TERM PAPER TOPIC QUESTION:
This research will seek to answer the question: In Mexico and Brazil, are there negative social stereotypes attached to the indigenous populations as compared to the people of European descent? The research question will be seeking to establish if phenotypic prejudice against indigenous races occurs in these two countries. If they do exist, to what extent are they rooted in the society? And in which ways are they exhibited?
Stereotyping in Public Reaction to Poverty The topic of my paper will be racial stereotyping in public reaction to poverty in Brazil and Mexico. Two news stories from 2012 have made me choose this particular topic. In October of 2012, a pale skinned girl with blonde hair was found begging for money on a street in Mexico. The child’s parents had darker complexions and were described as “brown.” The child’s poverty plight aroused national interest and her mother was thrown in a prison and accused of kidnapping until a birth certificate proved that the child was hers. Also in October of 2012, fair-skinned former model Rafael Nunes’s homeless plight came to national attention in Brazil. The public outcry for both of these cases focused on pale skinned individuals living in poverty. The ensuing reporting of the cases did not focus on the many homeless individuals or beggars who exist in these countries who have darker complexions. In fact, the only mention of those with a darker complexion in these stories are the blonde girl’s parents, who are immediately assumed to be kidnappers. I will be comparing the two cases and looking into other examples of national and international news stories on poverty in Brazil and Mexico to see if this is a consistent pattern. My sources will include primary documents, newspapers, and reports from non-governmental organizations.
Aguilar, Rosario. “Social and Political Consequences of Stereotypes Related to Racial Phenotypes in Mexico.” La División de Estudios Políticos (DEP) 230 (2011): 1-21.
Aguilar states that the purpose of her research was to address the misconception that it is only socioeconomic lines that matter in Mexico. Aguilar asserts that there is a belief that in Mexico, inequality and discrimination occurs only along socioeconomic lines, and that racial appearances do not factor into discrimination the way that they do in the United States. To prove her point, Aguilar measured reactions to European-looking, Indigenous-looking, and mixed-looking Mexicans using morphing software packaging. In her research, Aguilar found that the more European-looking Mexicans were more favorably regarded socially. Aguilar’s research is relevant to this research paper because Aguilar’s research demonstrates that social consequences can be found through the existence of the phenotypic prejudice experienced in Mexico.
Aguilar Pariente, Maria Del Rosario. The Political Consequences of Prejudice among Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Ann Arbor: Proquest Umi Dissertation Publishing, 2009.
Although the title implies that the research came to political conclusions, the research actually measured the subjects’ willingness to vote for a political candidate based on their skin color. The researcher offered three options for candidates to vote for: White, Mestizo, and Indigenous. First, candidates were presented to students living in Mexico City, and later, they were presented to Mexican-Americans living in Chicago. The results demonstrated that candidates living in Mexico were more likely to vote for the White candidate, while those living in Chicago voted for the White candidate the least. The author attributed these differences to the negative stereotypes that the students living in Mexico had been exposed to in terms of Indigenous people and Mestizo people. This is relevant to this research paper because it demonstrates the phenotypic prejudice against those with Indigenous heritage and demonstrates that it expresses itself socially in the daily political and policy decisions that individuals in Mexico make.
Berry, Bonnie. The Power of Looks: Social Stratification of Physical Appearance. London: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008.
This book deals with the overall power inequalities that people experience based on their physical experience. Berry actually deals with with a number of physical appearance factors, such as eye shapes, height, and weight. But the book is relevant to my research topic because Berry also addresses concepts of colorism, particularly as it related to people in Mexico and South America as a whole. Berry asserts that Latin American societies see a definite favoritism towards those who look more European. Berry also states that those with mixed heritage are favored over those with darker complexions, or those who have traits that can be described as being native phenotypic. Berry’s research shows that the preferences manifest in economic situations, particularly in regard to income potential and hiring practices. This book helps to demonstrate that there is considerable phenotypic prejudice against indigenous people in both Mexico and Brazil.
Degler, Carl. Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986.
Degler’s study is a comparative examination of Brazilian slavery and the evolution of slavery in the United States. This study won a 1971 Pulitzer Prize and is included because it is considered a ground breaking work. Brazil’s history differs from the United States because Brazilian slavery never led to the type of rigid segregation that appears in the United States following the Civil War. Although it was originally published four decades ago, I have included it as a foundational work because it delves into the historical background behind the current social, cultural, and economic differences that exist in Brazil between Indigenous phenotypes and other citizens in Brazil. Degler’s work also provides a historical explanation for the prevalence of interracial relationships. Considering the amount of social stereotypes that are in existence among the those of mixed heritage today, this study is very important to my paper.
Eisenstadt, Todd A. Politics, Identity, and Mexico’s Indigenous Rights Movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
This book details the ways in which the Indigenous people of Mexico are striving towards increased representation and equal rights. Eisenstadt uses a survey of more than 5,000 people in order to explore the situations surrounding the 1994 Zapatista insurgency. This book is important to my research paper because it explores the ways that the Indigenous people of Mexico have different cultural values. These values are often used against them by non-Indigenous people in the form of stereotypes.
