Güeras, Morenas, y Prietas: Mexicana Color Lines and Ethnoracial Sameness-Difference
Perez, Ana Maria
Bolles, Augusta Lynn
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This interdisciplinary study documents the ethnoracial identities and racialized experiences of women of Mexican descent residing in the greater Tampa Bay region and the multiple meanings that they assigned to race and color categories. Tampa's in-between status, straddling North and South and black/white imaginaries provides important insight into the ways that this rural Mexican population negotiate questions of race and color. The study's participants share a history of migrant farm work and by extension experienced familiar tropes of Mexican racialization that connect manual labor, illegality, to low social status. What is less known is the significance of vernacular Mexican color terminology such as <italic> morena,</italic> <italic> prieta,</italic> and <italic>negra </italic> (approximate translation: brown, dark brown, and black) and the migration of meaning of this dynamic and relational lexicon of race, color, and gender. The use of this informal language of race and color suggests an ethnoracial form of cultural citizenship that permits the right to difference in the face of Mexican non- racialism and U.S. color-blindness. The simultaneous practice of tolerance and rejection of racial difference reflects the constant negotiation of mestizaje (race mixture); that has worked to erase a larger history of Mexican multiraciality. The everyday use of this dynamic color terminology serves as embodied testaments to Mexico's overlapping Indian-Black-European histories and cultures. I argue that the ethnoracial location <italic>morena <italic>works as an idealized and ambiguous middle ground that permits ethnoracial heterogeneity. Most telling, this idealized racial middle ground bends and shifts to accommodate a range of skin colors and tones symbolically located in between a white and black color line. This major finding complicates contemporary theories that presume that Mexican and Latin American racial ideologies reject and eliminate black and white polarizations. The everyday negotiations of color labels among women of Mexican descent offer a window into the translocal movement between and among these fluid categories. This research promises to recast mestizaje as an embodied experience and reanimate color as a category of analysis to consider the significance of the overlap of Indo-Hispanic and Afro-Latin American racial formations in Mexico. .