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Publication Type
Book Whole
Author Affiliation, Ana.
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Author, Monographic
Ramsay, Paulette A.
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Title, Monographic
Afro-Mexican Constructions of Diaspora, Gender, Identity, and Nation
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Place of Publication
Mona Jamaica
Publisher Name
The University of the West Indies Press
Date of Publication
2016
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Extent of Work
204 p.
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Abstract
THE STEREOTYPIC REPRESENTATION OF MEXICO is that of a mestizo society, where European and Mexican Indian mixed. It surprises many that this same Mexico absorbed close to half a million Africans transported to the Western hemisphere as enslaved people between 1521 and 1639. It surprises many that this same Mexico during the colonial period had a larger African than European population. It surprises many that this same Mexico today has a distinctive population of African descent that continues African cultural practices and traditions. In 2015, the official interim Mexican census for the first time in over 150 years identified persons by race, and 1.4 million persons (1.2 percent of the national population) self-identified as Afro-Mexican or Afro-descendant..It is this reality that Paulette Ramsay has been researching for some time, and she has become one of the leading international scholars on Afro-Mexico. Having published various articles on the subject, she has now published a book. This is the first full-length study of the literary and cultural production of the Afro-Mexican communities located on the Costa Chica in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca on the Pacific coast of Mexico - one of the main concentrations of Afro-Mexicans in that nation..Ramsay provides a useful introductory chapter on the historical presence of Africans and their descendants in Mexico, drawing on scholarly research as she traces the resistance to enslavement and subordination and the reality of marronage. She gives insights into the racist approach to national identity by leading Mexican thinkers. For example, she quotes José Vasconcelos, noted for his essay on 'The Cosmic Race' in which he projects a racial 'type' emerging from interracial mixing. She exposes his view that 'in a few decades of aesthetic eugenics the black may disappear together with the types that a free instinct of beauty may go on signalling as fundamentally recessive and undeserving' (10). Such theories surrounding the dominant Mexican discourse of a mestizo national identity underscore the exclusion of, and racism towards, the Afro-Mexican. There is an amnesia and obliteration of the African contribution to Mexico's independence. Ramsay points out that heroes such as Morelos and Guerrero were of African ancestry, with two Mexican states named after them. Indeed, Guerrero became president in the early years of independence, and was disparagingly dubbed 'El Negro' by those forces vehemently opposed to him. He was subsequently executed. After generations of marginalising and silencing the African presence in national discourse and promoting the identity of mestizaje, the Mexican government in the late 1970s engaged in a policy that claimed Mexico as a Caribbean state. This led to governmental initiatives such as 'The Third Root' meant to focus on the African presence, contemporaneous with this policy interest in expanding Mexican influence among Caribbean states..Before analysing the cultural product of the Costa Chica, Ramsay devotes a chapter to deconstructing a black comic book character, Memín Pinguín, developed by a non-Afro-Mexican and widely popular in the country, to give an idea of what Mexicans consume and construct regarding blacks. She succinctly unveils the racist implications behind the visually and behaviourally caricatured black youth, Memín, and his 'Aunt Jemima'-stereotyped and caricatured mother. Despite Mexican protestations that no racism is involved in this series, Ramsay analyses with sound theoretical substantiation the multiple ways in which these black characters reflect a marginalised 'other' outside the scope of that Mexican myth of a mestizo society. She examines the persistently negative and demeaning depiction of both Memín and his mother and contrasts them with the positive presentation of the other, 'Mexican', characters, who essentially control Memín in the storyline. …....
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