Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America

Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America

by Gregory Rodriguez 8-1

This book offers a very comprehensive, easy-to-read narrative of the history of intermixing in Mexican and Mexican American history. Thoroughly researched with many details, stats and anecdotes from a wide variety of historians and common people, this book also offers a new way to look at ideas like "race," "mexican," "latino," "hispanic," "chicano," "mestizo," and "mixed"--and ultimately the impact of these terms on immigration issues.

here are a few highlights from the book:

1) intermixing between spanairds and mexican indians began practically as soon as spaniards arrived when in 1511 a conquistador ship crashed and while most of the survivors were captured by mayans, one essentially integrated with a tribe, married and had three children before Cortes even arrived at Cozumel in 1519.

2) it is widely known that Cortes and his soldiers, because they had no women spanish women there, took indian wives. Often, these wives were given to the Spaniards as acts of welcome by vanquished tribes or those seeking an alliance to fight the Aztecs (eg the Totonacs and Tlaxcalans). sometimes indian women went with the soldiers by choice because they saw it as a better life. Of course, spanish soldiers, because they were not regulated by a government they respected, also resorted to rape

3) most sexual relations btwn spaniards and indians were done outside the real of marriage--concubinage. Combined with the fact that concubines sometimes had relations with multiple men meant that the paternity of children was often questioned. even when it wasn't, because there were no laws forcing the men to care for their offspring, these mestizos sometimes would be treated as spaniard and sometimes treated as indian

4) 200,000 african slaves arrived in New Spain during colonial times with a male to female rate of 4 to 1, so they also heavily intermixed with indians and mixed

5) the indian population of mexico was decimated by diseases brought from spain and africa. 25 million in 1500 to 1 million in 1620 (the nadir), so mixed people were more and more common, becoming the majority as mixed people bred with indians, other mixed people, and spanish.

6) soon, the country was so mixed that elaborate caste systems (which were never uniform) were developed to distinguish between the level of rights btwn all the mixed ppl. However, as more mixed ppl were accepted as "spanish," even the highest caste, then, became mixed and mixing it was extremely hard to determine differences btwn ppls ancestries.

7) also, because of the diseases, sometimes tribes had only a very few survivors (not enough to survive by themselves) who moved into the urbanized, capitalist mexico city to find work. Often detribalized indians adapted spanish cultural traits so they could adapt more to the employment they could get. This meant that Culture differences btwn indians, mixed and spaniards also became harder to distinguish, further blurring "racial" and "ethnic" lines

8) when spaniards went north into modern-day US states, they brought mixed ppl, christianized indians, and slaves. Because life was very difficult on these frontiers, this created equality for survival purposes, and intermixing was rampant.

9) as anglo-saxon whites, however, because they were used to dealing with the binary racial grouping of white vs. black, had difficulties (and multiple inconsistencies) when it came to accepting mexicans as equals--and most flat out refused, tho they often said that mexicans were superior to blacks.

10) the issue was further complicated as mexicans would downplay their indian heritage to claim that they were "really" white to move up socially

11) these "mexicans" were becoming integrated with anglo society and even began intermarrying (tho rarely in texas).

12) but when mexican born mexicans started immigrating, inviting perenial criticsims of immigrants such as stealing jobs and being criminals and lazy, racism was inflared.

13) foreign born mexican, tho, often stayed, sometimes intermarrying with native born latinos--thereby mixing culturally (americanized w. traditional mexican ways)

14) this issue has persisted to the present. But the rise in a latino middle class has shown the growth and diversity of hispanics and the rising percentage of latino US citizens indicates that they are changing popular ideas about race. In the southwest, eg, interracial marriage is much more common than the rest of the US. one survey said in LA in 1990, interracial marriage was 5X national average. Also, 2/3 of ppl born to a mixed marriage with one latino parent, identify as latino.

15) book also touches on the la raza movement and other political activists

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