Ancestry Informative Markers Clarify the Regional Admixture Variation in the Costa Rican Population

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2014-04-05 19:48Z by Steven

Ancestry Informative Markers Clarify the Regional Admixture Variation in the Costa Rican Population

Human Biology
Volume 85, Number 5, October 2013
pages 721-740
DOI: 10.1353/hub.2013.0041

Rebeca Campos-Sánchez
Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica

Henriette Raventós, Associate Professor and Researcher
Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica

Ramiro Barrantes, Professor of Biology
Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica

The genetic structure of Costa Rica’s population is complex, both by region and by individual, due to the admixture process that started during the 15th century and historical events thereafter. Previous studies have been done mostly on Amerindian populations and the Central Valley inhabitants using various microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA markers. Here, we study for the first time a random sample from all regions of the country with ancestry informative markers (AIMs) to address the individual and regional admixture proportions. A sample of 160 male individuals was screened for 78 AIMs customized in a GoldenGate platform from Illumina. We observed that this small set of AIMs has the same power of hundreds of microsatellites and thousands of single-nucleotide polymorphisms to evaluate admixture, with the benefit of reducing genotyping costs. This type of investigation is necessary to explore new genetic markers useful for forensic and genetic investigation. Our data showed a mean admixture proportion of 49.2% European (EUR), 37.8% Native American (NAM), and 12.9% African (AFR), with a disproportionate admixture composition by region. In addition, when Chinese (CHB) was included as a fourth component, the proportions changed to 45.6% EUR, 33.5% NAM, 11.7% AFR, and 9.2% CHB. The admixture trend is consistent among all regions (EUR > NAM > AFR), and individual admixture estimates vary broadly in each region. Though we did not find stratification in Costa Rica’s population, gene admixture should be evaluated in future genetic studies of Costa Rica, especially for the Caribbean region, as it contains the largest proportion of African ancestry (30.9%).

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Biracial Costa Ricans worse off than black Ticos, says UNPD report

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2013-10-31 17:30Z by Steven

Biracial Costa Ricans worse off than black Ticos, says UNPD report

The Tico Times
San José, Costa Rica

Zach Dyer

Fewer than 10 percent of Ticos with one white and one black parent attend university, compared to more than 17 percent of self-identified black Costa Ricans.

Biracial Costa Ricans struggle with higher rates of high school desertion and unemployment than self-identified black Ticos, according to a new report from the United Nations Development Program.

The report, presented to black Costa Rican community leaders and the public in San José Tuesday morning, stressed the economic and educational gaps experienced by the country’s Afro-descendent population, especially between urban and rural groups.

“If you’re mulatto, living in the countryside in Costa Rica, you’re much more likely to be poor, have problems dealing with education and unemployment, or employment of poor quality,” said Silvia García, regional coordinator for the project…

Read the entire article here.

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Who is an Indian?: Race, Place, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-08-24 17:12Z by Steven

Who is an Indian?: Race, Place, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas

University of Toronto Press
August 2013
272 pages
Paper ISBN: 9780802095527
Cloth ISBN: 9780802098184

Edited by:

Maximilian C. Forte, Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology
Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Who is an Indian? This is possibly the oldest question facing Indigenous peoples across the Americas, and one with significant implications for decisions relating to resource distribution, conflicts over who gets to live where and for how long, and clashing principles of governance and law. For centuries, the dominant views on this issue have been strongly shaped by ideas of both race and place. But just as important, who is permitted to ask, and answer this question?

This collection examines the changing roles of race and place in the politics of defining Indigenous identities in the Americas. Drawing on case studies of Indigenous communities across North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, it is a rare volume to compare Indigenous experience throughout the western hemisphere. The contributors question the vocabulary, legal mechanisms, and applications of science in constructing the identities of Indigenous populations, and consider ideas of nation, land, and tradition in moving indigeneity beyond race.


