Week 3: The colonial Experience

As a mixed race Latin American person, I have struggled with my racial identity. I think this is pretty common for all mixed race people, but I think especially in Latin America where, for a lot of people, they are mixed, their parents are mixed, their grandparents are mixed and so on. It’s not a matter of I’m 50% this and 50% that, it gets pretty confusing and hard to keep track of.

The Casta paintings indicate a bit of the confusion created by the mixing of different races that has been happening since the beginning of colonization in America. They tried to illustrate and create categories for all the different “types” of people, and your position within society was based on which category you fell into. This was obviously an attempt of the europeans to assure white superiority and control the people who had power. The “whiter” you were, the better, and the idea was that even if you were black, you could create a better life for your child by marrying a white person,  because the baby’s colour would be lighter and if the generations kept that behaviour, eventually the children would be born “white”.

But even at the beginning of this whole thing, people were confused by all the categories, and many painters did not agree in the correct denomination and position for each “category”. Now imagine the mess that it is today, trying to determine the race of a mixed Latin American person.  In my experience (and I can be wrong) , race is not something as relevant to individuals in Latin America as ethnicity is. From my perspective in North America people are very open and proud about their race, and it appears to be something vital to their identity. Whereas in Latin America, what I have seen more is people defining themselves by their country/ethnicity first.  “I am first of all Brazilian, and i guess i have some Portuguese and African and indigenous DNA in me from a while back but i don’t really know” type of thinking. For me, my country is definitely my identity, and my culture and values come from my country, not my race.

It is interesting to think that in the future, mixed people will be the majority, and having one defined race will become less and less common. What issues will arise from that? What role do genetics really play in culture? Is there a point in “conserving the race” or is culture in the upbringing, rather than race?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *