Race and Classification: The Case of Mexican America

By Ilona Katzew; Susan Deans-Smith | Go to book overview

Introduction:
The Alchemy of Race
in Mexican America

Susan Deans-Smith and Ilona Katzew

WRITING IN 1774 about the racially mixed population of colonial Mexico or “the kingdom of New Spain” as it was known, the Spanish merchant and antiquarian don Pedro Alonso O'Crouley (1740-1817) observed:

[A] pure-bred Indian is as untainted in blood as a Spaniard, with whom there
is no incompatibility as there is with the Negro; although their mixture con-
tinues, it is uncontaminated through all the degrees of descent and back to the
original starting point… To those contaminated with the Negro strain we
may give over-all, the name of mulatos, without specifying the degree or the
distance direct or indirect from the Negro root or stock, since … be it the first
union with an Indian or Spaniard or a mixture of these, that it always results
in some kind of mulato mixture, which even the most effective chemistry can-
not purify.1

Some 130 years later, Dr. Alfred P. Schultz, a proponent of Social Darwinism and its “scientific” arguments that emphasized the virtues of racial purity, described the negative consequences of racial mixing in his book Race or Mongrel (1908). In his chapter devoted to the “South American Mongrel,” Schultz observed:

As long as Gothic blood prevailed in Spain, Spain was great. After the Moorish
wars were over, the Spaniards and the Portuguese fused with the Moors that
remained. The Moors introduced Arabian and negro blood … These Iberian-
Gothic-Arabian-negro mongrels colonized South America, Mexico, Central
America, and the West Indies … Mexico is a country inhabited by whites,

-1-

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