Claudio Lomnitz on the History of Racial Identity in Mexico

Most of the time when we talk about identity, we talk about how our individual experiences shape how we see ourselves. This can also happen to a country as a whole.

What does it mean for people in Mexico to all be grouped as “Mexican?” Does it help or hurt such a culturally diverse country? And why doesn’t Mexico like to talk about race?

That’s some of what we asked Claudio Lomnitz. He is a historian, author and anthropology professor at Columbia University whose works looks at politics, history, race, and culture in Mexico.

He is the author of Death and the Idea of Mexico and The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón. Lomnitz also writes a column for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.

Featured image of Claudio Lomnitz, courtesy of PEN America.

I’m X Percent Native, Right?

April Salazar was told by her family that she had descended from Spain, and that she should be proud of her Spanish heritage. That knowledge helped shape Salazar’s identity until her family got genetic testing and found some surprising results—Salazar was not as Spanish as she was led to believe. She was also part Native American: in fact, a lot Native American. Here is this week’s Sabiduría, or Words of Wisdom:

Photo via aprilsalazar.com

My Multilingual Personalities

Some linguists hypothesize that multilingual people can have different personalities depending on the language that they are speaking. Latino USA producers Camilo Vargas and Brenda Salinas discuss how growing up bilingual alters their personalities. Camilo learned English at a bilingual school in his native Colombia. His consumption of American media affected the personality he takes on when speaking English. Brenda Salinas immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 6. Growing up in Texas, having light skin meant that she could pass as white, as long as she spoke English.

 

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C4_CamiloVargasHeadShotCamilo Vargas went from his native Colombia to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He joined Latino USA after a fellowship with Univision Noticias and Univision’s Investigative Unit. Before coming to the US, Camilo was a researcher in conflict studies and US-Latin America relations for the Colombian government and the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota. He’s reported on the drug war, national politics, and same-sex salsa.

 

 

BrendaSalinas

Before coming on board as an associate producer with Latino USA, Brenda Salinas was awarded the highly competitive Kroc Fellowship at NPR. She has reported pieces for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Weekends on All Things Considered and for KUHF Houston Public Radio. In college, she started her campus’ only student run foreign-language publication, Nuestras Voces. Brenda has a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Flickr User Alexi Ue

The Rolezinhos Take Over Brazil’s Malls

If you are a teenager and you live in one of Brazil’s urban informal settlements,or favelas, there’s not a lot of places you can go to hang out with your friends. Recently, teens have taken to organizing rolezinhos – mass meet-ups in upscale shopping malls, organized via social media.

Over time, these innocent gatherings have become something more. As protest movements grow in Brazil in the lead up to the World Cup, the rolezinhos have taken on a political character – a forum for combating the racism and social exclusion that pervades Brazilian society.

 

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Melaina SpitzerMelaina Spitzer is a freelance reporter living in Brazil.  Based in South America since 2008, Melaina has reported from Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil on the environment, human rights, and social conflicts. Her radio reports have aired on the BBC/PRI’s The World, NPR’s Morning Edition, and APM’s Marketplace.  In addition to her work as a journalist, Melaina is the Director of the Academy of the Sea, a non-profit dedicated to socio-environmental education and innovation in Brazil’s coastal communities.

 

 

 

Feature photo by Melania Spitzer

Las Luchadoras

Lucha Libre, Mexico’s national past-time of performance wrestling, is a macho sport where contestants wear super hero costumes and try to crush each other in the ring. They’re mostly thought of as men, but that’s starting to change. As Jasmine Garsd reports, women luchadoras are earning their place alongside men in this strange and complex Mexican tradition.

 

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Jasmine Garsd was born in Argentina and hosts NPR’s Alt.Latino podcast. As a journalist she’s worked on the NPR programs Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation and Tell Me More. She has covered a wide variety of topics for radio including immigration issues.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Flickr user Lee South

#1418 – A Latino History Of The U.S.

Before you head out for a Cinco de Mayo margarita, take a trip around the country with host Maria Hinojosa to learn about Latino history. Hear about the patriotic celebrations of Laredo, Texas andthe first colony in the US—it’s not where you think it is. Also: could Zorro be the first American superhero? A high school class in East LA learns about the Chicano movement. And just where did the term “Hispanic” come from?

