Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Negros-Afromexicanos: Recognition and the Politics of Identity in Contemporary Mexico

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Negros-Afromexicanos: Recognition and the Politics of Identity in Contemporary Mexico

Article excerpt

Abstract

Afro-Mexican communities in the Costa Chica region have forged strategic organizations, programs, and initiatives in order to combat the historical silence and discrimination of their presence and contributions in Mexico. This paper presents a transnational communication and theorization of current events and activities with goals that range from the articulation and selection of ethno-racial terminology, to the dissemination of cultural identifiers, and the constitutional recognition of Afro-Mexicans. It also discusses projects and programs such as the Encuentro de los Pueblos Negros (Meeting of the Black Communities) in Oaxaca and Guerrero, and the association México Negro, A.C., in order to illustrate how community-based projects contribute to a reification of afromexicanidad or Afro-Mexican-ness as a dynamic and pluri- versal construction of being and of blackness.

Llegaremos en América, antes que en parte alguna del globo, a la creación de una raza hecha con el tesoro de todas las anteriores, a la raza final, la raza cósmica (We in America shall arrive, before any other part of the world, at the creation of a new race fashioned out of the treasures of all the previous ones: The final race, the cosmic race)

-José Vasconcelos

¿ Cuál es mi cultura, mi raza, mi destino? " (What is my culture, my race, my destiny?)

-Manuel Zapata Olivella

Introduction

The relationship between mestizaje and mexicanidad (Mexican-ness) illustrates the role of identity politics in the formation of imagined community. Mestizaje has been utilized as a strategic identity construct in order to forge an inseparable nexus between the geo-political and the bio-political construction of mexicanidad. In particular, the mestizo identity has been framed as a spiritual tool with which to blur racialized color lines into a homogeneous imagined community and reconcile the cultural and social divisions within the nation. However, the bond between Mexican-ness, mestizaje, and blackness has reflected a different trajectory, one of "uneasy tension" and disidentification (Vaughn, 49). It is a route in which blackness has been socially and culturally delinked from the modern imagination of mexicanidad. Whether engaged via the signifiers of negro, moreno, or afromexicano, Black identity has been made invisible, residing beyond the borders of the mestizo nation, blurred into brown through the process of mestizaje, and disassociated from significant cultural contributions to the country. Yet, the pueblos negros (Black communities) in the Costa Chica region of southern Mexico have been organizing in order to combat this racial amnesia, and more importantly, to articulate a pluri- versal construction of being and of blackness, which catapults forward the extensive cultural, social, historical, and political activity of Afro-Mexicans within the nation today.

Within this framework, this paper presents a communication of current projects that are being implemented by these Black communities in order to be counted, to be recognized, and to be agents of their own consciousness. In addition, this article also examines how these community- based projects contribute to a reification of afromexicanidad or Afro-Mexican-ness as an inter- connected and dynamic dialogue of knowledge and being between the different Afro-descendent communities within Mexico and the Americas, thus acknowledging similarities and differences, while maintaining a collective network of identity in constant evolution.

As such, we suggest that this alternative configuration of afromexicanidad , and in turn of mexicanidad as well, reflects an examination of the contemporary politics of identity, and not identity politics in Mexico, where "the former is open to whoever wants to join, while the latter tends to be bounded by the definition of a given identity" (Mignolo, 14). This distinction is well- illustrated in the opening quotations by the Mexican José Vasconcelos and the Afro-Colombian Manuel Zapata Olivella. …

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