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

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


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?…

Read the entire article here.

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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


  • 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.

Read or purchase the article here.

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For dark-skinned Mexicans, taint of discrimination lingers

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-04-28 05:53Z by Steven

For dark-skinned Mexicans, taint of discrimination lingers

McClatchy DC: Watching Washington and the World

Tim Johnson, McClatchy Foreign Staff

MEXICO CITY — Flip through the print publications exalting the activities of Mexico’s high society and there’s one thing you rarely find: dark-skinned people.

No matter that nearly two-thirds of Mexicans consider themselves moreno, the Spanish word for dark.

Mexico has strong laws barring discrimination based on skin color or ethnicity, but the practices of public relations firms and news media lag behind, promoting the perception that light skin is desirable and dark skin unappealing.

The issue came to the fore this month when a casting call for a television spot for Mexico’s largest airline stated flatly that it wanted “no one dark,” sparking outrage on social media and, ultimately, embarrassed apologies.

“I’d never seen anything that aggressive and that clear, all in capital letters: ‘NO ONE DARK,’” said Tamara de Anda, a magazine editor. “I decided to go with it.”…

…But the distance between legalities and practice is substantial, said Mario Arriagada Cuadriello, a doctoral candidate in comparative politics at the London School of Economics. He is an editor at Nexos, a leading cultural and political magazine.

When Arriagada published an article in this month’s issue about widespread discrimination in Mexico, he received a flurry of responses.

“People wrote to say that if you are light-skinned, you get better treatment in restaurants,” he said. One person told him that in an exclusive area of the capital, residents ask that their dark-skinned domestic servants not walk in the common gardens “because it is anti-aesthetic and makes the areas ugly.”

One of Mexico’s most prominent intellectuals from the early 20th century, Jose Vasconcelos, held up the mestizo, or person of mixed Indian and European blood, as part of a superior “cosmic race” with greater spiritual values…

Read the entire article here.

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The Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies inaugural issue is now available

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Communications/Media Studies, History, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mexico, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Philosophy, Social Science, United States on 2014-03-11 22:18Z by Steven

The Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies inaugural issue is now available

Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies
Volume 1, Number 1 (2014-01-30)
ISSN: 2325-4521

Laura Kina, Associate Professor Art, Media and Design and Director Asian American Studies
DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois

G. Reginald Daniel, Professor of Sociology
University of California at Santa Barbaral

Saya Woolfalk, video still from “The Emphathics,” 2012.

The Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies inaugural issue is now available. Volume 1, No. 1, 2014 “Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies” It has been a long journey from the publication of Maria Root’s groundbreaking and award-winning anthology Mixed People in America (1992) to the inauguration of the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies. We would like to thank all of our contributors, volunteers, and editorial review board for their hard work and patience. We hope you enjoy this issue of the journal and find it an informative resource on the topic of mixed race identities and experiences.

G. Reginald Daniel, Editor in Chief

Laura Kina, Managing Editor

The Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies (JCMRS) is a peer-reviewed online journal dedicated to Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS). Launched in 2011, it is the first academic journal explicitly focused on Critical Mixed Race Studies. Sponsored by UC Santa Barbara’s Sociology Department, JCMRS is hosted on the eScholarship Repository, which is part of the eScholarship initiative of the California Digital Library.

Table of Contents

  • Front Matter
  • Cover Art
  • Table of Contents
  • Editor’s Note / Daniel, G. Reginald
  • Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies / Daniel, G. Reginald; Kina, Laura; Dariotis, Wei Ming; Fojas, Camilla
  • Appendix A: Publications from 1989 to 2004 / Riley, Steven F.
  • Appendix B: Publications from 2005 to 2013 / Riley, Steven F.


