The Rise of the Afro-descendent Identity in Latin America

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Media Archive on 2018-03-30 02:11Z by Steven

The Rise of the Afro-descendent Identity in Latin America


For Black History Month, Catherine Walsh, professor of Afro-Andean Studies at the University Simon Bolivar in Quito, Ecuador, shares with teleSUR her views about the achievements and challenges for the construction of an Afro-descendent consciousness in Latin America.

What in recent history would you say has contributed to the rise of a Black and Afro-descendent identity, with Black communities now embracing more than ever their culture across the continent?

Yes, this has changed radically. Several moments in recent history are important to highlight: in the 1990s, with the rise of Indigenous movements, alliances were built between Indigenous and Black people like in Ecuador.

But Black communities also began to organize by themselves, involving the construction of a notion of a Black territory, sometimes referred to as the “Gran Comarca” from the South of Panama to the North of Ecuador, where national identity does not matter. Black people living in the region often come from the same families, they have similar last names, and for many years have moved freely over the borders identifying as Afro-descendent and regardless of the national borders…

Read the entire interview here.

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An African King in Bolivia

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2015-11-18 21:54Z by Steven

An African King in Bolivia

The New York Times

David Gonzalez, Side Street Columnist; Lens Blog Co-Editor

King Don Julio Pinedo being helped by his son, Rolando Pinedo, the prince, into a royal cloak. Queen Angelica oversees the details of her husband’s royal dress. Don Julio is shy and does not feel comfortable dressing as a king. (Susana Giron)

Tucked away in an isolated part of Bolivia, there is a royal family whose existence is as surprising as it is humble. Despite his title, King Don Julio I and his wife live in a small apartment atop a small store in Mururata, Bolivia, where he farms coca leaves and other crops.

Yet this modest monarch can trace his lineage to West Africa, where his ancestor Prince Uchicho was enslaved in 1820 and taken by the Spaniards to work in the silver mines of the region. That era gave rise to the country’s Afro-Bolivian population, which sustained the tradition, which was largely ceremonial, said Susana Giron, a Spanish photographer who was intrigued by the life of the current king, who was born 73 years ago as Julio Pinedo…

…Ms. Giron said that a historian who purchased the old hacienda — where the Pinedos had taken the names of the slave owners — learned about the royal connection to Africa and set about to find an heir. His efforts, she said, led him to Julio Pinedo, who was named king in 1992.

“He is a symbolic figure,” she said. “For the Afro-Bolivians, he is important because he gives them a cultural identity. It shows they are a people descended from Africa. It is about their history and culture.”

The history of Africans in Latin America has been coming more and more to the fore in recent years. In Bolivia, it was not until recently that they were even counted in the national census, with their 2012 population pegged at some 23,000 in a country of 10 million. They still face discrimination and socioeconomic obstacles

Read the entire article and view the slide show here.

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Mestizaje and Public Opinion in Latin America

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2015-03-01 02:50Z by Steven

Mestizaje and Public Opinion in Latin America

Latin American Research Review
Volume 48, Number 3 (2013)
pages 130-152
DOI: 10.1353/lar.2013.0045

Edward Telles, Professor of Sociology
Princeton University

Denia Garcia
Department of Sociology
Princeton University

Latin American elites authored and disseminated ideologies of mestizaje or race mixture, but does the general population value them today? Using the 2010 Americas Barometer, we examined public opinion about mestizaje in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru using survey questions that modeled mestizaje both as a principle of national development and as tolerance for intermarriage with black or indigenous people. We found that most Latin Americans support mestizaje, although support varies by country and ethnicity. Across countries, we find partial evidence that the strength of earlier nation-making mestizaje ideas is related to support for mestizaje today, and that strong multicultural policies may have actually strengthened such support. Ethnoracial minorities showed particular support for the national principle of mestizaje. Finally, we discovered that the national principle of mestizaje is associated with more tolerant attitudes about intermarriage, especially in countries with large Afro-descendant populations.

Ideas of mestizaje, or race mixture, are central to the formation of many Latin American nations and are assumed to predominate in much of the region today (Hale 2006; Holt 2003; Telles 2004; Wade 1993). Concepts of mestizaje stress racial fusion and the inclusion of diverse racial elements as essential to the nation; hence mestizos, or mixed-race people, are considered the prototypical citizens. Although racial hierarchies characterize Latin American socioeconomic structures (Telles, Flores, and Urrea-Giraldo 2010), ideas of mestizaje have stood in contrast to ideas of white racial purity and anti-miscegenation historically held in the United States (Bost 2003; Holt 2003; Sollors 2000). While ideas of mestizaje emerged as Latin American state projects in the early twentieth century, they are often hailed as widely shared ideologies that are central to Latin Americans’ understanding of race and race relations (Knight 1990; Mallon 1996; Whitten 2003).

