Creating the Ideal Mexican: 20th and 21st Century Racial and National Identity Discourses in Oaxaca

Posted in Anthropology, Caribbean/Latin America, Definitions, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-10-22 20:38Z by Steven

Creating the Ideal Mexican: 20th and 21st Century Racial and National Identity Discourses in Oaxaca

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
September 2015
235 pages

Savannah N. Carroll

Submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

This investigation intends to uncover past and contemporary socioeconomic significance of being a racial other in Oaxaca, Mexico and its relevance in shaping Mexican national identity. The project has two purposes: first, to analyze activities and observations of cultural missionaries in Oaxaca during the 1920s and 1930s, and second to relate these findings to historical and present implications of blackness in an Afro-Mexican community. Cultural missionaries were appointed by the Secretary of Public Education (SEP) to create schools throughout Mexico, focusing on the modernization of marginalized communities through formal and social education. This initiative was intended to resolve socioeconomic disparities and incorporate sectors of the population into the national framework that had been excluded prior to the Mexican Revolution in 1910. While these efforts were predominantly implemented in indigenous communities located in the northern part of Oaxaca, observations from cultural missionaries related to social and educational conditions reveal ongoing disparities between what it means to be indigenous versus mestizo. The exclusion of moreno, or Afro-descended people from this state sponsored initiative indicates that blackness along with indigenity is otherized, with the primary difference being that Afro-descended Mexicans lack visibility.

To gain a better perspective of the historical and present significance of blackness, my project moves from the general to the specific to include José Maria Morelos, Oaxaca, an Afro-descended community that is isolated, has no tourist attractions or services, dirt roads, and little access to socioeconomic resources. Morelos was established by blacks who escaped slavery and lived independently in their own community. People in the town strongly identify with this history and its relation to their present condition. After speaking with local activists, it became apparent that rights that were supposed to be gained from the Mexican Revolution, such as land rights and public education, did not happen in Morelos, which adversely affects people’s prospects for socioeconomic advancement.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico: Defining Racial Difference

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs on 2016-10-22 20:04Z by Steven

Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico: Defining Racial Difference

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

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

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

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

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

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Too Black for Mexico — Cécile Smetana Photographs the Afro-Mexicans Stigmatized for the Color of Their Skin

Posted in Articles, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-10-17 00:07Z by Steven

Too Black for Mexico — Cécile Smetana Photographs the Afro-Mexicans Stigmatized for the Color of Their Skin


Photos by Cécile Smetana Baudier

31 year-old French-Danish photographer Cécile Smetana Baudier discusses Diaspora: Costa Chica, a subjective reportage from a coastal area of Mexico where Cécile lived with a minority ethnic group: the Mexicans of African descent. Her beautiful portraits and landscape photographs introduce us to this community living at the margins of their society, and sometimes victim of racist stereotypes.

Hello Cécile, thank you for this interview. What inspired your new series Diaspora: Costa Chica?

I was living in Oaxaca city in Mexico and was researching on a different project; however when I started working on it I never got a connection with the girls I was photographing. I was not in a very positive state of mind.

One day I was sitting at the dentist’s office. A lot of his clients where other photographers and therefore he had all these photography books on the table. I started looking through them and I stumbled across one about the Afro-Mexican community in Costa Chica, an area that expands from the state of Oaxaca to the coast of Guerrero. I didn’t know that there were any communities of people of African descent in Mexico and I started researching on the subject. I found the photos of Tony Gleaton, an American photographer who dedicated his life to portray Afro communities and I was very much inspired by him, which becomes very clear when comparing my own images to his…

Read the entire interview and view the gallery here.

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Slavery’s legacies

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, Social Science on 2016-10-04 00:30Z by Steven

Slavery’s legacies

The Economist


American thinking about race is starting to influence Brazil, the country whose population was shaped more than any other’s by the Atlantic slave trade

ALEXANDRA LORAS has lived in eight countries and visited 50-odd more. In most, any racism she might have experienced because of her black skin was deflected by her status as a diplomat’s wife. Not in Brazil, where her white husband acted as French consul in São Paulo for four years. At consular events, Ms Loras would be handed coats by guests who mistook her for a maid. She was often taken for a nanny to her fair-haired son. “Brazil is the most racist country I know,” she says.

Many Brazilians would bristle at this characterisation—and not just whites. Plenty of preto (black) and pardo (mixed-race) Brazilians, who together make up just over half of the country’s 208m people, proudly contrast its cordial race relations with America’s interracial strife. They see Brazil as a “racial democracy”, following the ideas of Gilberto Freyre, a Brazilian sociologist who argued in the 1930s that race did not divide Brazil as it did other post-slavery societies. Yet the gulf between white Brazilians and their black and mixed-race compatriots is huge…

…Of the 12.5m Africans trafficked across the Atlantic between 1501 and 1866, only 300,000-400,000 disembarked in what is now the United States. They were quickly outnumbered by European settlers. Most whites arrived in families, so interracial relationships were rare. Though white masters fathered many slave children, miscegenation was frowned upon, and later criminalised in most American states.

