Colorism in Mexico

Color is a taboo subject in Mexican society, but the elite is mostly White or at least light skinned. There is more colorism as in lighter vs. darker. A lot Mexican Whites refuse to identify as White because that means gringo. They will just identify as Mexican. But others will identify as White, or more usually, as Spaniard, Frenchman, etc.

I know a guy whose family comes from Mexico who tells me he’s “French.” But he refuses to identify as White. That’s gringo, racist, etc. He also identifies as “Hispanic.” It’s like they would rather be Hispanic or Latino than White.

But a lot of them, I tell them, “You’re a Mexican? You’re as White as I am!” And they break into these huge grins and say that their families came from Spain. They clearly think they are better than the others.

One guy was insulted when I asked him if he was a Mexican. The guy was born in Mexico! He was a Spaniard, 100% pure. His people came from Spain, and he went back there all the time. He looked down on the mestizos and especially their crappy Mexican Spanish. In fact, he said all Latin American Spanish was shit. The only good Spanish was from Spain, and he spoke it! He especially hated that Mexican Spanish now has lots of English words in it. As he was saying this, some mestizos in the background were glaring at us.

But others get a little upset when I tell them they are White, even though they are as White as I am. To say that they are White is calling them a gringo, and Mexican nationalists don’t dig imperialist gringos. They will deny being White and say that they prefer to identify as Mexican.

Also, the word “White” is sort of racist in Mexican society. Mexican society is seriously racist, but it’s also European Spaniard with regard to manners. There is a color line, sure, but officially, all Mexicans are “mestizos,” that is, there are no Indians or Whites. Everyone is mixed.

Also Mexicans are in denial about their Black heritage. Your average Mexican is as Black as a Sicilian – 4% Black, and it’s pretty evenly distributed across the land. As in Argentina, the Mexican myth is that the Blacks simply vanished into thin air. If you suggest the obvious, that the Blacks were bred into the Mexican genepool and that’s how they vanished, Mexicans get upset.

My Mom took a trip to Mexico once and got into a funny conversation with the Mexican guide about that subject.

Also the guide kept referring to the miltars. My Mom calmly told her that the English word was soldiers, not militars, which is not a word in English. The female guide got really mad, insisted that militars was the right word, and kept saying militars for the rest of the tour.

Proud people.

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13 thoughts on “Colorism in Mexico”

  1. I have several white Latino friends and there is no way I can call them white or they get all mad. It’s like to them, “white” has more implications than skin color. It means you are part of America’s in-group. And as Latinos, they feel they are minorities, “brown people” even though they are white and they are part of the out group. So they don’t identify as white. Not long ago we were at this white woman’s house. I knew nothing about her heritage. She spoke perfect unaccented English. Just though she was as regular a white American woman as it gets. Then one day, in conversation we were talking about that lady and I was like, “oh, you mean that one white woman”, and my friend was like, “she’s not white, she’s Cuban.” I’m like uhhh…not this again…

    It’s just weird how many Latinos think white and Latino/Hispanic is mutually exclusive. It’s almost like left-wing Latinos in America have adopted the one drop rule from blacks and applied it themselves. Because if you go Latin America, everyone is all caught up on trying to be white.

  2. Dear Tulio
    In Latin America, most people don’t have any problem with identifying themselves as white if they are light-skinned. For instance, every Cuban carries an identity card in which skin color is also mentioned. The choices are white, mulatto, black and Chinese. In Brazil, a disproportionate large number of people will tell the census that they are white. It is only in the US that Latin Americans start thinking that white and Hispanic are mutually exclusive.
    From what you and Robert tell me, the Hispanics in the US are a thin-skinned bunch, whatever their skin color may be.
    Cheers. James

  3. 4% Black

    Well, I don’t think being 4% black means you have black heritage.

    If I took a DNA test and suddenly discovered that I was 4% black, that wouldn’t change my identity, appearance, or even outlook on racial issues.

    It would just be a fun fact, as far as I’m concerned, and would not impact me a ton.

    But then again, I don’t subscribe to the One Drop Rule.

  4. I agree with others that only in the US the term white cannot mean being from Latin America or the Middle East. I think it might be due to the ignorant perception (or should I say misconception) that ALL Mexicans are short, brown, etc and that ALL Latin Americans are Mexicans. I remember this “white” girl in college in full shock that one of our classmates was Mexican when he had fair skin, green eyes (her eyes were brown) and light blond hair (she had dark brown hair). Wow, but you look white – she said. His answer? So does my family and my neighbors in my hometown of Monterrey MEXICO.
    People’s need to categorize and label others is sometimes stronger than logic or knowledge. Outside Europe and black Africa (northern Africa is Arabic/Semitic), there is no strong delineation among “races.” Most people in Latin America or the Middle East have different degrees of racial or ethnic mix which results in an astounding array of phenotypes that can be misconstrued as “race.”

  5. Mestizo means you have mixed heritage of European AND Amerindian blood. It does not mean you are pure Amerindian. How you look depends on how much European or Amerindian blood has been passed down.

    I think this is something America gets confuse about because due to my ambigous racial appearance: they refuse to accept that I am Mexican of mestizo descent.

    Mexico City is actually pretty snobby about your physical looks though.”, especially in upper high end places. I receive curious stares from pure Amerindian or pre-dominant Amerindian mestizos amd white Mexicans blood looking at me up amd down trying to figure out what exactly am I.

  6. I’ll try to remember to look up this page later on. Read the stuff above. The writers neglected to say that the issue is far more complicated today that even five or ten years ago. I have worked all over the country, and have relatives in various parts of the country: Today, the complexity of race and color has deepened in the sense that today there are many, many Americans, children of Anglo-Mexican intermarriages who look and speak like anybody else (Anglo) in the U.S. That’s just another level of complexity./////////////////////
    While I agree to an extent with the comments on color consciousness of Mexicans and Mexican Americans, I don’t think that you, any who are “white” Americans should be patting yourselves on the back. You guard your own “white” identities as much as anybody, guard it against your fellow Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American brothers and sisters.

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