Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Nineteenth-Century Foundational [African] Mexican Novel vs. The Negrista Novel

This work analyzes two nineteenth-century nation-building Mexican novels, one written from an insider [African] Mexican perspective and one with an outsider Criollo or Negrista point of view. The Mexican insider novel is: Calvario y Tabor: novela histórica y de costumbres, 1868 (Calvary and Tabor: historical and customs novel). This novel, herein after identified as Calvario, was written by General Vicente Riva Palacio (1832-1896), grandson of General Vicente “el negro” Guerrero (1782-1831), Mexico’s First Black Indian President. The Negrista novel studied is Sacerdote y caudillo (memorias de la insurreccio ́n): novela histo ́rica, 1869 [Priest and Warrior (memories of the Insurrection); Historical Novel] written by Juan Antonio Mateos (1831-1913). It will be identified as Sacerdote y caudillo throughout the rest of this work.
That [African] Mexicans played roles as writers and narrative characters in the Mexican foundational discourse on nation is generally unknown. This is a direct consequence of the all-out campaign to obliterate the African lineage of Mexico throughout the national period started in 1821, and particularly during “the Cultural Phase of the Mexican Revolution 1921-1968” (Hernández, African). From 1821 until the 1940s, the African Diaspora of Mexico and Mexico’s African lineage were systematically omitted by and through the discourse on nation. In the forties and fifties, as it became fashionable with Mundonovismo, ³ (and to keep up with the neighbors), there was a burst of recognition of Mexico’s African lineage.
As a corollary of the Primer Congreso Demográfico Interamericano (First Inter-American Demographic Congress) that occurred in the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, the Instituto Internacional de Estudios Afroamericanos (International Institute of Afro-American Studies) was founded October 20, 1943. Fernando Ortiz (Cuba), Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán (Mexico), Renato de Mendoça (Brazil), Daniel F. Rubin de la Borbolla (Mexico), Melville J. Herskovits (USA), Jorge A. Vivó (Mexico), Auguste Remy Bastien (Haiti), Alfonso Caso (Mexico), Miguel Covarrubias (Mexico), Alain Locke (USA), Arthur Ramos (Brazil), and Julio Le Riverend (Cuba) were leaders.
The Institute published Afro-America: Journal of the International Institute of Afro-American Studies Volume I (Numbers 1 and 2) in January and July, 1945; and Volume II (Number 3) in January 1946. This short-lived movement in Mexico was most notable in cinematography. Markedly, the dominant perspective was an outsider perspective. The distinction between Negrista and Negritud; outsider vs. insider perspectives would develop later.
At the onset, anthropology was the leading discipline and lens with which the [re] discovered African presence and persistence was approached. In part, this is the reason why the African and [African] Mexican characters in the above-cited novels’ remained buried in the Mexican national unconscious even after the 1945 outburst. In 1976
Richard L. Jackson, in his now classic The Black Image in Latin American Literature, called attention to theuntil then invisible African and African American presence in Latin American narrative inclusive of Mexico. Jackson began to question the discursive “complexity of complexion” and the discursive lynching effects of the so-called racial miscegenation or whitening mestizaje ideological construct with which an invented African and Afrodescendant disappearance in Latin America and in Mexico had been justified.
A multidisciplinary approach, inclusive of language and cultural lenses is required to perceive the various connotative values of substantives and adjectives in different places and times, and the ongoing negative African and Afrodescendant images (and positive European and Eurodescendant) forged by and through those very names. Most Mexican historians, anthropologists and ethnologists embraced as good science the officially promoted mestizaje or racial miscegenation ideology. Historians, anthropologists and ethnologists largely have remained oblivious of the differences between the Criollo-based codification of Africans and African Americans and the insider [African] Mexican discourse in novels such as Calvario that does the opposite.
Most historians, anthropologists, ethnologists and linguists oblivious of [African] Mexican culture have missed or misread pejorative substantives, such as “Chino” and “Chinaco,” which are synonyms of [African] Mexican, just as Jarocho, Boshito, and Chilango, among others. To differentiate insider and outsider discourses, Jackson relied on the reading of mestizaje by Latin American literati who proudly recognized their African lineage contrary to “passing” as whitened “mestizos.” That is where terms such as Afro-Columbian, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, etc. have emerged.