As black Americans entered the labour market after emancipation, they threatened white incomes, says Avidit Acharya of Stanford University. “One drop” of black blood came to be seen as polluting; laws were passed defining mixed-race children as black and cutting them out of inheritance (though the palest sometimes “passed” as white). Racial resentment, as measured by negative feelings towards blacks, is still greater in areas where slavery was more common. After abolition, violence and racist legislation, such as segregation laws and literacy tests for voters, kept black Americans down.

But these also fostered solidarity among blacks, and mobilisation during the civil-rights era. The black middle class is now quite large. Ms Loras would not seem anomalous in any American city, as she did in São Paulo…

…Both black and white Brazilians have long considered “whiteness” something that can be striven towards. In 1912 João Baptista de Lacerda, a medic and advocate of “whitening” Brazil by encouraging European immigration, predicted that by 2012 the country would be 80% white, 3% mixed and 17% Amerindian; there would be no blacks. As Luciana Alves, who has researched race at the University of São Paulo, explains, an individual could “whiten his soul” by working hard or getting rich. Tomás Santa Rosa, a successful mid-20th-century painter, consoled a dark-skinned peer griping about discrimination, saying that he too “used to be black”.

Though only a few black and mixed-race Brazilians ever succeeded in “becoming white”, their existence, and the non-binary conception of race, allowed politicians to hold up Brazil as an exemplar of post-colonial harmony. It also made it harder to rally black Brazilians round a hyphenated identity of the sort that unites African-Americans. Brazil’s Unified Black Movement, founded in 1978 and inspired by militant American outfits such as the Black Panthers, failed to gain traction. Racism was left not only unchallenged but largely unarticulated.

Now Brazil’s racial boundaries are shifting—and in the opposite direction to that predicted by Baptista de Lacerda. After falling from 20% to 5% between 1872 and 1990, the share of self-described pretos edged up in the past quarter-century, to 8%. The share of pardos jumped from 39% in 2000 to 43% in 2010. These increases are bigger than can be explained by births, deaths and immigration, suggesting that some Brazilians who used to see themselves as white or pardo are shifting to pardo or preto. This “chromatographic convergence”, as Marcelo Paixão of the University of Texas, in Austin, dubs it, owes a lot to policy choices…

Read the entire article here.

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For Affirmative Action, Brazil Sets Up Controversial Boards To Determine Race

Posted in Articles, Audio, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2016-09-29 20:17Z by Steven

For Affirmative Action, Brazil Sets Up Controversial Boards To Determine Race

Parallels: Many Stories, One World
National Public Radio

Lulu Garcia-Navarro, South America Correspondent

When the test scores came out, Lucas Siqueira, 27, was really excited. His high mark on the Foreign Service exam earned him a coveted position at Brazil’s highly competitive Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“They hire 30 diplomats a year and thousands of people sign up,” he says in fluent English from his home in Brasilia, the capital.

It was, he says, a great day.

Siqueira considers himself to be mixed race, known in Brazil as pardo, or brown.

“I consider myself to be a very typical Brazilian and I’ve always been very proud of it. In my dad’s family, my grandfather is black, my grandmother has Indian and white roots. And on my mother’s side they are mostly white, mostly Portuguese,” he said.

How he defines himself matters because he was required to self-identify on his application. In 2014, the government introduced a quota system for federal jobs. The affirmative action regulations require that 20 percent of all government positions be filled by people of color — either black or mixed race.

Lucas Siqueira identified himself as mixed race on his application for a job at Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government decided he wasn’t, and his case is still on hold. As part of the affirmative action program in Brazil, state governments have now set up boards to racially classify job applicants.
Courtesy of Lucas Siqueira

The problem came once the announcement of the appointments was made public…

Wide disparities

The legacy of the period can still be felt today. Even though the majority of the population is of African descent, only 5 percent of Afro-Brazilians were in higher education as recently as 10 years ago. Because of affirmative action, that number is now 15 percent. Vaz says these are hard won gains, but there is a long way to go.

“Only 5 percent of executives are black in Brazil, politicians, diplomats, all things, so the black people don’t access the space of power in my country. This is the real issue we have,” he says.

In the U.S., race is still largely determined by parentage because of the history of the “one drop rule,” where white institutions historically deemed a person black if they had even one drop of black blood.

In Brazil, he says, the criteria is different. Skin tone matters more than race, because so much of the population is mixed…

Read the entire story here. Download the story here.

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‘Pigmentocracy’ a Major Factor in Brazil, Venezuela Turmoil

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2016-09-29 01:25Z by Steven

‘Pigmentocracy’ a Major Factor in Brazil, Venezuela Turmoil

Fordham Law News: From New York City To You

Ray Legendre

A global audience watched Brazil unveil the 2016 Olympics earlier this month with a flashy, jubilant opening ceremony that celebrated its racial diversity and belied its ongoing political and economic strife. But acting President Michel Temer’s maneuvering in the months before the Games revealed a racial reality in South America’s most populous country that is anything but golden, Fordham Law School Professor Tanya Hernández said.

