On the Mexican Mestizo

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2014-07-05 21:10Z by Steven

On the Mexican Mestizo

Latin American Research Review
Volume 14, Number 3 (1979)
pages 153-168

John K. Chance, Professor of Anthropology
Arizona State Univerisity

No one with even a passing acquaintance with the literature on Mexican society, not to mention the rest of Spanish America, can fail to be impressed by the frequent use of the term mestizo. Despite its ubiquity in the writings of social scientists, however, the concept of the mestizo is customarily employed in a vague fashion and usually left undefined. This is especially evident in the work of anthropologists, who for many years have been preoccupied with defining the Mexican Indian but have rarely focused their analytical powers on the mestizo. The term itself has been used rather loosely to refer to a certain group of people who presumably comprise a majority of the Mexican population, a cultural pattern shared by these people and other Latin Americans, and even a personality type.

Ethnographers frequently refer to the communities they study as being either Indian or mestizo, but rarely do they provide enough information to allow us to decide whether these are viable identities for the people themselves or distinct cultural configurations. Usually, when used as an adjective, “mestizo” is simply a shorthand descriptive term employed by the investigator. In this context, it is little more than a catch-all designation meaning non-Indian and non-Spanish, sometimes implying as well an identification with Mexican national culture. One wonders how social scientists concerned with Mexico and its people could ever get along without the term, despite the fact that it is only infrequently used by Mexicans themselves. Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán remarks: “In all cases when [Mexicans] are explicitly asked if they consider themselves mestizos, only the educated ones, that is, the intellectuals or persons who have had contact with large urban centers, agree that they are; the ordinary person is not familiar with the term or gives it another meaning.”

It seems clear that the term rarely, if at all, refers to a viable ethnic identity in Mexico today. When called upon to distinguish themselves from people of indigenous background, Mexicans are more likely to call themselves gente de razon, gente decente, vecinos, catrines, correctos, or simply mexicanos. Yet it is obviously impossible to dismiss the concept of the mestizo altogether, for it has played an important part in the rise of Mexican nationalism, and the term itself appears frequently in historical documents, particularly those of the colonial period. This paper is not directly concerned with the current usage of the term among Mexicans themselves, nor will it deal with the concept as it is used by modern ethnographers. The goal is rather to clarify the place of the mestizo in Mexican history, particularly the colonial period. While most of the data presented pertain to a single city—Oaxaca, or Antequera in colonial times—it will be argued that a similar pattern probably existed in other cities of what was once known as New Spain. The basic contention is that the historical continuity assumed by many between the colonial and modern mestizo does not in fact exist if we pay close attention to how people were racially classified in Mexican cities during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries.

By far the most influential work in English that is based on this assumption is the chapter entitled “The Power Seekers” of Eric Wolf’s classic Sons of the Shaking Earth. Because Wolf’s portrait of the genesis of the mestizo and his role in the making of modern Mexico has been so influential, I will use it as a foil at many points for the development of my argument. The criticism of Wolf’s account, however, is not intended to belittle what I regard as a masterly synthesis of Mesoamerican culture history. Indeed, though it was written twenty years ago, Sons of the Shaking Earth remains remarkably current in many respects. But some of the ideas could stand revision, and this paper will attempt to show that Wolf’s treatment of the mestizo now needs to be reformulated in view of recent evidence…

Read the entire article here.

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Mexico boasts a staggering genetic diversity, study shows

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Mexico on 2014-07-02 01:45Z by Steven

Mexico boasts a staggering genetic diversity, study shows

Los Angeles Times
2014-06-12

Geoffrey Mohan

SHARELINES

▼ DNA offers a nuanced answer to what it means to be Mexican
▼ Ancient genetic signal survived conquest in Mexico
▼ Latino and Hispanic labels don’t do justice to Mexico’s genome

Writers, artists and historians have long pondered what it means to be Mexican. Now science has offered its answer, and it could change how medicine uses racial and ethnic categories to assess disease risk, testing and treatment..

The broadest analysis of the Mexican genome ever undertaken reveals a nation of staggering genetic diversity, where European conquest only thinly masks the ancestral DNA of Native Americans, and where some populations remain as distinct from one another as Europeans are from Chinese, according to findings published Thursday in the journal Science.

Forty researchers, who share Latino heritage as well as professional qualms over the significance of ethnic and racial categories, teamed up across borders to analyze more than 1 million variations in the building blocks of DNA. They examined more than 500 samples collected in Mexico’s remote Indian villages and polyglot cities, and from Mexican Americans in California.

“Because these populations are so rich, so genetically differentiated, you can’t just lump them all in,” said lead investigator Carlos Bustamante, a population geneticist and co-director of Stanford University’s Center for Computational, Evolutionary and Human Genomics. “You really have to embrace that diversity and think about doing medical genetic studies on a very large scale.”

To illustrate their point, the researchers compared their new genetic data with the results of lung function tests for children in Mexico City and Latinos in the San Francisco Bay Area. They discovered that pulmonary function varied in ways that were mirrored in DNA. It was as if someone with a fraction of Maya ancestry had lungs that were 10 years older than someone with a bit of northern indigenous heritage…

…Researchers not involved in the study, however, caution that correlations between disease risk and ancestry may not have much of a genetic basis at all. In many cases, they might mask socioeconomic or environmental factors — where and how you live.