  • Preface
  • Introduction: “Who Is an Indian?” The Cultural Politics of a Bad Question / Maximilian C. Forte (Concordia University, Sociology and Anthropology)
  • Chapter One: Inuitness and Territoriality in Canada / Donna Patrick (Carleton University, Sociology and Anthropology and the School of Canadian Studies)
  • Chapter Two: Federally-Unrecognized Indigenous Communities in Canadian Contexts / Bonita Lawrence (York University, Equity Studies)
  • Chapter Three: The Canary in the Coalmine: What Sociology Can Learn from Ethnic Identity Debates among American Indians / Eva Marie Garroutte (Boston College, Sociology) and C. Matthew Snipp (Stanford University, Sociology)
  • Chapter Four : “This Sovereignty Thing”: Nationality, Blood, and the Cherokee Resurgence / Julia Coates (University of California Davis, Native American Studies)
  • Chapter Five: Locating Identity: The Role of Place in Costa Rican Chorotega Identity / Karen Stocker (California State University, Anthropology)
  • Chapter Six: Carib Identity, Racial Politics, and the Problem of Indigenous Recognition in Trinidad and Tobago / Maximilian C. Forte (Concordia University, Anthropology)
  • Chapter Seven: Encountering Indigeneity: The International Funding of Indigeneity in Peru / José Antonio Lucero (University of Washington, The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies)
  • Chapter Eight: The Color of Race: Indians and Progress in a Center-Left Brazil / Jonathan Warren (University of Washington, International Studies, Chair of Latin American Studies)
  • Conclusion: Seeing Beyond the State and Thinking beyond the State of Sight / Maximilian C. Forte (Concordia University, Sociology and Anthropology)
  • Contributors
  • Index
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“La Negrita,” Queen of the Ticos: The Black Roots of Costa Rica’s Patron Saint

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Religion on 2013-04-02 16:54Z by Steven

“La Negrita,” Queen of the Ticos: The Black Roots of Costa Rica’s Patron Saint

The Americas
Volume 69, Number 3, January 2013
pages 323-355
DOI: 10.1353/tam.2013.0025

Russell Lohse, Assistant Professor of History
Pennsylvania State University

In sharp contrast to her mestizo and mulatto neighbors, Costa Rica is one of a handful of Latin American countries commonly regarded as “white.” For more than a century, national elites and foreign observers alike attributed Costa Rica’s relative political stability, high rate of literacy, and prosperity to the nation’s supposed racial homogeneity. The “Switzerland of Central America” was rarely regarded as part of the African Diaspora, yet people of African descent have been part of Costa Rican society since its colonial beginnings. In fact, the patron saint of Costa Rica has always been depicted as black. Known affectionately as La Negrita, the Virgen de los Angeles is believed to have appeared with a divine mandate of harmony at a remote time when Costa Rica was divided by racial tensions. In the legend of her apparition some have found the key to Costa Rica’s tradition of “rural democracy.”

Many writers have traced Costa Rica’s democratic tradition to the colonial period. In the mid-twentieth century, Carlos Monge Alfaro advanced the classic articulation of the myth of “rural democracy,” an enduring staple of conventional Costa Rican historiography. In his Historia de Costa Rica, read as a textbook by generations of Costa Rican students, Monge Alfaro argued that colonial Costa Rica developed as an egalitarian society of small landholders, unique in Latin America. According to this widely accepted version of national history, colonial Costa Rica remained for centuries an impoverished backwater, neglected by the Spanish Empire. Deep class divisions never emerged because all members of society toiled equally for their meager subsistence. The province’s isolation and chronic poverty forced all of its residents to work with their own hands, for each to make of the situation what he would.

Monge Alfaro and others further contended that colonial Costa Rica was a racially homogeneous society. The racial component of the myth is based on the notion that the few Indians living in Costa Rica at the time of the conquest were peacefully absorbed into Hispanic society, obviating the bloody racial conflicts that plagued other Central American regions. Similarly, the marginalizing character of the subsistence economy precluded the entrenchment of African slavery and the sistema de castas. Spanish peasant immigration accounted for the overwhelming preponderance of the country’s racial stock. Racially homogeneous, Costa Rica was therefore free of racial prejudice and discrimination. The lighter complexion of the population and the absence of racial tension made Costa Rica resemble a tranquil European country more than its Central American neighbors. Racial homogeneity predisposed the region to the harmonious coexistence (convivencia) accepted as a national characteristic. More overtly racist ideologues envisioned Costa Rica’s relative political stability, high literacy rate, economic prosperity, and “European” standards of civilization as results of the absence of indigenous and African populations.

But the popular legend of the apparition of the Virgen de los Angeles openly challenges key tenets of the myths of rural democracy and racial homogeneity. The central theme of the legend of the Virgin’s apparition demands recognition not only of Costa Rica’s racial diversity, but of the reality of racial prejudice and discrimination in the nation’s past.

