And now I can finally reply in the context of Native Identity properly within the confines of this Longhouse:
Again, much obliged Mr. Vagabond GentleMan. I'm not sure how much of a scholar I am, but I'm glad to have this conversation with you, as you are indeed touching on very deep sociological issues that many Native societies around the world, not just America, face on a daily basis.
Identity is a touchy issue for a large percentage of the world population. As had been stated before societies often clash and converge violently, leaving a great many with both an identity crisis of sorts and with a longing to connect to the past.
~ ~ ~T
he reason for so much fanfare in my posts, is because I have a first hand experience to share with you about what it means to be a Native+Non-Native hybrid living in the 21st. C. This is extremely relevant for any one living in "Latin America," and at least relevant to an extent for a Native+Non-Native hybrid (or Mestizo
) living in modern North America (politically speaking: US and Canada).
You see, I experienced first hand this social engineering machine I shall refer to as the "Visigothic Order."
In Mexico, the process of racial hybridisation starts at the top of society, not the bottom. This process has remained, not unchanged, but say at least fairly static across the centuries since the 1600s when it was decided that the Mexican "Indians" were "descendants of the 13th tribe of Israel" (a pretext used by the Spanish monarchs to abolish slavery in Mainland New Spain). The purpose of this was simply to start the Hispanisation of America and achieve said "Visigothic Order." All of this noting that even after smallpox decimated 80% of 16th. C. Native populations (a favourite line used by modern textbooks - mostly a heuristic and unproven figure), the remainder of the Native population still outnumbered the Spanish by a whopping 5 to 1 ratio according to 17th. C. Catholic Church records.
As it happens, all that Mexican independence did was "re-organise" the Visigothic order, but not eliminate it completely. Not even independence from Spain could eliminate that social order. White people were still at the top, and Natives were at the bottom. This is unfortunately true even today - with a caveat. You see Independence gave Natives a second avenue for rising among the Spanish "caste" system.
Previously, if you were un-privileged, a Spaniard would simply tell you "marry a whiter woman" and your children will have more rights." And guess what? The formula worked like a charm. For the price of introducing the Spanish into the bloodstream of your family, your children (and hence your household) would be rewarded with a higher position (and hence more legal rights) in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. But it was a dead-slow process which took many generations to raise your family to an acceptable standard of living. Only the Spanish-pure could be rulers. Not even the Mexican-born children of Spanish parents, "Criollos," could be in the government.
Then after Mexican Independence, something remarkable happened; suddenly, some in the lower bottom castes of Mexican society, like Afro-Mestizos (Vicente Guerrero, Jose-Maria Morelos), and full blooded Natives (e.g. Benito Juarez), found their way up to the top, as Founding Fathers and leaders of the Mexican nation. This process was continued into the 20th. C, because people from lower rungs of society could now skip the "Visigothic Order" hybridisation process altogether, and instead, simply go into the service of the nation in the government or military.
Vicente Guerrero, 2nd President of Mexico, and former general of the Mexican Independence forces
President Benito Juarez
The second remarkable thing that happened after Independence, is than non-Spanish whites began to emigrate from Europe to Mexico. Never really explained in history books (as 20th. C history tends to be too "recent"), is the fact that toward the late 19th C waves of immigrants from Europe, such as Italians and French started flooding the cities Mexico with Non-Hispanic ethnicity (and indeed the rest of Latin America if you count also German, Chinese and Japanese migrants as well on top of the Italians and French). This is something most Americans (even scholarly ones) are likely to ignore.
By the early 20th. C. Non-Hispanic Europeans had replaced the Spanish as the migrant class and became the new Bourgeois class of people - who did not look Mexican at all, but yet they were Mexican as well. These were now affluent owners of private businesses which linked Mexico to the greated world of business, and attracted British and American technology into Mexico (e.g. Railways). By the way, some of those late 19th, businesses, such as Chocolates Turin, and Pasteleria El Globo (Italian migrants) are listed in the "Victorian Food Brands Still Extant" thread elsewhere in this forum. I've often ranted about my French and Italian family in this forum as well.
Hybridisation would now take place between these new Europeans and Native and Mestizo higher classes in the government and the military. To top it off, WWI and WWII brought even more migrants such as Spanish, Polish and Russian Jews during 20th. C. They were fleeing the dual scourges of Communism and Fascism. By 1940 you had a really interesting mix of people among Mexico City's upper classes.