The suggestion that differences in DNA are responsible for observed differences in lung capacity “is an enormous leap,” said UC Berkeley sociologist Troy Duster, who has written extensively on the intersection of race, biology and public policy.

Lundy Braun, an Africana studies professor at Brown University who studies the intersection of race and medicine, said medicine’s focus on genetics may be overshadowing other avenues of research.

“The effects of social class on lung function have been largely ignored in favor of the focus on race and ethnic difference,” she said.

Braun and Duster worry that such genomic studies may unwittingly lend legitimacy to widely discredited ideas about racial disparities.

“There is always lurking danger that this kind of research, which emphasizes the genetic structure of ethnic and racial groups, fuels the notion that the biology or genetics of those groups explains their condition,” Duster said…

Read the entire article here.

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Implications of Genetic Diversity in Mexico

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Mexico on 2014-07-01 01:13Z by Steven

Implications of Genetic Diversity in Mexico

Biopolitical Times
Center for Genetics and Society
2014-06-25

Pete Shanks

The category Latino is a valid cultural artifact, and often self-identified. But it’s not really a race in any modern sense of the term, and the genetic evidence surely shows that it is far too broad a grouping to be scientifically appropriate without serious qualification. Yet it is used, even in some current peer-reviewed papers.

One that does not use the term is an article published in Science this month on the genetics of Mexico. The country’s population is large and ethnically, linguistically, geographically, economically and culturally diverse. It is also genetically complex, and this article by a large and distinguished team of scientists provides new details. It also suggests some important implications for genomic research and likely for personalized medicine in general:

The genetics of Mexico recapitulates Native American substructure and affects biomedical traits

The study included 511 Native Mexican individuals from 20 indigenous groups, and 500 mestizo (mixed-race) individuals from ten states; nearly a million SNPs were analyzed for each. The variation was striking…

Read the entire article here.

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People from Mexico show stunning amount of genetic diversity

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Mexico on 2014-06-16 13:58Z by Steven

People from Mexico show stunning amount of genetic diversity

Science
2014-06-12

Lizzie Wade, Latin America Correspondent

Imagine if people from Kansas and California were as genetically distinct from each other as someone from Germany is from someone from Japan. That’s the kind of remarkable genetic variation that scientists have now found within Mexico, thanks to the first fine-scale study of human genetic variation in that country. This local diversity could help researchers trace the history of the country’s different indigenous populations and help them develop better diagnostic tools and medical treatments for people of Mexican descent living all over the world.

The team has done a “tremendous job” of creating a “blueprint of all the genetic diversity in Mexico,” says Bogdan Pasaniuc, a population geneticist at the University of California (UC), Los Angeles, who was not involved in the research…

…When the team analyzed the genomes of 511 indigenous individuals from all over Mexico, they found a striking amount of genetic diversity. The most divergent indigenous groups in Mexico are as different from each other as Europeans are from East Asians, they report online today in Science. This diversity maps onto the geography of Mexico itself. The farther away ethnic groups live from each other, the more different their genomes turn out to be.

But most people in Mexico or of Mexican descent these days are not indigenous but rather mestizo, meaning they have a mixture of indigenous, European, and African ancestry. Do their genomes also vary by what region of Mexico they come from, or has all that local variation been smoothed out by centuries of different groups meeting, mixing, and having babies?…

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The Color Of Health: Skin Color, Ethnoracial Classification, And Discrimination In The Health Of Latin Americans

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-06-02 19:00Z by Steven

The Color Of Health: Skin Color, Ethnoracial Classification, And Discrimination In The Health Of Latin Americans

Social Science & Medicine
Available online: 2014-06-01
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.05.054

Krista M. Perreira, Professor of Public Policy and Associate Dean Office for Undergraduate Research
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Edward E. Telles, Professor of Sociology
Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Highlights

  • Uses newly collected data on 4921 adults from Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, and Peru
  • Examines multiple measures of race/ethnicity and their associations with health
  • Finds significant skin-color gradients in self-reported health.
  • Finds significant skin-color gradients in class-based discrimination and low SES.
  • SES and class-based discrimination largely account for disparities in health by skin color.

Latin America is one of the most ethnoracially heterogeneous regions of the world. Despite this, health disparities research in Latin America tends to focus on gender, class and regional health differences while downplaying ethnoracial differences. Few scholars have conducted studies of ethnoracial identification and health disparities in Latin America. Research that examines multiple measures of ethnoracial identification is rarer still. Official data on race/ethnicity in Latin America are based on self-identification which can differ from interviewer-ascribed or phenotypic classification based on skin color. We use data from Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, and Peru to examine associations of interviewer-ascribed skin color, interviewer-ascribed race/ethnicity, and self-reported race/ethnicity with self-rated health among Latin American adults (ages 18-65). We also examine associations of observer-ascribed skin color with three additional correlates of health – skin color discrimination, class discrimination, and socio-economic status. We find a significant gradient in self-rated health by skin color. Those with darker skin colors report poorer health. Darker skin color influences self-rated health primarily by increasing exposure to class discrimination and low socio-economic status.

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