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Racism



     Mexican TV commentator and WAISer Bruno López writes:
     I read Linda Nyquist's posting on the treatment of native peoples in Mexico. It's all true. I did a series on racism in Mexico a few years ago and documented cases of models who were paid by agencies more if they were of lighter skin. There are many terms to describe people who are not "criollos" or white. In Oaxaca they call Indians "yope", which I think means something or somebody inferior and useless. As part of the series we did a profile on a women who was getting married to somebody of lighter skin. Her family was happy because they felt they were getting into a process of "blanqueo" that the family skin would start to become whiter....

Ronald Hilton - 08/09/99


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     Linda Nyquist comments:
     This issue of skin color is very intriguing. In Mexico, even in indigenous families, the member with the lightest skin will be called "güero" (blond or light). Conversely, the darkest will be called "prieto" or even "negro", and the recipient of this usually does not like it at all! Light eyes are highly prized. In Mexican families, this emphasis on lighter skin continues. Oscar Lewis noted in The Children of Sanchez that Roberto, one of the sons, felt that his family discriminated against him because he was dark-skinned. I have heard mothers tell little children not to drink coffee, as it will "make them black."
     In my own family tradition, we have stories of trolls who inhabit the dark forests of Sweden. You have to really watch your babies, as troll mothers will sneak out of the woods and substitute a "little black troll baby" for your own. Actually, I feel really uncomfortable even repeating this!
     I believe there is/was a reference in Mormon theology referring to those gaining the celestial kingdom as needing to be "white and delightful."
     And, we should not forget the Mexican colonial system of "Castas" which identified dozens of race classes, with white on top (of course) and black at the bottom, with every conceivable combination in between categorized. It is well-documented that mothers, when registering their children in the church, which required registering race as well (i.e., criollo, zambo, indio, etc), would try to elevate the status of her child by registering "up" if the child were light-skinned.
     My comment: Actually, it is more complicated; see the posting on the Mayas. There are black Virgins and other deities in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, and since the independence period there has been a tendency to idealize Indian cultures, just as in French Africa there as been a cult of "la négritude".
     "Güero" or "huero" is a variant of "huevo," and means in Spain a bad or sterile egg. How it came to mean white in Mexico puzzles me. Perhaps it meant egg-colored. Perhaps it is of natuatl origin. "Zambo" is equally odd. In Spain it meant bow-legged, in Mexico it came to mean a mixture of Indian and black, in Brazil a mulatto (hence the English sambo), whereas in Venezuela it means a beautiful person.

Ronald Hilton - 08/10/99


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