Conference on Latin American History 2
The papers in this session analyze the multiple cultural, political, and spatial constructions of blackness in post-independence Mexico: when emancipation, not slavery, was the most common historical reference. They collectively nuance if not to deconstruct the paradigms of assimilation, silencing, and erasure that minimize Mexico’s place in the African Diaspora. They address three broadly defined but unexplored periods of Afro-Mexican history: the years of and immediately following the abolition of slavery and racial categories; the late-nineteenth century, when people could still trace their family ancestries back to slavery but once official racial categories had been exorcised for several decades; and the early-twentieth century, when blackness had been fully removed from state visions of the Mexican populace and the everyday negotiations of state formation. This session contends that the abolition of racial signifiers—the making of a so-called post-racial society—did not banish blackness from Mexico’s historical narrative, cultural cartography, or historical archives. More importantly, it argues that the politics of Mexican blackness cannot be reduced to a wholesale program of state-sponsored erasure. Instead, popular actors, cultural producers, and statesmen used culture, language, symbolism, and law to make and remake African-descended identities in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Mexico.