Despite Latin America’s diverse racial composition and the fact that an estimated 133 million Afro-descendant and 34 million indigenous people reside there, according to recent data—numbers far higher than in the United States (Telles, forthcoming)—racial attitudes in Latin America have, surprisingly, been understudied. Despite clues from ethnographic research, we lack nationally representative evidence on the general population’s feelings about mestizaje. In this article, we examine support for mestizaje and its variations across nation and ethnicity in eight Latin American countries with large nonwhite populations: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. These countries represent more than 70 percent of Latin America’s population and are home to the vast majority of both Afro-descendants and indigenous people in the region. We focused on two dimensions of the mestizaje ideology: as a national development principle and an individual intermarriage principle. The first, which is closely related to the national narratives developed by elites during nation making, maintains that race mixture is good for the nation. The second addresses tolerance for intermarriage in one’s family—often considered the ultimate marker of racial and ethnic integration (Alba and Nee 2003; Gordon 1964).

Our examination of eight Latin American countries provides new contexts for thinking about racial attitudes, beyond the large literature that is dominated by the case of the United States. Since racial meanings are context dependent, the study of Latin America may complicate social science understandings of racial attitudes more generally. As Krysan (2000, 161) wrote, “This complexity forces those who have developed their theories in an American context to take care not to rely too heavily on uniquely American values, principles, politics, and racial histories.” Latin America differs from the United States in that nothing like mestizaje ideology exists in the United States. Moreover, understanding racial attitudes is important because they may guide behaviors, even though attitudes are often more liberal than actual behaviors (Schuman et al. 1997). In particular, the degree to which the public embraces mestizaje may be important for understanding whether the ideology has implications for racial and national identity and democratic politics in Latin America, including whether the population would support or resist measures to combat racial discrimination and inequality…

Read the entire article here.

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Pigmentocracies: Educational Inequality, Skin Color and Census Ethnoracial Identification in Eight Latin American Countries

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2015-02-27 02:28Z by Steven

Pigmentocracies: Educational Inequality, Skin Color and Census Ethnoracial Identification in Eight Latin American Countries

Research in Social Stratification and Mobility
Available online: 2015-02-25
DOI: 10.1016/j.rssm.2015.02.002

Edward Telles, Professor of Sociology
Princeton University

René Flores
University of Washington

Fernando Urrea Giraldo, Professor of Sociology
Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia


  • We use two measures of race and ethnicity – ethnoracial self-identification as used by national censuses and interviewer –rated skin color to examine educational inequality in eight Latin American countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.
  • We find that inequality based on skin color is more consistent and robust than inequality based on census ethnoracial identification.
  • Census ethnoracial identification often provided inconsistent results especially regarding the afro-descendant populations of Colombia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
  • Skin color inequality was particularly great in Bolivia and Guatemala.
  • Parental occupation, a proxy for class origins, is also robust and positively associated with educational attainment.
  • In other words, both class and race, especially as measured by skin color, predicts educational inequality in Latin America.

For the first time, most Latin American censuses ask respondents to self-identify by race or ethnicity allowing researchers to examine long-ignored ethnoracial inequalities. However, reliance on census ethnoracial categories could poorly capture the manifestation(s) of race that lead to inequality in the region, because of classificatory ambiguity and within-category racial or color heterogeneity. To overcome this, we modeled the relation of both interviewer-rated skin color and census ethnoracial categories with educational inequality using innovative data from the 2010 America’s Barometer from the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) and 2010 surveys from the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA) for eight Latin American countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru). We found that darker skin color was negatively and consistently related to schooling in all countries, with and without extensive controls. Indigenous and black self-identification was also negatively related to schooling, though not always at a statistically significant and robust level like skin color. In contrast, results for self-identified mulattos, mestizos and whites were inconsistent and often counter to the expected racial hierarchy, suggesting that skin color measures often capture racial inequalities that census measures miss.

Read the entire article here.