Fast forward to the 1970's and people like me come to the fore. My own background is very hybrid, with Basque+Native-Mexican, French+Native-Mexican and Italian+Native-Mexican roots that are easily found at the turn of the 19th. C. I posses a treasure trove of photographs dating back to the 1890's mostly on the French, Italian and Basque sides.
When I was a child I was, for lack of a better term, privileged. Not a millionaire. But well to do. My forefathers were, as expected, a mix of people who raised themselves by the bootstraps (the Basque were originally farmers - then became civil engineers) or were merchants (the Italians ran convenience stores) as well as the "comfortably situated" (the French were plain wealthy).
At my school (a private k-12 through college institution - complete with uniforms like in the Manga I read
), you could would walk in, read the class roster, and see names (I will improvise names here because of privacy concerns for my fellow classmates) like "Annabel Martinez-Katz," "Mauricio Gianotti-Fernandez," and well, yours truly (you guys already know my real name as I have plastered it over the Internet many times).
Most of these kids did not
look Mexican. You need to picture that in your mind. Some did have a mysterious "olive" skin complexion (such as your truly), plus a wild mix of clear eyes and blond hair here and there too - like "well tanned white people" - with a few of them really white, either Celtic or Germanic types running around - some Spanish blonds too. Certainly nothing you would call "Mexican." Maybe a few people identifiably Middle-Eastern looking - as some of these kids were part Lebanese (e.g. Carlos Slim - Google this name) and Jewish people too (e.g. Jacobo Zabludovsky - Google him too)...A few of these wealthy kids, a minority, however, were definitely darker, and identifiably Mexican if you follow your stereotypes.
This is what upper class society looks down there, even today. The social injustice of the Visigothic Order implies that can tell the social rung of the kids by the colour of their skin. The exeption being that a few people in the posh neighborhoods don't fit that order. They're "too Native," and hence you can tell they had to climb up the ladder by way of the government or military. And in a sense it has always been like that, as naturally even in Colonial Mexico people would rise through the caste system.
The point is that hybridisation in modern times takes place at these levels between the mostly-Mexican and Mostly-European children, and this is precisely where the cultural identity crisis begins. What does it mean to be Mexican? Native? European? Something else? Light skin? Dark skin? Rich? Poor? The answer is not clear.
One good day I was being bullied by another kid. I think it was at some point in my middle school years - perhaps 8th grade, who knows. The kid was the son of a politician. Good natured but somewhat of a trouble maker, this clearly dark-skinned Mexican-looking kid has a bone to pick me that day. Apparently, he was intrigued by the fact that I had a common skin condition on my chest and he kept asking me "what was wrong with me," trying to extract an answer. He kept pointing at his own skin through his polo shirt. "See? I don't have those bumps."
My best friend at the time was a Spanish-Mexican kid, who happened to be perfectly white, blond and blue eyed. Two siblings of that family took after their mother who was very blond and the older brother took after the father who perhaps looked more "Spanish" in the stereotypical sense.
So my best friend came to my rescue. Without thinking, and in a derogatory tone, he said, "well it's because on "black" people you can't see any of those bumps."
Talk about an awkward moment. The bully stood speechless. I stood speechless. My friend stood speechless. The terrible realisation of what he said had quieted down all of us loud kids.
You see, my friend was trying to protect me. He came to my rescue, but in doing so he vomited a statement that is unacceptable, even in Mexican society. Colour of skin is a touchy subject in Mexico - it implies your "overall status," right? You don't go out commenting on the colour of skin of anyone down there - unless you want a punch in the face. But by blurting this out he had revealed the "Visigothic Order." My skin was olive. The bully's was plain brown. He used the Visigoth style put-down to stop the bully, and in doing so, he revealed the mechanism of that Visigothic Order as a tool. White on top, olive in the middle, brown at the bottom.
Like a cog in a terrible machine I had a place in that society. I felt terrible that day. It's everywhere you look. The Spanish-immigrant owner/rector of the private school (a real a***hole of you ever met one) criticised his own kind by saying that "in Mexico being white means money." He was right of course. The terrible Visigothic Machine pumping in our Mexican veins....
