The Rhetoric and Reality of Race: Representations of African Descendants in 19th-Century Mexican National Discourse

Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:30 PM
Virginia Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Beau Gaitors, Winston-Salem State University
In 1829, the newly formed Mexican government restricted the usage of race in the census records. Indeed, this law may have helped to promote the notion of Mexico as a primarily Euro-indigenous population, effectively erasing the African descendant presence from the national narrative. Researchers have demonstrated that the passing of this law did not erase the significant presence of African descendants in local communities along the coasts and in rural areas. Yet, the existence of local African descendant communities was not the sole contradiction to the aforementioned law. This paper argues that national discussions also contradicted the law. In the nineteenth century, persistent references to and discussions of African descendants remained, despite the erasure of racial categories in the census records. More specifically, I explore how politicians and periodicals continued to employ specific racial identifiers in their discussions of individuals, communities, and general qualities in nineteenth century Mexico.
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