Week 3: The Colonial Experience

Casta Paintings are something I’ve never heard of/seen before but I can say I’m very intrigued. In a social justice class in high school, we touched upon caste systems around the world. I noticed it was typically based on religion, social groups, jobs but rarely race. We went into detail about the racial system in Brazil. I am familiar with the terms used in the paintings but not the concept.

There were three individuals, a woman, man and child in each painting alongside numbers labelling them with a description of their race. A picture really depicts a larger idea. With the different outfits, objects and background scenery, a viewer can get an overall gist of what they’re really looking at. The various careers they seemed to have were a shoemaker, musician, seller and what looks like a don/general.

A common trend seems to be the higher up and more “European blood” relationships were showcased as richer based on their clothing and the objects around the paintings. They obviously were employed in more respectable jobs. When you went down the board looking at relationships with Native and African descents, their clothing was not as appealing and you can see they do more manual/labour work. If a European man was with a women of another background, he still seems well off but a Spanish women in a similar situation was lower on the canvas.

To me, I find this discriminatory and dividing between the races. As mentioned in the lecture, this was the root of an identity crisis. The whole idea of painting all possible bloodlines is excessive and unnecessary. My mind instantly gravitated towards racial whitening or “blanqueamineto” where following generations were trying to get “rid” of any black or indigenous heritage. The photo I attached below was shown in my class a lot. I believe the context behind it was a grandmother who had a mixed child feeling joyful that her daughter married a European man and had a child who basically looks white. I know that specific tradition was popular in areas after colonialism especially in the early 1900’s.

OP-ED: Miscegenation in Brazil as a state policy to whiten its population | AFROPUNK

History tends to repeat itself in multiple ways. Looking closer at the Casta Paintings, I can see that being of/closer to European descent was more beneficial and desired. Issues seen today with the beauty standard, colorism and even racism can stem from something like this. I know a lot of other countries who were colonized have a common ground. I’ve heard about it during ethnic cleansings as well.

Discussion Question:

How were Casta Paintings harmful for the following generations post colonialism? What are some long or short term effects?


Read 3 comments

  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this week’s readings. I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the question you pose, “How were Casta Paintings harmful foe the following generation postcolonialism,? What are some lang or short term effects? ” What I noticed about the Casta Paintings is that they categorize couples based on racial mixing, family number 1 is of the highest social status and/orwealth. As for number 16 is of the lowest social status and/or wealth. I think that this simple rating system can affect the way children perceive themselves as less than their peers. They could even be outcasted by their peers. I believe that this would inform, or rather misinform, others about an individual’s status, and they would treat them acoording to this numberical system. I think the long term effects are as described in this weeks readings of the Casta Paintings, by Susan Deans-Smith. That explains how the attorney, feared the presentation and distribution of these paintings would “comfirm European assumptions of Creole inferiority” (Dean-Smith, S). This simply that there was an assumption that individuals of mixed race, creole as its described, were seen as less. What do you think? What were some long or short term effects you thought of? Has the zoom class changed your mind?


    • Hi Sarita! Thank you for the reply. I totally agree with what you said. I’m on the same boat about short term effects. For long term, I was thinking about misrepresentation or lack of diversity in media, politics, etc, a race division, colourism, the beauty standard. I was unable to make it to the zoom session on Tuesday. However, I’m very excited for tomorrow.

  2. Hey Simran, I completely agree with your thoughts of whitening of families, the act of trying to get rid of black and indigenous heritage within their families. As terrible as it was, we also need to take in the context that at the time and still somewhat today, being of black and indigenous heritages limited the opportunities given to future generations. I am not justifying what they did at all, I just want to show both sides. The only reasons individuals “tried to” ride themselves of that heritage was because of societies ideals, it was their instinct of survival not only for them but for their children to come. Such as in the picture you showed, the grandma couldn’t be happier. Her grandchild can pass as completely European, I believe she’s rejoicing in the fact that her grandchild will live a better life as she did. We can’t blame people for trying to get of their heritage when it’s been implemented in them their whole lives. They are not to blame it is the system that did that to them. Just a bit of a look into the other side. However the “whitening” does leave many repercussions people have to face now.

    – Samantha Morillo

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