In other instances during my childhood I got to see times when in commercial Television, you could not even find a news anchor male or female who looked Mexican. Typical famous news anchors names of the era (1970's, 80's) included Jacobo Zabludovski and later his son Abraham Zabludovsky, Lolita Ayala (google these names find the pictures). Most TV personalities looked suspiciously Non-Mexican. A teenage idol at the time (among the girls) was "Lucerito," a very pretty girl who barely bore a Mexican ethnic similitude. Sort of like the Mexican version of Brooke Shields. Private broadcasts were made by people with money for people with money. And that usually meant a lighter skin too. This is very much a part of the Mexican paradox that will have many Americans scratching their head.
Lolita Ayala, age 60, in 2012
Jacobo Zabludovsky, age 84, in 2012 (still working for ESPN Sports in Mexico
Singer Lucero (a.k.a Lucerito) in the 1980s
There was no conspiracy. These were the educated class in Mexico. Not surprisingly, in the private media, those were the ones who got to study communications, acting and other disciplines in college between the 1920s, through to the 1960s. Not necessarily the wealthy, mind you - Jacobo Zabludovsky grew in "Tepito" the poorest borough of Mexico City, being the son of Polish Jews who sold cabbages at the farmer's market (you can't be any poorer than that). But the rise of many of these immigrants was undoubtedly aided by the innate favoritism that Mexican society has for lighter skinned people.
These people are definitely not representative of the average Mexican in the streets of Mexico City. But they do represent a sizeable proportion of society -it just happens to be the top class. About 10% of the population in Mexico are ethnically 90% or better European. Compare that to the 12, and 13% for African Americans and Hispanics, respectively, in the United States. Americans will never spot them abroad unless they hear them speak. Not at Disneyland, South by Southwest, or the Washington Monument. Nor the Kosher Deli at my local supermarket (hee, hee). But I will. They are representative of the people who live in the posh and fancy neighborhoods, that top 10% of the population as prescribed by the Visigothic Order.
I got to see many times when teachers at my school, themselves conspicuously "un-Mexican" - yet all of them "perfectly Mexican," would scold students who dared utter racist epitaphs or discriminate other students for having darker skin. The socio-economic order made life hellish to those students who didn't fit in or were new arrivals from that "service to the nation elevator" we've had since Independence. Imagine you come from a poor background in whichever your country is, and suddenly your parents win the lottery. They send you to a fancy school where everybody is a stuck-up snob - but you have to do it wearing a tattoo on your forehead that reads "I'm poor." That is a bit like what happens to some of those children in Mexico in their posh schools. But you can't have Mexican society without all of those kids white, brown and in-between. Because ever since Hernan Cortes took "La Malinche" as a mistress, that has been the origin of Mexican Society.
Things did improve in popular media during the late 1980s, though. The Mexican government started a new national chain of television and radio stations which focused more on Mexican heritage, politics and history, manned by anchors who looked more Mexican, who could relate more to the general population. Many years have passed since those days. So the changes must be very apparent by today. I don't really check. Univision and Telemundo are really American broadcatst corporations who slap together content from several Spanish-speaking countries, so it's difficult to see "straight-Mexican" TV where I live.
I'm surprised Zabludovsky is still alive though. And I think Lolita Ayala is a vampire.
Now that I have the Internet and plenty of pictures, Wiki and Goggle Maps
, I can actually do the whole "show and tell" about what Mexico really looks like (or at least better than just describing what it looked like 30 years ago). The Good the Bad and the Ugly. Being Mexican means you need to understand it all. All of this is intimately related to the fact you are part Native.
Sometimes I wrestle with the idea of going back to Mexico. Sometimes I think that is the only way I'm going to be able to raise a family, for societal, economic and even cultural reasons -and it is damn late for me already. But I struggle with how to raise my hypothetical children. That was one aspect of Mexico I didn't like (the hierarchy). Those Visigothic racial hot buttons will be there. Should I go back and obey the Visigothic Order of things myself? Let me put it to you this way; You don't go back to live in Mexico unless you plan to have a good income and live in a large city, in one of those posh neighborhoods. This is still a developing country.
On the other hand they will have a much greater sense of self, with a comprehensive panorama of their own history. They will eat well. And live in pretty places - in a big house. The standard of living is higher, dollar for dollar of income, if you are in the top half. It's not that bad, really -provided you have a professional-level income. It's a beautiful country. They say the 7th. largest economy in the world. I guess I turned out OK, but every child is a different universe. Having to educative them about these things will be important.
Yes I know, it sounds horribly harsh. And yet Ayala and Zabludovsky are not any less Mexican than me nor less Mexican than Benito Juarez. Neither are my French,Italian and Basque family members. We are just cogs in the Visigothic Machine.