How the mixed-race mestizo myth warped science in Latin America

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2021-12-21 03:40Z by Steven

How the mixed-race mestizo myth warped science in Latin America

Number 600 (2021-12-13)
pages 374-378
DOI: 10.1038/d41586-021-03622-z

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Science Journalist
Mexico City, Mexico

Genetic studies have found a striking amount of diversity among people in Mexico. Credit: Stephania Corpi Arnaud for Nature

Researchers are trying to dismantle the flawed concept of homogeneous racial mixing that has fostered discrimination in Mexico, Brazil and other countries.

Nicéa Quintino Amauro always knew who she was.

She was born in Campinas, the last city in Brazil to prohibit slavery in 1888. She grew up in a Black neighbourhood, with a Black family. And a lot of her childhood was spent in endless meetings organized by the Unified Black Movement, the most notable Black civil-rights organization in Brazil, which her parents helped to found to fight against centuries-old racism in the country. She knew she was Black.

But in the late 1980s, when Amauro was around 13 years old, she was told at school that Brazilians were not Black. They were not white, either. Nor any other race. They were considered to be mestiços, or pardos, terms rooted in colonial caste distinctions that signify a tapestry of European, African and Indigenous backgrounds. And as one single mixed people, they were all equal to each other.

The idea felt odd. Wrong, even. “To me, it seemed quite strange,” says Amauro, now a chemist at the Federal University of Ubêrlandia in Minas Gerais and a member of the Brazilian Association of Black Researchers. “How can everyone be equal if racism exists? It doesn’t make sense.”

Amauro’s concerns echo across Latin America, where generations of people have been taught that they are the result of a long history of mixture between different ancestors who all came, or were forced, to live in the region…

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Color, Race, and Genomic Ancestry in Brazil: Dialogues between Anthropology and Genetics

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2011-12-03 18:13Z by Steven

Color, Race, and Genomic Ancestry in Brazil: Dialogues between Anthropology and Genetics

Current Anthropology
Volume 50, Number 6 (2009)
pages 787-819
DOI: 10.1086/644532

Ricardo Ventura Santos, Professor of Biological Anthropology and Public Health
Oswaldo Cruz Foundation
also Associate professor of Anthropology
National Museum, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Peter H. Fry, Professor
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Departamento de Antropologia
Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Sociais/UFRJ, Largo de São Francisco de Paula 1

Simone Monteiro, Senior Researcher
Oswaldo Cruz Institute

Marcos Chor Maio, Senior Researcher
House of Oswaldo Cruz
Oswaldo Cruz Foundation

José Carlos Rodrigues, Professor
Fluminense Federal University
also Associate Professor
Catholic University

Luciana Bastos-Rodrigues
Department of Biochemistry and Immunology at the Institute of Biological Sciences
Federal University of Minas Gerais

Sérgio D. J. Pena, Professor of Biochemistry and Immunology
Institute of Biological Sciences
Federal University of Minas Gerais

In the contemporary world, “race” narratives are so multifaceted that at times, different views of the concept appear mutually incompatible. In recent decades biologists, especially geneticists, have repeatedly stated that the notion of race does not apply to the human species. On the other hand, social scientists claim that race is highly significant in cultural, historical, and socioeconomic terms because it molds everyday social relations and because it is a powerful motivator for social and political movements based on race differences. In this paper we present the results of an interdisciplinary research project incorporating approaches from genetics and anthropology. Our objective is to explore the interface between information about biology/genetics and perceptions about color/race in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We argue that the data and interpretation of our research resonate far beyond the local level, stimulating discussion about methodological, theoretical, and political issues of wider national and international relevance. Topics addressed include the complex terminology of color/race classification in Brazil, perceptions about ancestry in the context of ideologies of Brazilian national identity, and the relationship between genetic information about the Brazilian population and a sociopolitical agenda that turns on questions of race and racism.

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