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(Dis)Claiming Mestizofilia: Chicana/os Disarticulating Euromestizaje


This dissertation investigates the development and contradictions of the discourse of mestizaje in its key Mexican ideologues and its revision by Mexican American or Chicana/o intellectuals. Great attention is given to tracing Mexico's dominant conceptions of racial mixing, from Spanish colonization to Mexico's post-Revolutionary period. Although mestizaje continues to be a constant point of reference in U.S. Latino/a discourse, not enough attention has been given to how this ideology has been complicit with white supremacy and the exclusion of indigenous people.

Mestizofilia, the dominant mestizaje ideology formulated by white and mestizo elites after Mexico's independence, proposed that racial mixing could be used as a way to "whiten" and homogenize the Mexican population, two characteristics deemed necessary for the creation of a strong national identity conducive to national progress. Mexican intellectuals like Vicente Riva Palacio, Andrés Molina Enríquez, José Vasconcelos and Manuel Gamio proposed the remaking of the Mexican population through state sponsored European immigration, racial mixing for indigenous people, and the implementation of public education as a way to assimilate the population into European culture. I argue that although Mexican Americans inherited this Eurocentric formulation of mestizaje, by the mid-1960s their specific social position as a negatively racialized and economically exploited population in the United States allowed self-identified Chicana/o activists and intellectuals to depart significantly from, and in some cases, clearly critique inherited Eurocentric conceptions of racial mixing and racist views of indigenous people.

Chicano/a discourse of mestizaje and indigeneity is not an uncritical reproduction of dominant Mexican mestizofilia and indigenismo, it is a collective, and sometimes deeply personal, exploration of mixed race ancestry that sought to recuperate, and in some cases, center the indigenous. Chicano/as' historical and practical context made some of their claims to indigeneity, including those dealing with spirituality, not only oppositional, but also decolonizing. Through an interdisciplinary approach grounded in Chicano/a studies, this study critically examines a broad array of texts by Mexican and Chicana/o intellectuals, including political speeches, historical texts, and literature.

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