  • “Historical Origins of the One-Drop Racial Rule in the United States” / Jordan, Winthrop D. (Edited by Spickard, Paul)
  • “Reconsidering the Relationship Between New Mestizaje and New Multiraciality as Mixed-Race Identity Models / Turner, Jessie D.
  • “Critical Mixed Race Studies: New Directions in the Politics of Race and Representation / Jolivétte, Andrew J.
  • “‘Only the News They Want to Print': Mainstream Media and Critical Mixed-Race Studies” / Spencer, Rainier
  • “The Current State of Multiracial Discourse” / McKibbin, Molly Littlewood
  • “Slimy Subjects and Neoliberal Goods: Obama and the Children of Fanon” / McNeil, Daniel

Book Reviews

  • Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, When Half Is Whole: Multiethnic Asian Americans Identities / Crawford, Miki Ward
  • Ralina Joseph, Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial / Elam, Michele
  • Greg Carter, The United States of the United Races: A Utopian History of Racial Mixing / Mount, Guy Emerson
  • Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr., Becoming Mexipino: Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego / Schlund-Vials, Cathy J.

About the Contributors

  • About the Contributors
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Identity Politics of the Captivity Narrative after 1848

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs, United States on 2014-02-20 07:40Z by Steven

Identity Politics of the Captivity Narrative after 1848

University of Nebraska Press
160 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8032-4400-9
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8032-2067-6

Andrea Tinnemeyer, English Teacher
The College Prepartory School, Oakland, California

Andrea Tinnemeyer’s book examines the nineteenth-century captivity narrative as a dynamic, complex genre that provided an ample medium for cultural critique, a revision of race relations, and a means of elucidating the U.S.–Mexican War’s complex and often contradictory significance in the national imagination.

The captivity narrative, as Tinnemeyer shows, addressed questions arising from the incorporation of residents in the newly annexed territory. This genre transformed its heroine from the quintessential white virgin into the Mexican maiden in order to quell anxieties over miscegenation, condone acts furthering Manifest Destiny, or otherwise romanticize the land-grabbing nature of the war and of the opportunists who traveled to the Southwest after 1848. Some of these narratives condone and even welcome interracial marriages between Mexican women and Anglo-American men.

By understanding marriage for love as an expression of free will or as a declaration of independence, texts containing interracial marriages or romanticizing the U.S.–Mexican War could politicize the nuptials and present the Anglo-American husband as a hero and rescuer. This romanticizing of annexation and cross-border marriages tended to feminize Mexico, making the country appear captive and in need of American rescue and influencing the understanding of “foreign” and “domestic” by relocating geographic and racial boundaries.

In addition to examining more conventional notions of captivity, Tinnemeyer’s book uses war song lyrics and legal cases to argue that “captivity” is a multivalenced term encompassing desire, identity formation, and variable definitions of citizenship.

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(Re)mapping the Borderlands of Blackness: Afro-Mexican Consciousness and the Politics of Culture

Posted in Anthropology, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2014-01-16 19:53Z by Steven

(Re)mapping the Borderlands of Blackness: Afro-Mexican Consciousness and the Politics of Culture

Duke University
233 pages

Talia Weltman-Cisneros

Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Romance Studies in the Graduate School of Duke University

The dominant cartography of post-Revolutionary Mexico has relied upon strategic constructions of a unified and homogenized national and cultural consciousness (mexicanidad), in order to invent and map a coherent image of imagined community. These strategic boundaries of mexicanidad have also relied upon the mapping of specific codes of being and belonging onto the Mexican geo-body. I argue that these codes have been intimately linked to the discourse of mestizaje, which, in its articulation and operation, has been fashioned as a cosmic tool with which to dissolve and solve the ethno-racial and social divisions following the Revolution, and to usher a unified mestizo nation onto a trajectory towards modernity.

However, despite its rhetoric of salvation and seemingly race-less/positivistic articulation, the discourse of mestizaje has propagated an uneven configuration of mexicanidad in which the belonging of certain elements have been coded as inferior, primitive, problematic, and invisible. More precisely, in the case of Mexicans of African descent, this segment of the population has also been silenced and dis-placed from this dominant cartography.