Since then, the present author has introduced the theory of the Africanization of Mexico from the Sixteenth Century Onward to replace the mestizaje ideological construct. To date, most Mexican and international studies of the Mexican African Diaspora are unable to perceive the manifest differences of viewpoints between the insider [African] Mexican and Criollo-based Negrista discourses. For instance, a Negrista review of Black Mexico, a 2009 history book maintains,
I must note that the cover [image] is extraordinary. It is a document from the National Mexican Archives, with shows the genealogy, apparently of a New Spanish person, where different groups are observed. This shows mestizaje not as an “ideological construction” but as ta quotidian happening in colonial Mexico. (Velázquez 4)
By removing the word “mestizaje” (racial miscegenation) and inserting “Africanization in its place, an insider reading of the [African] Mexican experience is produced:
I must note that the cover [image] is extraordinary. It is a document from the National Mexican Archives, which shows the genealogy, apparently of a New Spanish person, where different groups are observed. This shows [Africanization] not as an “ideological construction” but as a quotidian happening in colonial Mexico.
This paradigm substitution is required to distinguish the insider versus the outsider perspectives. It is unscientific and anachronistic to continue to duel on racial mixing hypothesis where biology has shown that all humans belong to the one race. Where there is only one race there cannot be “race-mixing.” Under this light, all arguments based on the ideological construct of “mixing,” which presupposes the existence of “pure races” (i.e. Black, White, Yellow, Red), to say the least, are monolithic.

As explained in another work, with the deployment Andrés Molina Enriquez’ mestizofilia (racial miscegenation) ideology late in the nineteenth and the first quarter of the twentieth century, the tracks of the early nineteenth-century Spanish genocide of African and [African] Mexicans in New Spain were deleted from the Mexican national psyche and replaced with the “Mestizo” myth. The process started with the manipulation of the colonial African and [African] Mexican population numbers and the deployment of the idea of a so-called “integration,” or whitening, of African and [African] Mexicans via a process of “racial” miscegenation or “mestizaje.” Notably, throughout the colonial epoch Africans and African offspring ahead been meticulously labeled and divided into various casta categories of “Colored” people.
Lumping all colonial groups of “Mexicans” or “Coloreds” into one “Mestizo” category was a master blow against Mexican cultural history and land rights. With the simple renaming of the Mexican castas in the discourse on nation as “Mestizos,” the Africanness of Mexico was whitened. Thus, the formerly “African Colored” or Mexicans proper who built the nation and nationality were deleted from the mind and thereby disenfranchised historically and de facto. Until the birth of the nation in 1821, the term “Mexican” was a referent to all non-European Coloreds, particularly the African “mixes.” “Mexican” was the ultimate insult towards anyone who saw himself or herself as European or of “pure” European descent.
The present multidisciplinary study, the [African] Mexican characters unearthed in both novels and extrapolated under the light of Jackson and analyzed comparatively with the “white” characters. The African and [African] Mexican and white characters in Riva Palacio’s and Mateo’s novels are compared with one another, The goal is to show that Riva Palacio’s characters are diametrically distinct to Mateo’s. It is the position here that Riva Palacio’s [African] Mexican human images are developed with an insider lens while Mateos’ African and [African] Mexican characters are stereotypical, hollow and inhuman. Riva Palacio’s novel therefore is considered a foundational [African] Mexican novel while Mateos’ is red as a Negrista novel written with an Eurocentric outsider perspective.
To achieve the above-stated, this research paper is divided into two parts. Each part provides the plot of the novel, introduces the pertinent characters, and offers a critical analysis under Jackson’s light. In an earlier work, Calvario was studied along with three other nation-building novels and Vicente Riva Palacio was introduced as “The father of Mexican national literature.” Mexican literature is understood as the literature produced by [African] Mexican people who built the Mexican nation and nationality. The present study builds upon that work. The history of the African blood, sweat and tears that produced the noun “Mexico” and the adjective “Mexican” for the nationality is reconstructed in the unpublished essay “ The Spanish Lynching of Mexican Maroon Pedro el Negro and the Genocide of Africans and African Offspring in the 19th-Century New Spain” by this author.
