Updated: May 27, 2022
I hope everyone is doing well and finding time to support one another and yourselves.
I wanted to quickly talk about and recommend a book I’ve recently finished titled “Afro-Mexican Constructions of Diaspora, Gender, Nation and Identity,” by Paulette A. Ramsay.
Throughout the novel, Ramsay explores several paradigms pertaining to the narratives/lived experiences of Afro-descended people within the Costa Chica of southern/coastal Mexico (regions like Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Guerrero).
First and foremost, contrary to the national narrative of/appraisal for mestizaje (a blending of the three races-Spaniard, Native, and African-into one dominant/perfect race), predominantly afro-descended people still exist/have existed in large numbers. It was not until 2015 that Afro-Mexicans were allowed to “represent” themselves in the national census, reporting a projected total of 1.5 million people.
Ramsay makes it clear that these communities suffer intentional, systemic erasure and oppression. Popularized media, such as the comic book series known as Memín Pinguín-which portrayed a mammy caricature alongside her Black son (who was portrayed as a monkey)-negated the supposed racial paradise that Mexico attempted to portray. Memin was so popular that postage stamps and piñatas with the “national icon” could still be found in stores as recently as the early-2000s. In terms of the material realities of many predominantly afro-Mexican communities, resources are systemically limited if not restricted.
Ramsay then goes on to explore how Black people in Mexico have come to understand themselves in relation to the nation, particularly across the lines of gender. Although a largely cis-gender analysis of gender paradigms within Afro-Mexican communities, Ramsay explores how gender relations as “important to constructions of nation” dictate conversations of being v non-being across civil, political, and social planes.
Aside from this highly informative novel, I also want to shout out some folks who I have learned from (through courses, texts, poems, etc), who live and speak on the problematic vis-a-vis anti-Black weight behind popularized notions such as “latinidad” both from a U.S perspective and a Latin American one. First and foremost is Dash Harris (IG @diasporadash) a Black Panamanian who co-hosts a short intensive series of courses talking about mestizaje and Black Latin American history. As well as Ariana Brown (IG @arianathepoet), a Black Mexican-American poet from the Southside of San Antonio Texas who explores her relationship with Mexicanidad (spoiler, there isn’t one that deserves to be kept). Some key takeaways that I’ve learned from these folks are: yes, and, what have Black folks ever gained from aligning themselves with patria and always center the voices of those who live the everyday material consequences of the social paradigms at play, especially those of afro and indigenous descent.