“It looked like a racial utopia during the opening ceremonies, but if you look at the cabinet this president has put into place there’s nary a dark-skinned person in the crowd,” said Hernández, associate director and head of global and comparative law programs and initiatives for the Center on Race, Law & Justice at Fordham Law. “You would think you were looking at Sweden, as opposed to Brazil, when you look at the cabinet.”

Temer’s rapid assembly of lighter-skinned cabinet members in the wake of President Dilma Rousseff’s suspension of powers in May highlights the implicit racial bias that exists in Brazil and other Latin American countries with large mixed-race populations. The so-called “pigmentocracy” considers “lighter as brighter” and more capable of excelling in government and other high paying jobs, said Hernández, author of Racial Subordination in Latin America. Lighter-skinned people, of European heritage, are also less likely to suffer the rampant violence and housing displacement as poor black citizens of African descent…

Read the entire article here.

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The Dominican Racial Imaginary: Surveying the Landscape of Race and Nation in Hispaniola

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs on 2016-09-21 12:33Z by Steven

The Dominican Racial Imaginary: Surveying the Landscape of Race and Nation in Hispaniola

Rutgers University Press
November 2016
200 pages
9 photographs, 2 figures, 2 maps, 8 tables
6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-8448-5
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-8447-8
Web PDF ISBN: 978-0-8135-8450-8
epub ISBN: 978-0-8135-8449-2

Milagros Ricourt, Associate Professor of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies
Lehman College, The City University of New York

This book begins with a simple question: why do so many Dominicans deny the African components of their DNA, culture, and history?

Seeking answers, Milagros Ricourt uncovers a complex and often contradictory Dominican racial imaginary. Observing how Dominicans have traditionally identified in opposition to their neighbors on the island of Hispaniola—Haitians of African descent—she finds that the Dominican Republic’s social elite has long propagated a national creation myth that conceives of the Dominican as a perfect hybrid of native islanders and Spanish settlers. Yet as she pores through rare historical documents, interviews contemporary Dominicans, and recalls her own childhood memories of life on the island, Ricourt encounters persistent challenges to this myth. Through fieldwork at the Dominican-Haitian border, she gives a firsthand look at how Dominicans are resisting the official account of their national identity and instead embracing the African influence that has always been part of their cultural heritage.

Building on the work of theorists ranging from Edward Said to Édouard Glissant, this book expands our understanding of how national and racial imaginaries develop, why they persist, and how they might be subverted. As it confronts Hispaniola’s dark legacies of slavery and colonial oppression, The Dominican Racial Imaginary also delivers an inspiring message on how multicultural communities might cooperate to disrupt the enduring power of white supremacy.

Table Of Contents

  • Preface
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
  • Chapter 2 Border at the Crossroad
  • Chapter 3 The Creolization of Race
  • Chapter 4 Cimarrones: The Seed of Subversion
  • Chapter 5 Criollismo Religioso
  • Chapter 6 Race, Identity, and Nation
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Becoming Creole, Becoming Black: Migration, Diasporic Self-Making, and the Many Lives of Madame Maymie Leona Turpeau de Mena

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Women on 2016-09-21 01:43Z by Steven

Becoming Creole, Becoming Black: Migration, Diasporic Self-Making, and the Many Lives of Madame Maymie Leona Turpeau de Mena

Women, Gender, and Families of Color
Volume 4, Number 2 (Fall 2016)
pages 171-195
DOI: 10.5406/womgenfamcol.4.2.0171

Courtney Desiree Morris, Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Pennsylvania State University

This article examines the complex life of one of the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s most charismatic but undertheorized figures, Madame Maymie Leona Turpeau de Mena. Relegated to the footnotes of UNIA history, the existing version of de Mena’s biography identifies her as an Afro-Nicaraguan immigrant who rose to the upper echelons of the UNIA. After years of serving as assistant international organizer and electrifying audiences throughout the hemisphere, she eventually assumed control of all the North American chapters of the UNIA, the editorship of the Negro World, and acted as Marcus Garvey’s representative in the United States and globally. Recently uncovered archival materials reveal that de Mena was actually born in St. Martinville, Louisiana, in 1879. How could such a prominent UNIA figure vanish from the historical record only to reappear and be so misunderstood? Part of the dilemma lies in the fact that de Mena appears to have intentionally altered the key elements of her biography to reflect her changing personal life and political commitments. This article maps de Mena’s shifting racial and political subjectivities as a transnational proto-feminist, moving through the landscapes of the U.S. Gulf South, Caribbean Central America, the U.S. Northeast, and preindependence Jamaica. It provides a critical corrective to de Mena’s existing biography and examines how black women moved through transnational political and cultural movements of the early twentieth century, authoring themselves into existence through intimate and public acts of diasporic self-making.

Read the entire article here.

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What is Afro-Latin America?

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

What is Afro-Latin America?

African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)

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

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

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

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

Read the entire article here.

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When Black Is Brown: The African Diaspora in Mexico

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

When Black Is Brown: The African Diaspora in Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, click here.

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