An up-close view of the movement to make “Afro-Mexican” an official cultural category
“A robust, compelling engagement with ideas about and the existence of Blackness in modern Mexico and its vexed relationship to contemporary Mexican citizenship.”—Herman L. Bennett, author of Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-Mexico
Through historical and ethnographic research, Blackness in Mexico delves into the ongoing movement toward recognizing Black Mexicans as a cultural group within a nation that has long viewed the non-Black Mestizo as the archetypal citizen. Anthony Jerry focuses on this process in Mexico’s Costa Chica region in order to explore the relational aspects of citizenship and the place of Black people in how modern citizenship is imagined.
Jerry’s study of the Costa Chica shows the political stakes of the national project for Black recognition; the shared but competing interests of the Mexican government, activists, and townspeople; and the ways that the state and NGOs are working to make “Afro-Mexican” an official cultural category. He argues that that the demand for recognition by Black communities calls attention to how the Mestizo has become an intuitive point of reference for identifying who qualifies as “other.” Jerry also demonstrates that while official recognition can potentially empower African descendants, it can simultaneously reproduce the same logics of difference that have brought about their social and political exclusion.
One of few books to center Blackness within a discussion of Mexico or to incorporate a focus on Mexico into Black studies, this book ultimately argues that the official project for recognition is itself a methodology of mestizaje, an opportunity for the government to continue to use Blackness to define the national subject and to further the Mexican national project.
Anthony Russell Jerry is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California, Riverside.
A volume in the series New World Diasporas, edited by Kevin A. Yelvington
Publication of this work made possible by a Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.