Racism in Latin America

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While the idea of racial democracy may be an ideology or agenda pushed by the political elite, there is evidence which shows the majority of Latin America is that of mixed or mestizaje lineage, people who aren’t clearly indigenous, black, or white. Racism manifests in Latin America where politics attempts to manipulate culture; divisive politics makes people easier to control and racial lines are easily exploited.

According to Peter Wade, and his peers agree, Humans are “too similar genetically”, and groups so intermingled, that variation is too great to be categorized into races. Race is a set of “ideas” about human our similarities and differences. (Poole & Wade, 2008) Ideas about racial democracy and racism in Latin America span pre-colonial, colonial, to modern times and have evolved to show tension between nature and varying forms of government – and its effects on the populations targeted.

Pre-Colonial/Colonial race relations

The “social contstruction” of Latin America by Europe started immediately upon arrival in 1492 and by late 1500’s a population of roughly 20 million native “Indio” populations was reduced to two million. (Gates, 2011) Such a reduction in the native, “ New World” manpower used by the conquistadors called for imports of African slaves en masse to South America, the Carribean, and North America. Thus a caste system or “sistema de castas” was proliferated throughout the Americas to promoted “proper” mixing of the races along state sanctioned lines. For such a system to work, the people, brown, black, and even white, had to be indoctrinated to believe that this is how things were, however pseudo-scientific we know such principles to be today. (Nieto-Phillips, 2008)

Limpieza de Sangre

By end of 17th century interracial marriages were on the rise, the Catholic Church relaxed its former restrictions on race mixing. The Catholic Church allowed marriage between all groups. So as doctrine changed and laws evolved to grant freedom to black slaves and children of white citizens, such propaganda as “Casta paintings” were painted to show diversity of mixing genes of black people, brown people, and white people. (Las Castas, 2013)

Pseudo scientific reasons to make certain people inferior so that they were more easily managed. Convincing certain parts of the population that they are inferior is the key part in such a social manipulation technique; there is ample documentation of the psychological, physical, and emotional abuse that took place to enforce such philosophies. (Gates, 2011)

Mestizaje & Multiculturalism

In modern times, if there is a case to be made for racism in Latin America, it is in the ideas about racial democracy and confusing racial coexistence with racial equality. Many Latin American governments it is the protocol, or doctrine, to push the belief that race is not an issue, that racism is not a problem, that racial discrimination does not exist because everyone is mixed – mestizaje.

On the other hand much academic research shows that racism does exist and that racial discrimination does occur/is a factor in peoples’ life outcomes.

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