Theories of mixture: mestizaje

Posted by: | February 9, 2009 | Comments Off on Theories of mixture: mestizaje

The readings for this week are about mestizaje, an ideology of mixture in Latin America. The first one is old and obviously a little-outdated while the second is more recent and brings many of the questionable, naive arguments of the latter into a more modern perspective.

‘The Cosmic Race’ is a very nationalistic account and prediction of the result of racial mixture in Latin America (and the world). I found it interesting, but not very compelling. The author is frequently racist, despite the fact that he tries to sound unbiased; his argument is based on very simplistic assumptions and generalizations; and the whole essay or book is rife with emotionalism and contradictions. In this sense, I was very much reminded of the Eva Peron reading we had. He constantly refers to his idea of a ‘cosmic race’ as ‘the first synthetic race of the earth,’ but aren’t all races and cultures the product of synthesis? Anglo-Saxons didn’t appear out of thin air, they developed out of a complex process that includes the idea of mixture–the very fact they are called by a name that derives from two other, different names proves that. But Vasconcelos misses so much more. He has this idea of a race which will become THE dominant race on Earth, but that ignores the fact that there is a reason there are various different races on Earth; one major factor being geography, which shapes psychologically (culturally) and biologically in very profound ways. Aside from that, the belief that all of the worlds races could combine to form “a new race that will fulfill and surpass all the others”(26) is cartoonish. I just about stopped reading when he said “five races and three stages, that is, the number eight which in the Pythagorean gnosis represents the ideal of the equality of all men,” but then I realized there wasn’t even a page left.


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