This dissertation examines the coding of blackness and its relationship with mexicanidad in specific sites and spaces of knowledge production and cultural production in the contemporary era. I first present an analysis of this production immediately in the period following the Revolution, especially from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, a period labeled as the “cultural phase of the Mexican Revolution.” This time period was strategic in manufacturing and disseminating a precise politics of culture that was used to reflect this dominant configuration and cartography of mexicanidad. That is, the knowledge and culture produced during this time imbedded and displayed codes of being and belonging, which resonated State projects and narratives that were used to define and secure the boundaries of a unified, mestizo imaginary of mexicanidad. And, it is within this context that I suggest that blackness has been framed as invisible, problematic, and foreign. For example, cultural texts such as film and comics have served as sites that have facilitated the production and reflection of this uneasy relationship between blackness and mexicanidad. Moreover, this strained and estranged relationship has been further sustained by the nationalization and institutionalization of knowledge and culture related to the black presence and history in Mexico. From the foundational text La raza cósmica, written in 1925 by José Vasconcelos, to highly influential corpuses produced by Mexican anthropologists during this post-Revolutionary period, the production of knowledge and the production of culture have been intimately tied together within an uneven structure of power that has formalized racialized frames of reference and operated on a logic of coloniality. As a result, today it is common to be met with the notion that “no hay negros en México” (there are no blacks in Mexico).

Yet, on the contrary, contemporary Afro-Mexican artists and community organizations within the Costa Chica region have been engaging a different cultural politics that has been serving as a tool of place-making and as a decolonization of codes of being and belonging. In this regard, I present an analysis of contemporary Afro-Mexican cultural production, specifically visual arts and radio, that present a counter-cartography of the relationship between blackness and mexicanidad. More specifically, in their engagement of the discourse of cimarronaje (maroonage), I propose that these sites of cultural production also challenge, re-think, re-imagine, and re-configure this relationship. I also suggest that this is an alternative discourse of cimarronaje that functions as a decolonial project in terms of the reification and re-articulation of afromexicanidad (Afro-Mexican-ness) as a dynamic and pluri-versal construction of being and belonging. And, thus, in their link to community programs and social action initiatives, this contemporary cultural production also strives to combat the historical silence, dis-placement, and discrimination of the Afro-Mexican presence in and contributions to the nation. In turn, this dissertation offers an intervention in the making of and the relationships between race, space and place, and presents an interrogation of the geo-politics and bio-politics of being and belonging in contemporary Mexico.


  • Abstract
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Mapping Blackness Elsewhere: Mestizaje, Anthropology, and the Coloniality of Knowledge
    • 1.1 Mestizaje and the Mapping of Blackness Beyond the Borders of Modern Mexicanidad
    • 1.2 Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran: The Production of Knowledge and the Anthropological (Dis)placement of Blackness in Post-Revolutionary Mexico
    • 1.3 Recuerdos del Jarocho: The Museumification of Blackness
    • 1.4 The Coloniality of Knowledge and the Dis-placement of Blackness
  • Chapter Two: Forjando Patria: Framing and Performing Blackness in the “Golden Age” of Mexican Culture
    • 2.1 Memin Pinguin: Dis-locating Blackness
    • 2.2 Angelitos negros: Absorbing Blackness and Saving the National Family
    • 2.3 Al son del mambo: Discovering and Modernizing the Primitive Place of Blackness
    • 2.4 On Framing Blackness and Popular Culture as a Racialized Regime of Representation
  • Chapter Three; Cimarronaje Cultural: Towards a Counter-Cartography of Blackness and Belonging in Mexico
    • 3.1 Articulating the Place of Blackness in the Costa Chica
    • 3.2 Understanding Cimarronaje Cultural as a Counter-Cartography of Blackness and as a Place-Making Narrative
    • 3.3 Cimarronaje Cultural: Towards a Counter-Cartography of Blackness
      • 3.3.1 El Centro Cultural Cimarron
      • 3.3.2 Naufragio and the Work of Aydée Rodriguez Lopez
      • 3.3.3 Cimarron: La Voz de los Afromestizos
    • 3.4 Conclusions: Cimarronaje as a Decolonial Project
  • Chapter Four: Towards a Re-mapping of Blackness and Belonging in Mexico
    • 4.1 México Negro and the Encuentro de los Pueblos Negros: From Pluri-versal Networks to Social and Political Action
    • 4.2 Nomenclature, Identity in Politics, and the Re-thinking of Afro-Mexican Consciousness
  • Conclusions
  • Figures One-Six
  • Bibliography
  • Biography