The 1868 edition of Calvario has 589 pages parted into seven books; the first, “La flor de la costa” (The Flower of the Coast) is divided into ten chapters or stories; the second, “El nido de las águilas” (The Eagles Nest) eight; the third, “El lobo y el pastor” (The Wolf and the Shepherd) fourteen; the fourth, “Penas” (Sufferings) ten; the fifth, “En Mexico” (In Mexico) fifteen; the sixth, “Fuego, sangra y exterminio” (Fire, Blood, and Extermination) ten; and the seventh, “Las tres huérfanas” (The Three Orphan Women) thirty-six and an epilog. The edition cited in this analysis is a 2000 Porrúa edition. All characteristics are the same except that is has 343 pages.
Calvario is a historical novel that recounts the Mexican Maroon or Chinaco deeds during the French invasion of Mexico in 1861-1866. It is a document of the popular resistance against Napoleon the III’s North African invading forces and the Criollo royalists who “invited” them to assist in re-capturing Mexico from the Mexicans. The plot unfolds in current Guerrero and Michoacán states and in Mexico City. The central characters of the romance are: Margarita, a hard-working young [African] Mexican woman and her daughter, Alejandra, “the flower of the coast.” Alejandra is a thin gracious [African] Mexican with “a bearing typical only of women from the coast” (4). Her big black shiny eyes are veiled with long curly eyelashes. She is such a beautiful young maiden that despite her simple dress of the coastal poor classes she looks like a princess.
The novel centers on the life and deeds of an Acapulco, Guerrero family who is separated for fourteen years as the result of a prank that Don Plácido, an old Insurgent soldier plays on Juan Jarras, the honest [African] Mexican father of Alejandra and Margarita’s husband. The hoax and its consequences are woven with the stories of the experiences each family member undergoes while searching for one another The French invasion of Mexico forms the background of the story, although it comes to the forefront when the omniscient narrator breaks the frame of the narrative to recount some of the most prominent Chinaco-French battles for the nation that occurred in Michoacán.
Calvario honors the Chinaco sacrifices and high blood-prices they had to pay: The French Court Martials “in the little more than three years they lasted in Mexico, put to death at least three times the number of individuals the Inquisition killed in three centuries: (148). Calvario defends the rights of Chinacos to the land they have worked for, and recognizes that Chinacos forged that part of the New World with their own hands and therefore own the Mexican nationality ( 98, 102-103, 105, 109, 113, 127-128, etc.).
In Calvario, Mexicans live in harmony with nature. They eat pork Carnitas, rinds and sausage (186), meat, tortillas, boiled eggs and drink mezcal (199). Mexicans sing in response to nature’s call (4,134), “Chinacos sing as mockingbirds, on the road, in the camp, everywhere, and beware if they take charge of a song, it will be heard day and night everywhere (177). They are dancers as well and dance to celebrate life.
The poor people of Calvario are not bandits; they are the people whose lives constructed the nation (98). While painting dramatic images of the adversities the Chinacos had to endure to obtain their freedom and independence and to be able to construct the nation, the narrator cries out, “What a revelation for those who called these poor people ‘heartless bandits’!” (105)
Margarita is developed as a flesh-and-blood woman with feelings. She is a true patriot and daring. She risks her life serving as a spy (115,121), crosses the Spanish lines, and smuggles weapons for the republican Chinacos (186) knowing fully well the possible price to pay for her actions. Same occurs with a character known as the Negro Carmen employed in Margarita’s ranch who is a great hunter who knows the land and is a fearless patriot. Notably, besides Margarita and her daughters Alejandra, all Uruapan women, including a blond woman are beautiful (211).
