Mestizaje and the discourse of national/cultural identity in Latin America, 1845-1959

  • Martínez-Echazábal L
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Mestizaje,' the process of interracial and/or intercultural mixing, is a foundational theme in the Americas, particularly in those areas colonized by the Spanish and the Portuguese. Such is the scope of mestizaje in Latin American society that, for nearly two centuries, its intellectuals and statesmen have explored it in an attempt to elucidate its impact on what Jose Marti called "our mestiza America." During the nineteenth century, mestizaje was a recurrent trope indissolubly linked to the search for lo americano (that which constitutes an authentic [Latin] American identity in the face of European and/or Anglo-American values). Later, during the period of national consoli-dation and modernization (1920s-1960s), mestizaje underscored the affirma-tion of cultural identity as constituted by "national character" (lo cubano, lo mexicano, lo brasileino, etc.). Most recently, since the late 1980s, the concept of mestizaje has come to play an important role in the recognition of the plurality of cultural identities in the region and, therefore, of the hybrid constitution of the nation (as epitomized by the recognition of identities such as that of Japanese Brazilians, Argentine Jews, African Cubans, Mexican Lebanese, and Chinese Peruvians, to mention a few), as well as in the formation of a diaspora identity forged under the rubric of lo hispano or lo latino. In short, because Latin America is one of the regions in which racial and cultural mixing has taken place most extensively and most violently because of the nature and timing of colonization, mestizaje is a theme that virtually every Latin American writer/intellectual has addressed in one fash-ion or another.

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  • Lourdes Martínez-Echazábal

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