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Embodying Belonging: Racializing Okinawan Diaspora in Bolivia and Japan

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Live Events, Media Archive, Monographs on 2012-07-16 18:22Z by Steven

Embodying Belonging: Racializing Okinawan Diaspora in Bolivia and Japan

University Of Hawai‘i Press
May 2010
272 pages
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8248-3344-2

Taku Suzuki, Assistant Professor of International Studies
Denison University, Granville, Ohio

Embodying Belonging is the first full-length study of a Okinawan diasporic community in South America and Japan. Under extraordinary conditions throughout the twentieth century (Imperial Japanese rule, the brutal Battle of Okinawa at the end of World War II, U.S. military occupation), Okinawans left their homeland and created various diasporic communities around the world. Colonia Okinawa, a farming settlement in the tropical plains of eastern Bolivia, is one such community that was established in the 1950s under the guidance of the U.S. military administration. Although they have flourished as farm owners in Bolivia, thanks to generous support from the Japanese government since Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972, hundreds of Bolivian-born ethnic Okinawans have left the Colonia in the last two decades and moved to Japanese cities, such as Yokohama, to become manual laborers in construction and manufacturing industries.

Based on the author’s multisited field research on the work, education, and community lives of Okinawans in the Colonia and Yokohama, this ethnography challenges the unidirectional model of assimilation and acculturation commonly found in immigration studies. In its vivid depiction of the transnational experiences of Okinawan-Bolivians, it argues that transnational Okinawan-Bolivians underwent the various racialization processes—in which they were portrayed by non-Okinawan Bolivians living in the Colonia and native-born Japanese mainlanders in Yokohama and self-represented by Okinawan-Bolivians themselves—as the physical embodiment of a generalized and naturalized “culture” of Japan, Okinawa, or Bolivia. Racializing narratives and performances ideologically serve as both a cause and result of Okinawan-Bolivians’ social and economic status as successful large-scale farm owners in rural Bolivia and struggling manual laborers in urban Japan.
As the most comprehensive work available on Okinawan immigrants in Latin America and ethnic Okinawan “return” migrants in Japan, Embodying Belongingis at once a critical examination of the contradictory class and cultural identity (trans)formations of transmigrants; a rich qualitative study of colonial and postcolonial subjects in diaspora, and a bold attempt to theorize racialization as a social process of belonging within local and global schemes.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Racializing Culture and Class in a Transnational Field
  • 1. Modern Okinawan Transnationality: Colonialism, Diaspora, and “Return”
  • 2. The Making of Patrones Japonesas and Dekasegi Migrants
  • 3. From Patrón to Nikkei-jin Rodosha: Class Transformations
  • 4. Educating “Good” Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects
  • 5. Gendering Transnationality: Marriage, Family, and Dekasegi
  • Conclusion: Embodiment of Local Belonging
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • References
  • Index
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Mestizaje Upside-Down: Aesthetic Politics in Modern Bolivia

Posted in Arts, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2010-01-11 19:42Z by Steven

Mestizaje Upside-Down: Aesthetic Politics in Modern Bolivia

University of Pittsburgh Press
May 2004
240 pages
6 x 9
ISBN: 9780822942276

Javier C. Sanjinés, Associate Professor of Latin American Literature and Cultural Studies
University of Michigan

Mestizaje refers to the process of cultural, ethnic, and racial mixture that is part of cultural identity in Latin America. Through a careful study of fiction, political essays, and visual art, this book defines the meaning of mestizaje in the context of the emergence of a modern national and artistic identity in late-19th- and early 20th-century Bolivia.

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Multiculturalism in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2009-12-29 18:36Z by Steven

Multiculturalism in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru

Race & Class
Vol. 49, No. 4
pages 1-21
DOI: 10.1177/0306396808089284

Felipe Arocena (, Professor of Sociology
Universidad de la República-Uruguay

The different strategies of resistance deployed by discriminated ethnic groups in Brazil, Peru and Bolivia are analysed here. In Brazil, Afro movements and indigenous populations are increasingly fighting against discrimination and developing their cultural identities, while demystifying the idea of Brazil’s national identity as a racial democracy. In Peru and Bolivia, indigenous populations are challenging the generally accepted idea of integration through miscegenation (racial mixing). Assimilation through race-mixing has been the apparent solution in most Latin American countries since the building of the nation states. Its positive side is that a peaceful interethnic relationship has been constructed but its negative side, stressed in recent multicultural strategies, is that different ethnicities and cultures have been accepted only as parts of this intermingling and rarely recognised as the targets of discrimination.

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