Feature photo courtesy of Mimictrash

The First U.S. Colony: St. Augustine, Florida

The first European colony in what is today the continental U.S. isn’t where you probably think it is.

Every American kid in grade school learns that it was the British who first settled the U.S. at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. That just happens to be false. The Spanish arrived at St. Augustine, Florida decades earlier, in 1565. They came to protect their sea routes to the Caribbean, and built several forts and missions in the area over the years.

Today, a massive, star-shaped Spanish fort still stands over the city. St. Augustine has become a colonial-themed party destination where a man dressed as a pirate will take you on a pub crawl. But it’s also, as the city’s historian calls it, “the most important archeological site in the U.S.” Latino USA takes a trip to St. Augustine to shine some light on the United States’ Hispanic past. We visit historical sites such as the Castillo de San Marcos, join in on an archeological dig, and reflect what the city’s story tells us about our nation’s past.

 

Warren_cropped+12-24-10Warren Miller is a writer and producer based in St. Augustine, Florida. He has contributed to public radio and television stations in Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida for more than 20 years. He’s also written for and edited national and regional magazines. Currently, Warren is the producer and host of “Closing the Loop,” a weekly interview program on WJCT-FM, the NPR affiliate in Jacksonville.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service

 

 

Don’t Mess With Tejanos

“If it weren’t for the Tejano, Texas would be Ohio,” says Andrés Tijerina, a scholar of Texas history at Austin Community College. Tijerina argues that Texas culture – the boots and the hats, the mavericks and mustangs – all traces back to the state’s Mexican and Spanish roots.

 The Spanish first entered the Southwest searching for the seven cities Cíbola, a mythical and wealthy nation believed to exist in the American interior. They found no golden cities, but they did decide to stay and claim the vast territory for Spain.

The Spanish brought cattle ranching and cowboy culture to Texas – many had learned it in the shrublands of Western Spain. The Anglo-Americans who began settling in Texas in the 19th century were adopted Tejano ways. After the Texas War of Independence, those Anglos began to take over Tejano ranches, often murdering whole families and moving on their lands.

Some would call it ethnic cleansing. In this segment, we begin with the story of the search for Cíbola. Then, we speak with scholar Andrés Tijerina about how the narrative around Texas history has long ignored their contributions to the state.

 

 

Andres Tijerina

Andrés Tijerina, a native of Ozona, serves with distinction as Professor of History at the Pinnacle Campus of Austin Community College. He is author of Tejanos and Texas Under the Mexican Flag and Tejano Empire: Life on the South Texas Ranchos, and has edited several other works. Dr. Tijerina is a Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association and an active presenter to gatherings of historians throughout the state. His writings have appeared as chapters, articles, and book reviews in journals ranging from the Southwestern Historical Quarterly to the American Historical Review.

 

 

 

 Photo of Austin’s Tejano Monument, courtesy of Marlon Bishop

Zorro: America’s First Superhero

The Zorro story, invented in 1919 by pulp fiction author Johnston McCulley, tells the tale of an aristocrat in Spanish California who dons a mask to fight against corrupt colonial officials on behalf of the oppressed.

Zorro became the subject of a hit silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks in 1920, and went on to become one of the biggest pop culture franchises of all time. It inspired dozens of remakes, TV series, books and comics across the globe. Perhaps more importantly, Zorro went on to influence the American super hero tradition as a model for characters like Batman, Superman and the Lone Ranger.

But McCulley didn’t pluck Zorro out of thin air. The character was based on several real-life Spanish and Mexican outlaws who operated in the West, including Joaquin Murietta and Juan Cortina. These figures weren’t always fighting on the side of the United States.

 

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Marlon Bishop HeadshotMarlon Bishop is a radio producer and journalist with a focus on Latin America, New York City, music and the arts. He got his start in radio producing long-form documentaries on Latin music history for the public radio program Afropop Worldwide. After a stint reporting for the culture desk at New York Public Radio (WNYC), Marlon spent several years writing for MTV Iggy, MTV”s portal for global music and pop culture. Marlon has also lived and traveled all over Latin America, reporting stories as a freelancer for NPR, Studio 360, The World, the Village Voice, Billboard and Fusion, among other outlets. He is currently a staff Producer for Latino USA.

 

 

 Photo: Movie poster for 1920 film The Mark of Zorro, courtesy of Wikipedia