In Calvario, the African heritage of the Mexican is viewed with eyes, which among other positive characteristics distinguish her/his beauty, strength, wholesomeness, loyalty, and daringness. Calvario is narrated from within. Antonio Olliz-Boyd in another context that applies here has characterized this type of production by saying “The ethnic ambience is developed by somebody that does not consider it necessary to offend Afros or present them as exotic, primitive [and we add, without history];” [African] Mexicans in Calvario, as is the case with other African American Diaspora literary works studied by Olliz-Boyd, “are a projection of the author himself’ (70).
Richard L. Jackson has found a literature that registers the African American experience from an African American perspective. He explains:
The Black man does not have to “lose himself in the Other” to live comfortably in the future civilization of the universal nor does he have to return to Africa. That is why the “black song” of black writers in Latin America, though often reflecting a mestizo reality that recognizes the “very wide process of acculturation” in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America, is a universal song that is, at the same time, fully black in that it lays great emphasis on the racial, cultural, and historical realities of the black experience in the New World (Black Writers 13).
Calvario presents a comprehensive view of the dispossessed Mexicans, their customs, and of the environment where they thrive, Calvario does not seek to whiten the Mexican population; or compare them with animals, present them as uncivilized or exotic. The narrator is on the same level as his characters and does not see them paternalistically. The story is narrated from the ground where it develops, by someone who authority comes from one who is familiar and identifies with the customs, people and landscapes.
Regarding an Afrocentric aesthetics in narrative, Jackson explains that, although he has not found a Black aesthetic poetry in the US Black nationalist sense, there is an ethnic factor in Latin America that influences the aesthetics of Black authors. He credits Doris J. Turner and Antonio Oliz-Boyd with this discovery in their studies of Machado de Asis, Nicolás Guillén and Adalberto Ortiz (Black Writers 4). Jackson also reveals that, as in other places, racism and the white aesthetic undoubtedly have influenced the relation the Black person has with her/his pigmentation. He cites Olliz-Boyd where he clarifies that the most inalterable life circumstance in the life of a Black writer is his blood affiliation with the oppressed group. Whether he accepts or denies this fact his psychology is ruled somehow by that relationship (Black Writers 4).
According to Jackson, Black writers perceive the literary world in a different manner than white writers. He warns that there is a separation between Black literature and literature about blacks. He reinforces his position with the example of Jahnheinz Jahn who stated that the color of the author had little to do with the literary family she belonged to (Black Writers 5). Jackson expounds that according to Jahn’s theory white writers whose work has “Africanisms: or denotes African styles or patters can be included in “NeoAfrican” literature. He underlines that according to such a theory the literature written by black authors without Africanisms could be excluded from Black literature.
Jackson cautions that when [African] Cuban Nicolas Guilléns’s achievements are viewed from Jahn’s perspective “we are left with the impression that Guilléns’s main contributions lie in his incorporation of African cheerfulness, sensuality and stylistic patterns into a European language. There is, needless to say, much more to Nicolás Guillén than that” (Black Writers 5). This invites the question “What is Black literature?” Jackson subscribes to Angela Gilliam where she explains, “Anyone who claims Black heritage is an African. “ Jackson adds that this is to be “understood to include blacks who are recognizably so and others who accept this ethnic identity” particularly where the history of the mestizaje, the separation of racial identities between Black and white is so dramatic (Black Writers 7).
After noting that it would be ideal to recognize that at the end of the day the spirit has no color, Jackson explains with Sylvia Washington Ba’s works: It is rather naïve to expect the black man to vindicate his humanity without first vindicating that aspect of it [pigmentation] that has been so discredited” (Black Writers 8). Jackson establishes that there is a level of Black consciousness that allows her or him to observe her/his experience with her/his own eyes.
To evaluate Black literature in the New Word, Jackson subscribes to Martha K. Cobb: “(1) confrontation with an alien and usually hostile society; (2) dualism, or a sense of division between one’s own self and that of the dominant culture; (3) identity, a search that embraces the question who am I?; and (4) liberation, both spiritual and political” (Black Writers 9). Jackson points out that concepts as these when infused or saturated with the Black writes; internal feelings and visions, help reveal the peculiar Black perspective; that approach and understanding that is conditioned by the racial memory and the ethnic lineage of a Black shared history as a victim (Black Writers 9).
