A Reflection On Race And Ethnicity Readings In Latin American Studies

The interaction of three races in that found themselves in South America during the start of the 15th Century, led to clear contours in the ethnicities under the jurisdiction of the Iberian invaders. There was a substantial indigenous population in the region but these European powers preferred to ship African(as they were thought to be a hardy stock capable of resisting tropical diseases)  slaves across the Atlantic to the New World where they were they became laborers. Every African slave was to pay for their expensive voyage across the Atlantic ocean by working for the rest of their lives in sugar plantations. By the 1500s, the direct interaction between these three races gave birth to a culture that was quite distinct in Latin America; a fusion of two or more culture, creating a kaleidoscope of combinations that would vary from region to region. The purpose of this essay is to reflect on two readings about the issue of race and ethnicity in Latin America.

The Afro-Mestizos, for instance, had their roots from the race-mixing that would occur between the African population and the indigenous Mexicans. As a result, a new category of “people-in-between” emerged  Latin America. These people would then end up interacting and further perpetuate this new category. During this period in Latin America, a caste system was put into place to create a distinct system of categorizing the ethnicities that existed in the said geographical area (Chasteen, 2006)However, a conundrum would present its self in occasions where individuals from these lower castes such as the Afro-Mestizos who would progress socially in life. The colonial government would allow them to buy a legal exemption (gracias al sacar) that would make them legally white. Such  law was responsible for drawing criticism from the rest of the population who could not “buy” their race or ethnicity as heritage would be seen as a negotiable spectrum.

It was the Afro-Mestizo’s way of thinking that was responsible for creating a society that was a melting pot of many cultures and customs but still able to cooperate and create close loyalty ties to each other. Life in Mesoamerica consisted of a certain level of intricacy that had its levels in colonialism. In the White Iberian Society, for instance, patriarchy was an omnipresent, hegemonic and inescapable force. The patriarchy extended to the homes where it was legal for the husband to exercise total control over his wife. Here, the honor system was put to use as a measure of how well the man or woman play the roles that have been prescribed to them by the society. Things were a little different when it came to the African slaves. These human beings were viewed as the rightful property of a rich sugar-growing elite, and no hope of ever gaining any honor in this stratified society. It was only during extraordinary situations, such as when a slave by the name Henrique Dias was able to lead Brazilian forces to victory against the Dutch invaders during the 1600s. Women from indigenous communities, on the other hand, were able to retain different patterns of gender and hence lived in a society devoid of the honor system.

Religion had long been used as a hegemonic force in Latin America. It was the expectation of the Spanish and Portuguese colonial establishment that the enslaved Africans and the “backward” indigenous people of South America were to accept the one “true religion” and discard their own traditional beliefs. As a result, Catholicism was permissive in Latin America with the monarchs of Portugal and Spain reigning divine over their loyal subjects under the yoke of subjugation. Another common feature of the societies formed in Latin America was transculturization. It basically means that the subtle confrontations and negotiations of the communities that were of the lower castes that would enable them to have their own definition of who they really are. The interaction of the different races also led to race-mixing. Encounters between the Europeans would create mulattoes, Europeans with indigenous peoples creating an Amerindian mestizo category and the African/Amerindian combination bringing the Afro-mestizos to being. These people would create their own distinct rhythm, style, texture and mood that would permeate throughout the region. So much so that the European community in Latin American community in Latin America differed greatly from their cousins in the Iberian Peninsula in terms of taste and general demeanor.

According to Ramon Sanchez his writing “Northwest and the Conquest of the Americas” categorically suggests that is now referred to as the Pacific North West was in existence prior the famous voyage by Captain Cooks and the Clark and Lewis Expedition. The full expanse of this area, among others, involved a process of hybridization (Garcia, 2006). In the case of cultural hybridization, there were notable undesirable and other desirable outcomes there were born from it. There existed an imposition of social/cultural structure on the Amerindians were a dualistic structure that was on inclusion/exclusion basis created. Juan Gonzalez, writer of the book “Conquerors and Victims: The Image of America Forms, 1500-1800″ in Harvest of Empire is of the opinion that development of Latin America involved the cooperation of a people into one collective nation. These people would happen to have the same goals and vision (in as far as equality of the races is concerned) but former British were colonies such as the United States were different. There was institutionalized slavery which made it legal to own slaves as your property in the Southern cotton-producing states. It was the toil and labor these slaves that were responsible for driving a large portion the United States economy.

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