Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race

Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race

Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race

Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race

Synopsis

In this groundbreaking study of Puerto Rican and Dominican migration to the United States, Wendy D. Roth explores the influence of migration on changing cultural conceptions of race- for the newcomers, for their host society, and for those who remain in the countries left behind. Just as migrants can gain new language proficiencies, they can pick up new understandings of race. But adopting an American idea about race does not mean abandoning earlier ideas. New racial schemas transfer across borders and cultures spread between sending and host countries.

Behind many current debates on immigration is the question of how Latinos will integrate and where they fit into the U. S. racial structure. Race Migrations shows that these migrants increasingly see themselves as a Latino racial group. Although U. S. race relations are becoming more "Latin Americanized" by the presence of Latinos and their views about race, race in the home countries is also becoming more "Americanized" through the cultural influence of those who go abroad. Ultimately, Roth shows that several systems of racial classification and stratification co-exist in each place, in the minds of individuals and in their shared cultural understandings of "how race works."

Excerpt

Sitting on the front steps of his stucco house in Santo Domingo, Agustín is surrounded by the bustle of activity. His house serves as an informal gathering place for neighbors, his teenage children, and volunteers for the various political activities he organizes. the group huddled around him today, awaiting direction for the latest campaign event, looks like a cross-section of the Dominican population: there are people with light skin, dark skin, African features, European features, and almost every mixture in between. Later, Agustín confidently describes the racial categories that exist in the Dominican Republic:

Here there’s a mix of negro and blanco—that’s the majority, the ones that are
mulato. There are some that are a minority, which is a minority that almost
doesn’t exist, which are the sambos…. the ones they call sambos are Indian
and negro…. You can find some in some regions of Yamasa, around there,
and Sabana Grande de Boya, some individuals that have Indigenous and negro
characteristics.

He concludes that there are primarily three races in the Dominican Republic today: mulatos, blancos, and negros. in the past, there used to be mestizos, those who are a mixture of White and Indigenous, as well as sambos, but these races barely exist now because the Indigenous race was wiped out by European colonizers. the vast majority of Dominicans today—more than 80 percent of the population, he estimates—are mulatos.

A 53-year-old man with dark skin and African features, Agustín places himself within that mulato majority. He explains, “I understand that I’m a mix of bianco and negro, of Spanish and African origin…. [I’m] mulato,… not totally . . .

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