Legend of the Apparition

As the legend has been recounted in the twentieth century, on August 2, 1635, a woman was gathering firewood near her home in Puebla de los Pardos, the segregated district where people of African descent lived on the outskirts of Cartago, the capital of the Spanish province of Costa Rica. On that day she was surprised to find a black stone image of the Virgin Mary and Child perched on a large rock. Elated, she put the small statue in a basket and carried it home. The next day, she returned to the woods for more firewood and there she found an identical image on the same rock. Thinking she had found a secaond statue, she returned home to find, to her surprise, that the image of the day before was gone….

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Black into White in Nineteenth Century Spanish America: Afro-American Assimilation in Argentina and Costa Rica

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2012-08-09 01:45Z by Steven

Black into White in Nineteenth Century Spanish America: Afro-American Assimilation in Argentina and Costa Rica

Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies
Volume 5, Number 1 (May 1984)
pages 34-49
DOI: 10.1080/01440398408574864

Lowell Gudmundson, Professor of Latin American Studies and History
Mout Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts

In his masterful study of racial attitudes in Brazil, Thomas Skidmore has shown how the Brazilian elite consciously preferred, and pursued through the foment of European immigration after 1850, a “whitened” society in which the African element would be progressively reduced. Given the historical realities of Brazilian society such a policy could perhaps be implemented, but only with great regional variability and never fully eradicating what the elite saw as the “inferior” African element represented by Negro and colored (mulatto) Brazilians.

Such a semi-official policy of whitening was common to both Luso– and Hispanoamerican elites of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with the curious symbiosis of a paternalistic acceptance of race mixture and its “beneficial” impact (unlike segregationist or apartheid views in the United States and South Africa at that time), and a belief in the innate inferiority of those of African descent (in this they shared the basic racism of the abovementioned societies). However, most Spanish American societies, just as northeastern Brazil, would not receive the mass of European immigrants who inundated the Brazilian southwest, or such Spanish American nations as Cuba, Uruguay, and Argentina. And yet, except for those areas continuing the African slave trade (Cuba and Brazil in particular) nearly everywhere there was a long term proportional decline, over the nineteenth century, of the Afro-American population, whether through race mixture and “passing“, or simply as a result of a decreasing Afro-American biological component within the general population. Thus, the desired goal of the Brazilian and Spanish American elites – “whitening” or bleaching” of the population—did not always require massive European immigration for its realization.

While modern Spanish American society was whitened in general, regional experience was extremely diverse. The Indo-American areas of Mexico, Guatemala, and the Andean republics produced a mestizo more often than a mulatto population, with all such admixtures coming to be referred to as “casta”, “ladino”, or simply “mestizo”, with some mention of phenotype appended for clarification if need be. In these Indo-American areas the numerical predominance of the Indian population during colonial times, especially in the Guatemalan and Andean countrysides, meant that whitening of the general population would proceed very slowly there if at all during the nineteenth century, although Afro-American assimilation took place much more rapidly…

…Race Mixture

While miscegenation has been characteristic of all multiracial societies to one degree or another, Latin American experience has been notable in both the pervasiveness of this phenomenon and, more importantly, in the position accorded to those of mixed origin. Hoetink most clearly expressed this point, regarding the dual features of widespread “passing” across an ill-defined “color line” and the social acceptance of those of light color by local Iberoamerican whites as marriage partners. In these societies the local defmition of whiteness tended to include many of those of light color and, just as importantly, marriage or long term common-law unions (as distinct from more informal or surreptitious concubinates and liaisons) across what in other contexts would be perceived as racial lines (white vs. colored) was far more frequent.

Thus, added to the quite requent extramarital unions spanning racial lines, Latin American societies also witnessed the growth of a significant population born to both Church-sanctioned and common-law unions between Afro-Americans and the non-colored. The frequency of this latter phenomenon varied widely by time and place perhaps, but it was an ubiquitous feature of Latin American societies and could reach quite substantial levels in some cases, as we shall see below.

In both Argentina and Costa Rica there is abundant evidence of the existence of such a relatively flexible “color line”, subject to surprisingly rapid redefinition over time, even in the case of individual lifetimes. Moreover, it is worth noting that exactly the same terminology is used to describe cases and individuals in Argentina and Costa Rica in the freeing of “white slaves” or in describing the physical appearance of these individuals when still enslaved. Andrews notes the use of terms such as “white mulatto, white, white slave” in manumission documents, as well as descriptions emphasizing “blond” or “straight” hair and white color. In Costa Rica references were repeatedly made to “whiteness” or “amber” coloration (“trigueño”, exactly as in Buenos Aires and other Spanish American countries somewhat later) as well as “burnt blond hair”, etc. Moreover, the use of color identification as a means of implicitly raising or lowering an individual’s social rank was also a common feature of contemporary discourse, in reference to those of high and humble social, albeit racially suspect background.

