This Old Racist Culture

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Last week, the director of the National Electoral Institute (INE) was clandestinely recorded in a private conversation talking about how some indigenous leader was trying to coerce him into getting somebody from his Indian community as a candidate.

Ramiro Padilla Atondo / A los Cuatro Vientos

But that wasn’t the main issue of the filtered conversation. The main issue was the fact that somebody in his position of public power had the nerve of mocking the way indigenous people speak.

Mexican reality shows that discrimination is still a common problem that most people refuse to talk about openly nowadays. If there’s something can be proven within our borders, it is the blatant discrimination that a big sector of our population faces on a daily basis.

Stereotypes in the media, in a country that has a population of about 80% mestizos, are nothing but Caucasian. You can play Mexican TV programs and commercials in any European country and nobody would know the difference.

Of course, if the commercial is about some social program you can see that the actors’ skin color gets darker. American media consumption in Mexico has always been the rule. The American way of life, where the houses are big and the grass is green, shows us Mexicans a way of life that we will never enjoy.

Not only because we are darker and poorer, but because in Mexican society the skin color, like in India, determines your place. There’s nothing more important in our daily conversations than the fact that we have some European ancestor in our family tree. And there’s no bigger gift than having a child with fair skin and blue or green eyes.


Spaniards brought some strange and complex social scale by which you were placed in society depending on your race mixture. The number ones were the Spaniards born in Spain, after them were the so called “criollos”, born in America of Spanish parents, and then mestizos, half Spanish half Indians, and from there, all kinds of classifications.

The “Ley of Indias” (Law of Indias) was an effort to create equality for all before the law, but like with everything else in Mexico, good intentions weren’t enough.

This old racist culture still emerges once in a while. The real talk happens behind closed doors, where you can be politically incorrect without consequences.

A good example of this is the hate that proliferates in social media. After the protest of field workers in San Quintin, a facebook page was created under the title of “matar oaxacos” (kill oaxacos) a generic name that all indigenous people are called when coming to work in the Baja California fields. This acts of cowardice show how far we are from being a tolerant society.

Being a racist is one of the most obvious forms of ignorance. And we, Mexicans are still struggling to find our real identity. The one created from the addition of diverse groups who live under the same sky, the sky of Mexico.

RAMIRO PADILLA ATONDO* Ramiro Padilla born in Ensenada B.C. is the author of the books Three steps from the border, Waiting for death, Days of August. Is also author of the essay books Power society and image, Literary essays of the end of the world. Also collaborate with Sinembargo, Sdp news and cultural magazines.


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