Mexican historian Enrique Florescano affirms that Riva Palacio is tied to the past of the republic through his maternal and paternal lineages; and that these family ties “initiated him in the project of nation that was in the making then” (2). Florescano explains as well that: Riva Palacio “incorporated into the national scene the socially despised Chinacos and the miserable urban masses: and in his novels the parades the diverse components of the new society “Indians, urban tricksters, Criollos, Blacks, Mulattoes, and mestizos” (3). It is a “new” society because during the colonial epoch Mexicans were rather viewed as chattel: they had no civil rights and formed no part of “society.”
It should be noted that urban tricksters, Chinacos, Mestizos and First Nations, in part are African offspring. According to Aguirre Beltrán “the Indian woman via relations with mestizo and mulatto males achieved the recovery of the people and was able to produce a new culture from the ashes of the old” (243). The birth of the [African] Mexican people classified with various labels given their appearance is further clarified in a 27 November 1625 letter of Fray Ambrosio Carrillo to the inquisitors:
Among [the Amerindian] there are mestizos and Mulattoes, offspring of Spaniards, Blacks, Mulattoes, and others, of which Mestizos and Mulattoes, born of and raised Indian mothers among Indians, follow in all the nature of the mother, speaking the mother’s indigenous language, dressing as Indians and resembling them in every aspect. (Aguirre Beltrán Medicina 76)
Conversely to Calvario, the nineteenth-century foundational novel Sacerdote y Cuadillo is informed by a Criollo-based mentality who characteristics, to be discussed, make it a Negrista narrative. The 1869 first edition fo the novel has 812 pages and is divided into four parts. The first part has twenty chapters or stories; the second, fourteen; and third twelve; and the fourth eighteen and the epilog. The first phase of the Insurgent movement and the official historical role played by Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Ignacio Aldama and Mariano Jimenez, among other Criollos form the background of the story. The reader learns about the family origins of Miguel Hidalgo and his occupation in 1810 as the director of the Catholic College of San Nicolas in Valladolid. The narrative follows Hidalgo through his intellectual development, his involvement in the movement in defense of the Mexicans until his execution on 30 July 1811 (accused of treason to the King of Spain).
The sugary romance story between Rosalía Treviño (82) and Antonio Pedraja (82) is the main story. Rosalía is the daughter of an unknown mother and a Portuguese adventurer (who in turn is the brother of New Spain’s Inquisitor) persecuted by a Gipsy woman he had seduced and abandoned in Africa decades earlier. The Portuguese is absconding in New Spain and passing as a respectable citizen. He is oblivious to the fact that the Gipsy (a witch/noble woman) has followed his steps for years seeking revenge. Pedraja is a rebel student at Hidalgo’s theological seminary whose love for Rosalía is never realized. Pedraja and Rosalía run away from Valladolid to Mexico City and go through innumerable vicissitudes. In the city, destiny separates them and each goes their own way. When Pedraja loses site of Rosalía and cannot find her, he goes mad. He will meet with her again toward the end of the novel to be told that Félix de Quintanar and his child stand between the two ex-lovers.
After separating from Pedraja at the beginning of the story, Rosalía goes from house to house and to a convent until she is rescued by the Gipsy woman (passing as a noble woman) and marries Spanish Royalist deserter Captain Felix de Quintanar (403) who had befriended Pedraja and Rosalía (421). Rosalía and Felix have a child named Gabriel. Gabriel is described as a good-natured angel with an “extremely beautiful head of blond hair that flows over his naked shoulders” (395). Felix is captured and dies in the hands of the Insurgents.
