“Double Bind / Double Consciousness” in the Poetry of Carmen Colón Pellot and Julia de Burgos

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-01-27 19:28Z by Steven

“Double Bind / Double Consciousness” in the Poetry of Carmen Colón Pellot and Julia de Burgos

Cincinnati Romance Review
Volume 30 (Winter 2011)
pages 69-82

Sonja Stephenson Watson, Director of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program; Associate Professor of Spanish
University of Texas, Arlington

Carmen Colón Pellot and Julia de Burgos constructed a female literary poetics and created a space for the mulata as a writing subject instead of a written object in early twentieth-century Puerto Rican negrista literature. Because of their gender and the societal norms and limitations placed upon blacks, they each found it difficult to reconcile their heritage as mulatas in a white male Hispanic society. They each testify to the “double bind” of black female authors who strive to identify themselves as both women and as blacks. In her seminal article “Feminism and Afro-Hispanism: The Double Bind,” Rosemary Feal notes that the double bind of scholars when reading texts written by Afra-Latin American writers “is to uphold the dignity of all Afro-Latin American characters…while engaging in legitimate feminist practice” (30). Feal also notes that in order to study the intersection of race and gender in works by black Latin American female writers’s texts, we must adhere to the racial, historical, and social specificities in each country. She further explains that, “‘[a]lterity’ in feminist Afro-Hispanic scholarship has as its imperative the formulation of alternate interpretive practices, and it is through analyzing the link of race and gender that we can gain more complete access to that world of difference” (30). The double bind inherent in Afra-Hispanic literature is not only that of scholars but also of the authors themselves who comprise the focus of this study. The double bind of Colón Pellot and de Burgos compels us to return to W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal essay on double-consciousness, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), where he presented the problem of duality that plagued blacks at the turn of the twentieth century:

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, an American, a negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. (5)

Although Du Bois’s theory of double-consciousness does not include gender, it incorporates the problematic of race that African Diaspora figures continue to face in the twenty-first century. The double bind/double- consciousness of Colón Pellot and de Burgos is multiple and deals with their multiracial heritage as women of color. The present study examines the intersection of race and gender in both of their writings building upon the theoretical framework of double bind/double-consciousness as espoused by Feal and Du Bois. This analysis also builds on the work of Consuelo López Springfield and Claudette Williams who analyze the themes of gender and race separately in their studies on the single authors…

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Writing Africans Out of the Racial Hierarchy: Anti-African Sentiment in Post-Revolutionary Mexico

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mexico on 2012-02-13 00:20Z by Steven

Writing Africans Out of the Racial Hierarchy: Anti-African Sentiment in Post-Revolutionary Mexico

Cincinnati Romance Review
Volume 30 (2011): Afro-Hispanic Subjectivities
pages 172-183

Galadriel Mehera Gerardo, Assistant Professor of Latin American History
Youngstown State University

Over the past two decades scholars have examined Mexican racial ideology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They have paid particular attention to the positivist ideas propagated by Porfirio Díaz’s científicos in the late 19th century and the creation of the seemingly nationalist, antiimperialist concept of mestizaje most associated with post-revolutionary scholars in the early to mid 20th century (Castro, Hedrick, and Minna Stern). Most studies focus on the inaccurate, racist portrayal of indigenous people by the Mexican nationalist intellectuals of this era. They often note the influence of U.S. and European scientific racism, particularly Social Darwinism, on Mexicans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They rarely emphasize the absence of Africans in Mexican intellectuals’ discussions of race, however. The absence or near absence of Africans in early- to mid-20th century Mexican discussions of race indicates as much about the attitudes of Mexican scholars as their emphasis on the indigenous past. Likewise, excluding Africans from the Mexican racial narrative was as significant to the creation of Mexican national identity as Mexican scholars’ depictions of native peoples. Mexican intellectuals “whitened” the imagined Mexican, simultaneously writing Africans out of Mexico’s history while challenging North Atlantic ideas about race and racial supremacy by promoting the mixing of European and indigenous peoples, offering what they believed was a distinct, nationalist vision of the racial hierarchy.

This article concentrates on three Mexican scholars and their discussions of Africans (or, in some cases, lack thereof) in their most significant essays. The first two—José Vasconcelos and Manuel Gamio—emerged among Mexico’s most important intellectuals of the revolutionary period. The third—Octavio Paz—became Mexico’s most influential literary figure a generation later. While he criticized many of the previous generation’s ideas, he embraced aspects of Gamio and Vasconcelos’s arguments. Moreover, in The Labyrinth of Solitude, widely considered the definitive work on Mexican character, Paz continued both the trend of integrating indigenous people as a means of ultimately eliminating them, and of “lightening” Mexico’s racial stock by avoiding acknowledging the presence of people of African descent in Mexico’s population and history.

This study consciously focuses on three individuals who at various times in their lives worked for branches of the Mexican government (usually educational) and in some cases even founded government institutions based on their ideas. Despite their antiimperialist, nationalist mentalities, all three spent periods of time living in the United States, often seeking refuge when their ideas fell out of favor with their own government. Both their experiences in the U.S. and the influence of North Atlantic ideas on their educations are significant for understanding each of these men’s assertions about race, and particularly their decision to render invisible Afro-Mexicans by writing them out of treatises on Mexico’s future. In contrast to the científicos who worked during the Porfiriato, these 20th century Mexican intellectuals considered themselves nationalists and intended their visions of the Mexican people’s future to counter the white supremacist ideology supported by Social Darwinism and embraced by U.S. intellectuals. Yet in ignoring the historical presence of Africans throughout Mexican history, Mexican intellectuals reified the North Atlantic vision of a racial hierarchy with Anglo-Europeans and Anglo-Americans at the top and Africans and indigenous Americans at the bottom. Many recent scholars have pointed out the racism inherent to the concept of mestizaje. However, these critiques have focused on Mexican intellectuals’ treatment of indigenous people. Emphasizing the exclusion of Africans  from the racial narratives underlines the nuances of Mexican racism in the first half of the 20th century. It also suggests how firmly entrenched North Atlantic ideas about race had become in Mexico by the 20th century.

Anti-African Sentiment

The history of Africans in Mexico spans as far back as the history of Europeans there. Africans took part in the conquest of Mexico and were present throughout the colonial period. Often they held significant intermediary roles as overseers, skilled craftsmen, and merchants. Both free and enslaved Africans could be found in colonial Mexico. As the colonial period progressed, Spaniards imported more African slaves to work as unskilled laborers in the semi-tropical sugar-producing regions around Veracruz, Acapulco, and parts of Guerrero and Oaxaca. Because more male than female slaves were imported, interracial unions regularly occurred in the colonial period, particularly between indigenous women and African men. As a result of the decline of slavery combined with racial mixing, by the time of independence only a small portion of Mexico’s population was considered “black,” although a significant portion of the mixed-race population likely had some African heritage (Meyer 164-6)…

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