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Special Interests

Marisela Ramos' Special Interests


My current research, entitled "Mexico Mestizo: Blacks and the Problem of National Identity, 1821-1910" focuses on Mexico's exclusion of all things African from its national identity. Current studies of Mexico are constrained by the concept and discourse of mestizaje-or the Cosmic Race-a legacy of one of Mexico's most influential twentieth century intellectuals, Jose Vasconcelos-which has influenced historians to focus almost exclusively on the contributions of the Spanish and Indigenous aspects of Mexico's idealized "multiracial" (but essentially bi-racial) national identity. But, rather than the visionary thinker he is credited with being, Vasconcelos can be seen as the likely outcome of nineteenth-century racial politics and processes. Because Vasconcelos is a product of the social, economic, and political factors that shaped nineteenth-century Mexico, his writings represent the culmination of the development of mestizaje as an official ideology. Vasconcelos defined a process that had been taking place a century prior. Discourses of mestizaje and notions of equality in Mexico were prominent as early as the nineteenth century. However, those discourses were not recognized as being part of a larger ideology of race. I seek to not only give a name to those discourses but also to shed light on how those discourses began to erase Mexico's African history. In addition to a re-conceptualization of mestizaje, I seek to answer the question of how the nineteenth-century architects of national identity were able to erase the African historical presence from the national consciousness of modern Mexicans. This research will open avenues to a rethinking of the contemporary identity of Mexicans, including a recovery of the (obscured) African presence.