Sacerdote y Caudillo mentions various Africans and [African] Mexicans who appear as secondary and tertiary characters. They represent hopelessness, inhumanity and evil-literally the dark side of existence. Pedro el Negro, his brother Gaspar, his mother Camila, his grandfather Mulay, Lino el Mulato, and a mob of Mulattoes servants. Pedro el Negro is ten years old (131) in 1796, when the story begins to unfold (30). Predictably, Pedro lives in the low-life Mexico City neighborhood of La Palma [Merced] (131), outside of the city grid with his freed family: African grandfather, Mulay; Mulatto mother, Camila; and sickly Mulatto brother, Gaspar.
According to the storyline, the grandfather and mother were captured in the sands of Africa by a band of Spanish enslavers and, after being brought to New Spain, were sold into slavery (136). Because Pedro and Gaspar are fatherless Mulattoes, sired after Mulay and Camila were taken from Africa, it may be discerned that the father is a Spaniard enslaver. Notably, these African and African offspring characters are underdeveloped in a fastidiously sweet and squeamish Eurocentric environment where the main young white-like characters of the story are blessed with a cherubic child “extraordinarily beautiful with long blond hair that falls over his naked shoulders” (Mateos 395). Black in the Negrista historical novel represents hopelessness and white, notwithstanding the worst circumstances, the national future.
Because of ten years of enslavement, Mulay aged rapidly and lost his eyesight, whereby he was freed. His master extracted Mulay’s savings in exchange of his family’s freedom (136). This family of freed Africans and African offspring born in New Spain, which unintentionally reveal and embody in part the hidden Africanness of the Mexican nation at its point of birth, makes a living by sewing clothes for the Spanish army (131). Ten-year-old Mexican Pedro is characterized as: malignant; malicious; of perverse inclinations. Through Pedro’s character, his family’s and Lino the Mulatto’s, an innate African and [African] Mexican hopelessness and perversity is forged and injected into the unaware reader and audience. It should be kept in mind that the majority of New Spain’s colonial population, including Spaniards, was illiterate, innumerate and highly superstitious.
Pedro el Negro of Sacerdote y Caudillo joins the 1810 insurrection to kill and plunder (707). Pedro, as a child, feels nothing for his family, robs his own brother (137), and becomes a murderer as a young man (714). Pedro el Negro is present during the Insurgent siege of Guanajuato in 1810, and the Spanish capture and execution in 1811 of the first insurrection commanders who were Criollos (792). Notably, Pedro el Negro in this novel feels deeply for those Criollos and mentions “the beautiful face” of Ignacio Allende (792). Allende is a better developed character.
Pedro el Negro appears 24 times in Sacerdote y Caudillo (131, 133, 137, 138, 140,142, 151, 152, 262, 263, 706, 707, 708, 709, 713, 714, 758, 760, 781, 792, 793, 795, 798, and 799). He is described as an “infernal black,” hateful and vengeful by the age of ten (263). He is a poisonous reptile “who would transform into a horned serpent because there are beings who are born to provide those spectacles that horrify a society and become an epoch in the crime archives” (263). Pedro is doomed because of “his color, deformed by his facial features, of horrible instincts and repugnant because of his behavior.” He is predestined by “Providence as a hurricane for destruction and extermination” (263). Pedro is notorious for his crimes and is the one character capable of outsourcing and finally murdering and robbing (714) his “inseparable friend” Lino the Mulatto (707). Lino, a first rate murderer (692), and one-of-a-kind thief appears seventy times in the novel. Sacerdote y Caudillo forges and reinforces a hundred times an inhuman and condemned black image. The African offspring, the true Mexicans are thereby distorted in a “timeless” cultural text that deploys and redeploys Black stereotypes and codes.
Sacerdote y caudillo narrates Africans and [Africans] Mexicans in a style James Snead identifies in film as codifying through three strategies to forge and reinforce African and Afrodescendent stereotypes: mythification, marking, and omission. Snead proposes that film is never one person’s story but “is always typical, broadcasting certain codes about social status and interrelationships” (143). The same can be said about Mexico’s nineteenth century Negrista novel, which was deployed with the intentions to broadcast the codes described earlier regarding Africans and [African] Mexicans. Snead’s views on film are adopted and applied to the cultural texts studied here.