  • Figure 1: Mural Painting, Centro Cultural Cimarrón
  • Figure 2: Mural Painting, Centro Cultural Cimarrón
  • Figure 3: Mural Painting, Centro Cultural Cimarrón
  • Figure 4: Naufragio, Aydée Rodriguez Lopez
  • Figure 5: Naufragio, Aydée Rodriguez Lopez
  • Figure 6: Naufragio, Aydée Rodriguez Lopez

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Chinese in Latin America

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2013-12-28 23:26Z by Steven

Chinese in Latin America

Außereuropäische Geschichte

Dorothea A. L. Martin, Professor of History
Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina

These books join a growing body of literature on the importance of transpacific migration to Latin America. Two monographs deal with Chinese on the U.S. – Mexican borderlands, covering overlapping time periods and with different emphases. The third, edited work, is a reprint of Volume 5 Number 1 of the “Journal of Chinese Overseas” and a well deserved first for that journal. All make reference to the earlier period of the “coolie trade” when both Chinese and South Asians workers came on indentured contracts, but mainly focus on the period after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which severely restricted Chinese immigration into the U.S. and redirected many immigrants to other states in the Americas.

These works enhance our understanding of the rich history of global labor migration. Most readers are familiar with migration from Europe to the Americas but less so with the diasprodic experiences of Chinese mostly from coastal areas of South China. Their cultural, linguistic and racial differences set them apart setting the stage for the anti-Chinese movements especially in difficult economic and political times.

Schiavone Camacho has eight chapters organized into four parts. Chapters 1-4 deal chronologically with the arrival and settlement of Chinese in Northwestern Mexico and then their removal. Initially, they came to Sonora to work in mines and help build railroads. They were followed by others excluded from entry into the U.S. Goods from China helped them win local customers and soon they competed with Mexican retailers to serve not only town residents but to supply goods for mining companies. “Chinos” were subjected to a string of derogatory names in all of the areas of Latin America. In the period of the Mexican Revolution (1910-12) nationalist rhetoric dominated by ideas of race and “mestizaje” left no place for Chinese, especially in Sonora, a hotbed of revolutionary zeal and home to many of Mexico’s post-revolutionary leaders. Chinese who legally married or took local women in common union were especially targeted. Such women were openly insulted as sluts and their children were ostracized. Economic stress of the Great Depression, the author argues, caused anti-Chinese sentiment to rise again as many Mexican male workers were forcefully returned home from the U.S. Chinese were blamed for no jobs or available women for then. Expulsion by force of law and violence made most Chinese flee, taking their wives and children with them. Most returned to China, many with the aid of US Immigration Authorities who held them at the border and paid for their transportation back to China. Others re-migrated to other parts of Latin America.

Chapters 5-8 document the struggle of the Mexican wives and their mixed blood children to retain or create their Chinese-Mexican identities in the context of their husbands’ reverse diaspora. Often, Chinese men already had Chinese wives; Mexican wives and their children struggled. Ties to the Catholic Church helped them organize, but neither Mexico nor China saw them as citizens. Prompted by political changes within both China and Mexico in the late 1930s, repatriation attempts began and continued through the war years, increasing after the Communist victory in 1949 and even into the 1960s. Personal stories of women’s struggles in this process give depth to the social and political reality women faced.

Grace Pena Delgado covers similar issues, but mainly from the vantage point across the U.S./Mexican border. The book has six chapters with an insightful introduction that addresses and defines key concepts such as “borderlands” and “fronterizos” and points out the failure of both Mexican and U.S. historians to include the lived experiences of Chinese in this region. Chapters 1 and 2 cover the arrival and establishment of Chinese within the border regions. Initially, new arrivals hoped to use the fluid border to thwart the Chinese Exclusion Act. As security along the Arizona – Sonora border increased, the Mexican side became a settlement area. Nevertheless, extended family and old-country regional connections kept cross border ties strong. Claims to Mexican citizenship also allowed back and forth movements. Chapter 3 chronicles the increased crack-down on illegal Chinese entry into the U.S. in the early 20th century, noting that the Canadian border was also a path for illegal entry.