Perhaps one of the clearest possible indications of the decided tendency of Iberoamerican society to classify light-coloreds as white can be found in the late colonial Costa Rican censuses. Therein the population is divided and enumerated as “Spanish”, “Mestizo”, or “Mulatto and Negro”. However, no clear and binding descent rule is used in order to assign the children of mixed unions. Most often, when the mother was “mestiza” or Spanish and the father Afro-American, the children would be registered in the mother’s racial category, although there were exceptions to this rule as well. In the case of Afro-American women married to or living with Indian, mestizo or Spanish males their children would usually be listed with them as “mulatos y negros”, but even here exceptions could be found, logically enough since their listing as mestizos could have been socially and administratively advantageous for them.

Miscegenation may have been most common outside of formal unions such as these, but more stable, recognized relationships were very frequent as well, involving all racial groups in Spanish American society. As we shall see below, Afro-Americans’ urban location and the feminine predominance which resulted from this fact, when added to pervasive racial preferences in the selection of marriage partners, assured that this group would have the most difficult and delayed access to marriage. In societies in which concubinage was the rule rather than the exception at all social levels, this could only foment extramarital miscegenation as well. Indeed, nearly all of the studies of Afro-Americans in urban Latin America would indicate “whitening” in the selection of both marriage and liaison partners to have been the norm.” In Costa Rica illegitimacy among the Afro-American population was approximately double the average, reaching the level of a third to a half of all Afro-Americans baptized and a fifth to a quarter of all illegitimate baptisms at the end of the colonial period; this without taking into account those children not baptized and likely illegitimate as well. Important here too was the urban location of Afro-Americans, raising illegitimacy levels regardless of race, contributing to the differentiation of the community from mestizo villagers and lowering its replacement capacity. Presumably, a large number of these illegitimate children were the result of race mixture tending toward whitening…

Read the entire article here.

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Beyond Fixed or Fluid: Degrees of Fluidity in Racial Identification in Latin America

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Papers/Presentations, Social Science on 2012-05-25 23:05Z by Steven

Beyond Fixed or Fluid: Degrees of Fluidity in Racial Identification in Latin America

The Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America
Princeton University
60 pages

Edward E. Telles, Professor of Sociology
Princeton University

Tianna S. Paschel, Post Doctoral Fellow (Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Political Science as of July 2012)
Department of Political Science
University of Chicago

Com­par­a­tive research on race and eth­nic­ity has often turned to Latin Amer­ica where racial iden­tity is seen as fluid. Using nation­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive data from the 2010 America’s Barom­e­ter, we exam­ined the extent to which skin color, nation, class and region shape who iden­ti­fies as black or mulato in Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Colom­bia and the Domini­can Repub­lic. While racial cat­e­gories over­lap sig­nif­i­cantly, skin color largely deter­mines both black and mulatto self-identification in all five coun­tries although its effect varies con­sid­er­ably. We dis­cov­ered dis­tinc­tive pat­terns in racial flu­id­ity, in how color shapes racial clas­si­fi­ca­tion, in the fre­quency of black and mixed-race cat­e­gories, and in the influ­ence of sta­tus and region on racial clas­si­fi­ca­tion. We sug­gest that these pat­terns are related to nation­al­ist nar­ra­tives, state poli­cies and black move­ment orga­niz­ing. These find­ings chal­lenge widely held assump­tions about race rela­tions in Latin Amer­ica, sug­gest­ing rather that unique national his­to­ries have given way to dif­fer­ent sys­tems of race clas­si­fi­ca­tion in each coun­try. We advance the con­cept of racial schemas and vis­cos­ity to bet­ter under­stand these differences.

Read the entire paper here.