Doris Sommer in “Irresistible Romance: The Foundational Fictions of Latin America” exposes the coincidence between establishing modern nations and projecting their ideal histories through the novel” (73). Sommer expounds,
Those novels are so central to the positivist project, turned out, rather curiously to be historical romances in whose intimate language Latin American nations were nurtured. By romance I mean a cross between our contemporary use of the word as a love story and a nineteenth century use that distinguished romance as more boldly allegorical than the novel. Latin American romances are inevitably stories of star-crossed lovers who represent particular regions, races, parties, or economic interests which should naturally come together. Their passion for conjugal and sexual union spills over to a sentimental readership in a love that apparently hopes to win partisan minds along with hearts. The undeniable burden for the new novelists then was formal, sentimental, and political at the same time. (75)
Sacerdote y Caudillo is the kind of Criollo-based romance identified by Sommer in other places of Latin America. In addition, Sacerdote y Caudillo is identified herein as a Criollo-based Negrista novel.
Although written by a so-called liberal Criollo who advocated for the end of slavery and independence from Spain, nevertheless the novel professes a wealth of negative views against [African] Mexicans, the Chinos-Cochinos or Chinacos who constructed the nation as duly recognized in Calvario. The characters of Sacerdote y Caudillo with last names, titles, and country of origin that populate the narrative are recognizing their evil doings, all the while are fathering hopeful characters and are described as populating the nation with angel-like blond-haired children (666). All other manufactured characters, regardless of number and affiliation, appear as homogeneous masses and mobs, such as the Insurgents who were not Criollos or the hundreds of “Mulattoes” that comprised Gabriel de Yermo’s Royalists fighters (Mateos 641, 644). At best, they are “Inditos/as,” (little Indians) “Negros” or “Mulattoes” with a color brand name instead of a last name.
The hopeful love that ties the story together in Sacerdote y Caudillo makes the text, as the texts identified by Sommer elsewhere, “relentlessly attractive. The attraction is practically visceral […]. This language of love, specifically of productive sexuality in the domestic sphere, is remarkably coherent despite the programmatic differences among the nation building novels” (Sommer 76). The romance between Rosalía Trevino (82) and Antonio Pedraja (82), just as in the case of the romances cited in Sommer, characterizes “variety of social ideals inscribed in the novels […] ostensibly grounded in the natural romance that legitimates the nation-family through love” (Sommer 76). By adopting Sommer’s lense, one can deduce that “this natural and familial grounding [in Sacerdote y Caudillo], along with its rhetoric of productive sexuality, provides a model for apparently non-violent national consolidation during the period of internecine conflict” (76) of the Mexican manumission and independence revolution of 1810-1821.
Sacerdote y Caudillo constructs Criollos as the leading “Mexicans” and parents of a romanticized nation born out of Criollo chivalry, love and justice. Sacerdote y Caudillo dupes readers and listeners into believing the Criollos were looking out and fought for Mexican interests. While readers and listeners and mesmerized with the fairy-tale, the fabricated justification for the misappropriation is injected into the Mexican psyche and memory. The fact that a very small faction of Criollos fought on the side of Mexicans (and an important portion of these for their own interests) is neatly bypassed.
The [African] Mexican General-in-Chief Morelos is described in Sacerdote and Caudillo as a “man of tall stature, robust, shining eyes under a frontal arch formed by a white handkerchief that covered his head; his eyebrows were full, his nose straight, and a bit lifted in the end, his lips thin, full cheeks, and no beard” (629). On the contrary, Uvaldo Vargas Martínez, one of Morelos’ top biographers describes Morelos as, “a bit less than five feet, thickset face and body” (150); and “given his physical characteristics, a Mestizo within the variety of the Mulatto type” (8).
Throughout Sacerdote y Caudillo, [African] Mexican people appear as a largely nameless mass subordinate to white or Criollo designs. They are enslaved bodies (382) that populate the novel with various nicknames, such as “Caribs” (527), etc. They do not form any class of the society (542). They are characterized as satirical (460). Whenever they are given form, they are descried by their first names, nicknames or occupation (475). The semi-developed non-white characters are evil, the darker “Pedro el Negro” is the most evil, “Lino the Mulatto” follows, and a Gipsy woman is the third. In contrast, Spanish genocidal characters are remorseful, have feelings, conscience and a full name such as the Inquisitor Pedro Nuñez de Clavijero (143).
