Hispanics Identifying Themselves as Indians

Hispanics Identifying Themselves as Indians

The New York Times

Goeffrey Decker

At a festival June 26 in East Elmhurst, Queens, people from the Tlaxcala tribe of Mexico wore masks parodying the Spanish conquistadors.
Uli Seit for The New York Times

A procession of American Indians marched through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, on a weekend afternoon in early May, bouncing to a tribal beat. They dressed in a burst of colors, wore tall headdresses and danced in circles, as custom dictated, along a short stretch of the park.

But there was something different about this tribe, the Tlaxcala, and when the music ceased and the chatter resumed, the difference became clear: They spoke exclusively Spanish.

The event was Carnaval, an annual tradition celebrated by tribes indigenous to land that is now Mexico. And despite centuries of Spanish influence, the participants identify themselves by their indigenous heritage more than any other ethnicity.

When Fernando Meza is asked about his identity, “I tell them that I am Indian,” said Mr. Meza, a parade participant from the Tlaxcala tribe. “They say, ‘But you’re Mexican.’ And I say, ‘But I’m Indian.’ ”

Mr. Meza represents one of the changes to emerge from the 2010 census, which showed an explosion in respondents of Hispanic descent who also identified themselves as American Indians…

…“There has been an actual and dramatic increase of Amerindian immigration from Latin America,” said José C. Moya, a professor of Latin American history at Barnard College…

…“We are descendants from the original people of Tlaxcala,” said Gabriel Aguilar, a Ditmas Park resident. “Five hundred years ago, there is not territory known as Mexico. It’s just tribes.”…

…“Hispanic is not a race, ” said Mr. Quiroz, whose ancestors were the Quechua people, of the Central Andes. “Hispanic is not a culture. Hispanic is an invention by some people who wanted to erase the identity of indigenous communities in America.”…

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