Gates, Henry Lous. Black in Latin America. New York: NYU Press, 2011.
Although Gates’ research was primarily focused upon the experiences of individuals with African heritage, it also offers insight into race relations as they exist in Latin America. His research includes Brazil and Mexico. Gates discusses music, dance, politics, religion, food, and language experiences of Latin American citizens and the ways these are linked to the phenotypic experiences that the individuals have. The most important aspect of Gates’ research in relation to my own is the amount of time that Gates spends on explaining the way that even a drop of European blood seems to make a person more “white” than someone who was not “white.” In this way, being white is definitely seen as a preferable privilege to those with other types of heritage, including those with an Indigenous heritage.
Knight, Alan. “Racism, Revolution, and Indigenismo: Mexico, 1910-1940.” In The Idea of Race in Latin America, 1870-1940. Ed. Richard Graham. Austin, TX:University of Texas Press, 1990. 71-113.
This chapter is important in explaining the history of race and racism in Mexico. The chapter particularly focuses on the concepts of “mestizo” and “Indian,” and the way that intellectuals in Mexico were able to build a language that relied upon “science” in order to foster anti-Indigenous racism. The article focuses on the educational, artistic, and cultural ramifications that the anti-Indigenous sentiment had. It argues that educational institutions in particular were sites devoted to disseminating nationalistic propaganda that relied upon phenotypic stereotypes against Indigenous people. This chapter is important to my research because it provides a historical background to the existing stereotypes in Mexico.
Kempton, Willett. The Folk Classification Of Ceramics: A Study Of Cognitive Prototypes. Cambridge: Academic Press, 2012.
Kempton’s book is especially useful for this research paper because Kempton focuses on the social stereotypes that are associated with indigenous Mexicans. For example, Kempton explains that there are claims of indigenous people in Mexico being unfriendly and lazy. Stereotypes also exist of the indigenous people being violent or engaged in polygynous activities. Kempton’s research demonstrated that these social stereotypes manifested in school teachers passing these stereotypes on to children. Additionally, indigenous Mexicans were viewed so negatively that the more “modern” citizens expressed a desire to keep their distance from the indigenous citizens entirely.
Lovell, Peggy A. “Gender, Race, and the Struggle of Social Justice in Brazil.” Latin American Perspectives 27.6 (2000): 85-102.
This study demonstrated that equally qualified Afro-Brazilians who were black earned less than white Brazilians. The study also demonstrated that those Brazilians who were brown also earned less than those who were white. This research was very relevant to my research paper because it demonstrates that in Brazil, there is a definite preference for those who are white over those who are brown or black, including those who are Indigenous. This has a social effect on their economic status, because they are placed in inferior earning positions.
The Right to Food of Indigenous Peoples in Latin America: The Fight of the Sawhoyamaxa in Paraguay and the Guarani-Kaiowá in Brazil for Their Rights. Heidelberg, Germany: FIAN International, 2012.
Although this research is more about the struggle for civil rights than it is about stereotypes, one of the most important aspects of the research is on hunger and the malnutrition that affects people in Latin America. The research strongly argues that the hunger occurs as as a result of multiple examples of discrimination. The report also discusses the intersectionality aspect of gender and ethnic heritage that affects the Indigenous women and poverty. This is relevant to my research paper because this type of poverty is one of the greatest examples of the ways that phenotypic stereotypes result in negative consequences for the Indigenous people of Brazil.
Telles, Edward and Nelson Lim. “Does it Matter Who Answers the Race Question?: Racial Classifcation and Income Inequality in Brazil.” Demography 35.4 (1998): 465-474.
Telles and Lim explore the incorrect belief that there is a harmony between racial and ethnic groups in Brazil. They also dismiss the idea that there is an absence of racial discrimination in Brazil and address the misconception that all inequality in Brazil is found along economic lines. Importantly, Telles and Lim believe that the economic inequality is due to the phenotypic stereotypes that exist. They argue that if the phenotypic stereotypes did not place people in economically unequal situations, there would be no discrimination along the lines of economic situations. This is relevant to my research because it addresses the economic consequences of phenotypic stereotypes among Indigenous people.
Tutino, John. Mexico and Mexicans in the Making of the United States. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012.
Tutino’s research explores phenotypic prejudice against both Mexicans living in Mexico and Mexican-Americans living in the United States. Tutino discusses the way that prejudice in Mexico is expressed against mestizos, whose physical appearance is closer to the indigenous people, and the racial prejudice against mulattoes, whose physical appearance is closer to those of African ancestry. Tutino argues that both mestizos and mulattoes face phenotypic prejudice, and that those who are lighter skinned face the least amount of prejudice. This is relevant to my research because it explores the ways in which the phenotypic prejudice is expressed against Indigenous people in Mexico.