The above reading with the light of Jackson, Snead and Sommer acquires a particular meaning. African and [African] Mexicans images are revealed as distorted in accordance to a white aesthetic and Black phobia to codify African and Afrodescendants as “naturally” ugly, lazy, unproductive, evil, etc. Sacerdote y Caudillo, as other Latin American historical romances, mythifies whites as beautiful, refined, and in the case of Criollos, chivalrous and valiant, while marking [African] Mexican Pedro- hundreds of thousands of nineteenth-century [African] Mexican Pedros- the darkest of all characters, as the greatest of all evil in the hour of birth of the nation. Omission occurs where prominent African and [African] Mexicans are absent or whitened.
The whitened images of nineteenth-century [African] Mexican Generals José Maria Morelos and Vicente Guerrero and [African] Mexican presidents of Mexico, Vicente Guerrero and Juan Álvarez that inform the current Mexican psyche are testaments of this lingering Eurocentric strategy. Omission is particularly damaging to the psyche and memory where nineteenth-century African Americans that could be sources of pride and role models-such as Jose Maria Morelos and Vicente Guerrero, among others, led the insurrection during the most crucial times of the Insurgent movement and died valiantly-are whitened in and via the national discourse.
The Criollo-based discourse on nation, deployed by means of the mass media such as the Negrista novel, on the one hand whitened key [African] Mexican figures. On the other, it singled out dark Mexicans who images were less important and demonized them, such as Pedro el Negro, el Negro Carmen, el Negro Enrique, el Negro Lino, el Negro Valero, (Amador), among others. In this manner, the national imaginary was “educated” or programmed to equate lighter skin with goodness and darker skin with evil.

Aguirre Beltrán, Gonzalo. La población negra de México. Estudio etnohistórico. México, D.F.: Fondo, 1972 (1st ed. 1946).
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1 comment:

jarocho4338 said...

It makes me sick to my stomach when I sit and think just how much damage the white ruling class has placed on those, our forefathers of Afro Mestizo blood that built "new spain" then fought to change "new spain" to "Mejico"... It turns my stomach when I think that they "spaniards" created the lie that everything white, blonde, blue-eyed is good and beautiful while us, the Afro Mestizos are evil, ugly and unproductive. It makes me sick to my stomach when I think that they never mentioned that the Chinacos of Puebla who beat the french, were not just Indigenos but Afro Indigenos. It turns my stomach when I read their claim that our President Vicente Ramon Guerrero was a Mestizo (Indigenous/spaniard) when I know that he was Afro- Mestizo (Indigeno, Africano, y desgraciadamente espanol) It turns my stomach that they write that Jose Morelos y Pavon was a "criollo" when I know that he too was Afro- Mestizo. I'm sickened when I see the offspring of the german immigrants who were invited by the spanish to "whiten" Mejico during the 1860's.... I hate the envy, love and affection that dark Mejicanos have for the so called "huero" aka white Mexicans aka offspring of those who oppressed our forefathers aka those who flaunt their whiteness with intention to make the dark Mejicano feel ugly. I dislike seeing our beautiful darkskinned Hermanas with hair dyed blonde or red... I resent people like ex. president of Mejico, vincent fox, son of an American irish father who tried to convince the world that he was representative of the so called Mexican phenotype. vincent fox was representative of the minority that cannot trace their roots to colonial period. As a matter of fact he can only trace on his mother's side and unless he proves me wrong with an auto somal DNA test he is probably Chinaco from his mother's side if she can trace her roots back beyond 1800. It bothers me that Afro Mestizo parents from beyond 1800 did not tell their children of their African blood that sleeps under their Indio Mestizo appearance as my parents told me.... Mi Bisabuelo fue Negro....
. Y Que huero?