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Table of Contents
                            Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Racisms of the Present and the Past in Latin America
Part I: The Uses of "Race" in Colonial Latin America
	Unfixing Race
	Was There Race in Colonial Latin America? : Identifying Selves and Others in the Insurgent Andes
Part II: Racialization and the State in the Long Nineteenth Century
	From Assimilation to Segregation: Guatemala, 1800–1944
	The Census and the Making of a Social "Order" in Nineteenth-Century Bolivia
	Forging the Unlettered Indian: The Pedagogy of Race in the Bolivian Andes
Part III: Racialization and Nationalist Mythologies in the Twentieth Century
	Indian Ruins, National Origins: Tiwanaku and Indigenismo in La Paz, 1897–1933
	Mestizaje, Distinction, and Cultural Presence: The View from Oaxaca
	On the Origin of the ‘‘Mexican Race’’
Part IV: Antiracist Movements and Racism Today
	Politics of Place and Urban Indígenas in Ecuador’s Indigenous Movement
	Education and Decolonization in the Work of the Aymara Activist Eduardo Leandro Nina Qhispi
	Mistados, Cholos, and the Negation of Identity in the Guatemalan Highlands
	Authenticating Indians and Movements: Interrogating Indigenous Authenticity, Social Movements, and Fieldwork in Contemporary Peru
	Transgressions and Racism: The Struggle over a New Constitution in Bolivia
	Epilogue to ‘‘Transgressions and Racism’’ Making Sense of May 24th in Sucre: Toward an Antiracist Legislative Agenda
Part V: Concluding Comments
	A Postcolonial Palimpsest: The Work Race Does in Latin America
Bibliography
Contributors
Index
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 2

f Histories of Race and Racism

Page 207

196 deborah poole

Mazatec ethnicity was to be built through conversation with Oaxaca’s other

six regions, not as an exclusive essence.

In response to such pleas—which are themselves shaped by a historic

language of type—the state speaks back with a version of the language of

mestizaje that e√ectively undermines all claims to distinction. It does so by

placing a historical (and marketable) value on distinction as a passing fashion

to which the state nevertheless has a claim as the authority that decides who is

the authentic Indian or mestizo. As one woman from the government’s cul-

tural branch explained to me:

Today it is no longer fashionable to talk about mestizaje . . . this has meant

searching for people’s ethnic origins in the di√erent towns, looking for

their identity within the Zapotecos, even though they are mestizos . . . that

is to say, that their parents were married with other people who were not

Zapotec. And I don’t mean they are always mestizos by [mixture with]

Spanish or Europeans, but also mestizos from a Zapotec father and a

Mixtec mother. Thus there you have a Mixtec and a Zapotec, or a Mixe

and a Zapotec. So you have a mixture, but that is not what is important,

what is important is the form in which the people identify with the ethnic

group where they are living. There are many Mixes that are not Mixes by

origin, and they think of themselves as Mixe . . . I think it is a form of

looking in this town or that region for an identity and today mestizaje

doesn’t exist, it is not fashionable to be mestizo. It is fashionable to be

Zapotec, Mazateco, etc. For that reason the government of the State of

Oaxaca strengthens the identity. That is the idea. For that reason we

reinforce the cultural identities in order to give greater relevance to the

Oaxaqueño identity which is multiple. And that is something we have

consciously done. It is a conscious act of our government.

Here ‘‘mestizaje’’ is taken as a broad process of cultural—and biological—

mixture, between not only ‘‘Spanish’’ and ‘‘Indians,’’ but between the dif-

ferent indigenous groups that collectively make up the category of ‘‘Indian’’—

a category that supposedly represents the cultural and biological antithesis of

the mestizo.

In spectacles such as the Diosa Centeotl, visual markers are described (and

possessed) through a language of presence in which the fact of distinction

constitutes the means for claiming a place in a larger mestizo whole. For the

women who participate in the Diosa Centeotl contest, this may mean that the

available idioms of modern identity are images of costumes and types held

Page 208

Mestizaje, Distinction, and Cultural Presence 197

up to them by a state that has a long investment in authorizing diversity. For

the upper-class and, above all, middle-class and working-class Oaxacans who

watch (and listen to) the contestants, the invocation of distinction to claim

mestizaje reinforces an aesthetic of appearances in which the customs and

costumes of di√erent parts of their state are made available as markers of an

undi√erentiated Oaxacan identity. This mestizo subject is predicated not on a

unified or homogeneous cultural subject whose ‘‘identity’’ is constituted (as

in the European case) through its opposition to an absolute, excluded Other.

It is formed instead in opposition to an Other that shares something of the

substance of the mestizo self.∂≥ In this respect, the discourse of mestizaje

shares the suspicion—but not the optimism—that marked the nineteenth-

century genealogical project. In both instances, the surface appearances of

culture must be scrutinized for evidence of the racial substance that might

reveal a subterranean link between the mestizo self and the indigenous (ex-

cluded) Other.

The status of the genealogical discourse of race as a hidden substance in

this metaphysics of suspicion surfaces even more clearly in the claims to

cultural distinction made by some of the new cultural and indigenous orga-

nizations in Oaxaca. As an example, we might take the Ninth Annual Festival

of Mixtec Culture, which I observed in December 1999. According to its

organizers, the goal of this event was to ‘‘awaken in us the ancestral and

genetic memory of a√ect and respect for the tradition that is preserved from

generation to generation in the towns that make up the Mixtec nation; it is to

grow closer and make more tangible our historical patrimony.’’ One way in

which organizers hoped to e√ect this closeness was by holding the event in

the town of San Miguel Achiutla—the alleged ‘‘origin place of the Mixtec

race.’’ Another was by making their culture ‘‘tangible’’ through stylized re-

constructions of forgotten rituals, didactic lectures on iconographic symbols

drawn from sixteenth-century codices, and graphic visualizations and recita-

tions about women’s ‘‘typical’’ dress. Each performance was preceded by an

impassioned lecture concerning the dismal state of Mixtec culture and the

need to revitalize it through folklore workshops, school dances, and the

dissemination of ritual and medical knowledge.

Faced with the daunting task of reviving a culture that, according to the

event’s organizers, no one actually practiced anymore, the speakers looked to

their ‘‘genetic racial memory’’ as a repository of the sentiments and a√ects

that constituted knowledge of their culture. The performance of a ‘‘secret

ritual,’’ for example, was said to ‘‘speak of the genetic memory that can serve

Page 413

Laura Gotkowitz is an associate professor in the

Department of History at the University of Iowa.

She is author of A Revolution for Our Rights:

Indigenous Struggles for Land and Justice in Bolivia,

1880–1952, also published by Duke University Press.

f

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Histories of race and racism : the Andes and Mesoamerica

from colonial times to the present / Laura Gotkowitz, ed.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

isbn 978-0-8223-5026-2 (cloth : alk. paper)

isbn 978-0-8223-5043-9 (pbk. : alk. paper)

1. Racism—Latin America—History. 2. Latin America—Race

relations—History. 3. Race—History. I. Gotkowitz, Laura.

f1419.a1h57 2012

305.80098—dc23

2011021944

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