Chapters 4-6 explore the dynamics of Mexican anti-Chinese movements demonizing Chinese as racial polluters, after Porfirian liberalism yielded to the revolutionary nationalism of 1911-12. Sonora State prohibitions on marriage and loss of citizenship for women who married made the issue a moral as well as political one. Delgado focuses on legal measures used in conjunction with the anti-Chinese rhetoric of politicians, the press and businessmen on both sides of the border. A brief lull in the 1920s ended abruptly in the 1930s as Sonorans began to empty their territory of Chinese. Fleeing across the border resulted in deportation to China and led to the “unmaking” of Chinese Mexicans in border region.

The third book contains a short introduction by Look Lai and eight chapters grouped into three parts. Edward Slack, Jr.’s article constitutes Part I, “The Early Colonial Period”. Slack provides an interesting overview of the earliest Chinese movements into Mexico, when New Spain’s silver was used to purchase Chinese products first from Chinese traders in Manila then later directly from agents in South China. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Slack speculates that over 100,000 Asians [all called “chinos”] came to Mexico as immigrants or sailors. Before the mid-19th century, most of these migrants were in the coastal areas around Acapulco or Veracruz or around Mexico City, Puebla and other population centers in the south. These male migrants married into the indigenous or African populations and over time became part of the lower caste in the colonial social hierarchy even as they “Sinofied New Spain.” Chinese textiles, porcelains, and architectural influences were often of higher quality and volume than what reached Europe…

Read the entire review of the books here.

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The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2013-12-28 22:43Z by Steven

The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean

256 pages
Paperback ISBN13: 9789004182134
E-ISBN: 9789004193345

Edited by:

Walton Look Lai, Professor of Anthropology
Chinese University of Hong Kong

Chee-Beng Tan, former Lecturer in History
University of the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago

The Chinese migration to the Latin America/Caribbean region is an understudied dimension of the Asian American experience. There are three distinct periods in the history of this migration: the early colonial period (pre-19th century), when the profitable three-century trade connection between Manila and Acapulco led to the first Asian migrations to Mexico and Peru; the classic migration period (19th to early twentieth centuries), marked by the coolie trade known to Chinese diaspora studies; and the renewed immigration of the late 20th century to the present. Written by specialists on the Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean, this book tells the story of Asian migration to the Americas and contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the Chinese in this important part of the world.


  • Introduction: The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean / Walton Look Lai
    • Chapter One Sinifying New Spain: Cathay’s Influence on Colonial Mexico via the Nao de China / Edward R. Slack, Jr.
    • Chapter Two Asian Diasporas and Tropical Migration in the Age of Empire: A Comparative Overview / Walton Look Lai
    • Chapter Three Indispensable Enemy or Convenient Scapegoat? A Critical Examination of Sinophobia in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1870s to 1930s / Evelyn Hu-DeHart
    • Chapter Four The Chinese of Central America: Diverse Beginnings, Common Achievements / St. John Robinson
    • Chapter Five Report: Archives of Biography and History in the God of Luck: A Conversation with Ruthanne Lum McCunn / Lisa Yun
    • Chapter Six Tusans (tusheng) and the Changing Chinese Community in Peru / Isabelle Lausent-Herrera
    • Chapter Seven Old Migrants, New Immigration and Anti-Chinese Discourse in Suriname / Paul B. Tjon Sie Fat
    • Chapter Eight The Revitalization of Havana’s Chinatown: Invoking Chinese Cuban History / Kathleen López
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Afro-Mexico: Dancing between Myth and Reality by Anita González (review)

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico on 2013-12-15 02:11Z by Steven

Afro-Mexico: Dancing between Myth and Reality by Anita González (review)

Latin American Music Review
Volume 34, Number 2, Fall/Winter 2013
pages 288-291
DOI: 10.1353/lat.2013.0019

Alex E. Chávez, Visiting Assistant Professor
Latin American and Latino Studies Program
University of Illinois, Chicago

Anita González, Afro-Mexico: Dancing between Myth and Reality. With photographs by George O. Jackson and José Manuel Pellicer. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011. 183 pp. ISBN 978-0-292-72324-5.