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Trans-American Modernisms: Racial Passing, Travel Writing, and Cultural Fantasies of Latin America

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2011-12-31 18:05Z by Steven

Trans-American Modernisms: Racial Passing, Travel Writing, and Cultural Fantasies of Latin America

University of Southern California
August 2009
311 pages

Ruth Blandón

Dissertation Presented to the FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY (ENGLISH)

In my historical examination of the literary works of Nella Larsen, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Carl Van Vechten, I investigate U.S. modernists’ interest in Latin America and their attempts to establish trans-American connections. As they engage with and write about countries such as Brazil, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Venezuela as utopian spaces, these writers often tend to relegate Latin America to the status of a useful trope, one that allows them to negotiate a variety of identitarian and sexual anxieties.

The domestic political landscape that informs the desire for migration to the Latin Americas—whether real or fantastical—in the early twentieth century leads to Johnson’s depiction of the savvy and ambitious titular character in his first and only novel, Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, to Van Vechten’s, Larsen’s, and Fauset’s fantastical Brazil in their respective Nigger Heaven, Passing, and Plum Bun. Hughes’s translation of Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén’s poetry illustrates his straddling of national and color lines through the translation of language. These writers react to Jim Crow laws, one-drop rules, and color lines in their connections to and fantasies of the Latin Americas. What then of writers who make similar trans-American connections and constructions, but who write from a space of relative privilege, however resistant they are to that privilege? Consider William Carlos Williams, who negotiates the pressures of assimilation in the United States as he attempts to assert his Afro Puerto Rican and Anglo Dominican heritages. Although Williams is commonly recalled as an “all-American” poet, his works betray his constant attempts to harness three perpetually shifting and overlapping identities: that of a son of immigrants, of a first generation “American,” and of a son of the Americas.

The trans-American connections I reveal span the fantastical to the truly cross-cultural. In placing United States modernism and the Harlem Renaissance within a larger hemispheric context, I shift our sense of U.S. modernism in general, but also of the Harlem Renaissance’s place within U.S. modernism in particular.

Table of Contents

  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Figures
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One:
    • Reading, Misreading, and Language Passing in James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man and Along This Way
    • Blackness under the law
    • James Weldon Johnson’s Along This Way
    • The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter Two:
    • Brazilian Schemes and Utopian Dreams in Nella Larsen’s Passing, Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun, and Carl Van Vechten’s Nigger Heaven
    • Historical Context
    • From Liberia to Brazil—A Change of Venue
    • Carl Van Vechten’s Nigger Heaven
    • Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun, “Home,” and Brazil
    • Larsen’s Passing and Brazil as Utopia/Dystopia
    • Conclusion: Utopia vs. Brazilian Reality
  • Chapter Three:
    • All-American Me: William Carlos Williams’s Construction and Deconstruction of the Self
    • Cultural Context—Casta and Passing
    • Blurring Cultural Boundaries: “Only the whites of my eyes were affected.”
    • The Specter of Blackness: “I had visions of being lynched…”
    • In The American Grain: “I am—the brutal thing itself.”
    • Translation: “El que no a vista Sevilla, […] no a vista maravilla!
    • Conclusion: “I’ll keep my way in spite of all.”
  • Chapter Four:
    • “Look Homeward Angel Now”: Travel, Translation, and Langston Hughes’s Quest for Home
    • Langston Hughes in Mexico and Cuba—1907-1948: Mexico
    • Cuba
    • Langston Hughes and Nicolás Guillén in Spain
    • Translation, Analogy, and the “I”
    • Of Poetry, Jazz, Son, and Rumba
    • The Translations
    • Conclusion: Translating, Travel, and “Home”
  • Bibliography

List of Figures

  • Figure 1: James Weldon Johnson, photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1932.
  • Figure 2: “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Pablo Picasso, 1907.
  • Figure 3: “Noire et Blanche.” Man Ray, 1926.
  • Figure 4: “Blues.” Archibald Motley, 1929.
  • Figure 5: “An Idyll of the Deep South.” Aaron Douglas, 1934.
  • Figure 6: Bessie Smith, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1936.
  • Figure 7: Billie Holiday, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1949.
  • Figure 8: The Williams Family
  • Figure 9: “De Español y Mulata; Morisca.” [“From Spaniard and Mulatto, Morisca.”] Miguel Cabrera, 1763.
  • Figure 10: “De Mestizo y d India; Coyote.”[“From Mestizo and Indian, Coyote.”] Miguel Cabrera, 1763.
  • Figure 11: William Carlos Williams, circa 1903.
  • Figure 12: Elena Hoheb Williams
  • Figure 13: Langston Hughes
  • Figure 14: Diego Rivera with Frida Kahlo, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1932.
  • Figure 15: Nicolás Guillén

Read the entire dissertation here.

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