In a mixed-race country like Mexico, being “black” means being part of an ethnic group, but in addition to the unstable inhabitations of racial identities, the richness of expressive culture therein also has much to do with carving out senses of community. With this understanding, González explores the cultural negotiations of Afro-Mexican identity in terpsichorean traditions throughout Mexico—with specific focus on Veracruz and the Costa Chica of Guerrero and Oaxaca. She elaborates on various quotidian dance practices embedded with an African cultural subtext of influence that demonstrates how socially and historically constituted ethno-racial constructions are voiced through performance. Taking cues from methodologies in performance, theater, and dance studies, she homes in on the communicative potential of the gesticulant. Moreover, she incorporates ethnography and relies on photographs to illustrate the dance forms.

Although there is existing scholarship that privileges broader socio-historical questions concerning the African diaspora in Latin America, studies focused on African-derived expressive forms in Mexico are few (Cruz Carretero, Martínez Maranto, and Santiago Silva 1990; McDowell 2000; Pérez Fernández 1990). In her efforts to show how Afro-Mexicans have been instrumental in cultural life in that country, González skillfully attends to the mobile history of ethnic encounter and exchange among Africans, indigenous groups, and the Spanish that has informed the hybridity of expressive forms and subjectivities over time. This approach in some ways gestures toward the types of analyses offered in Robin Moore’s Nationalizing Blackness (1997) and John Chasteen’s National Rhythms, African Roots (2004) in their own interrogations of the complicated nexus of performance, nation, and racial formation in Cuba and South America, respectively.

Mexico’s own fraught ideologies of mestizaje and mexicanidad constitute an officialized discursive field that has promoted a unified national culture by way of de-emphasizing localized and pluri-ethnic productions of subjectivity; and as it pertains to González’s study, this ideological scaffolding has obfuscated—if not entirely excluded—the African component. In this regard, apart from considering phenotype, González suggests that racial identities are also defined by geographic locale to the extent that “most Afro-Mexicans are unaware of the historical circumstances that explain their presence in Mexico,” which places particular importance on the cultural negotiations of social location as such (37).

At the core of Afro-Mexico lies González’s ambition to present a “diversity of perspectives about blackness” (103). She succeeds in this ambition as it relates to the dance forms in question. And by returning to the issues of archetype and stereotype repeatedly, she opens the door for considering the iterative relationship between racialization and performativity. Yet bringing the implicit connections between everyday life and institutionalized racial knowledges to the surface early in the book would have served in demonstrating more clearly how expressive culture fits within the arch of broader racial ideologies with implications for understandings of embodiment, performance, and the viscosity of race.

Nonetheless, the unique contribution of the book emerges from González’s own position of expertise as an artist and dancer so that when she contends that “the bent body posture and looseness of the upper body” in certain forms have aesthetic roots in African dance (66), her own bodily knowledge is involved in making that statement. Dances, she argues, consist of gestures within musical phrases. Possibilities for storytelling exist therein that “express social outlooks” (46). These stories unfold at different levels, from personal to communal, from political to mythical—often simultaneously. Her analysis likewise operates on several levels—form and content of the dance, musicality, historical roots, and ultimately the playing out of contemporary politics, since many of the dances are “theatrical scenarios that include attacks, public whippings, sexual overtones, and other disreputable acts” (40). Still, her descriptions in some ways beg for a more in-depth ethnographic rendering of these expressive flows to illustrate how they communicate beliefs and ideas, the very representations that become myths about blackness over time and how they unfold in relation to larger and contested understandings of nation and racial formation. Afro-Mexico is premised on the contention that in a society where ethno-racial identities are disputed, myths contain within them…

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