What we have been taught
Most people of Mexican descent have been taught from a young age that Mexico and its people are a product of Spanish and Indigenous heritage. Chicanas point to la Malinche as the Mother of Modern Mexicans, but is that really the truth? Are Mexicans and Chicanos the descendents of a country that is really mixed. This article is to dispel this myth of Mexicans being a Mestizo people.
Mexico's people are not mestizo.
It is an indigenous nation. The great majority of its people are of indigenous descent. possibly in the 80% range. However, Mexico is also a country with people of European, African, and Asian descent. At least 2% percent of Mexico's population is of African descent. Mexico is home to many Chinese and Japanese people. Also Mexico received some immigration from Spain and other European countries. However, Mexico and its people are predominately Indigenous and not Mestizo.
What is a Mestizo in Mexico?
I have spent a lifetime researching the racial breakdown of Mexicans. It has been difficult because Mexico does not determine a mestizo person by his racial makeup. In Mexico, a person is only Indigenous if he lives in an Native Community. The moment an Indigenous person leaves their community they are considered Mestizo. Mestizo in Mexico is not your racial makeup but instead it is your culture. If you do not speak a native language and live in an Indigenous community you are not considered Indigenous. This may seem strange to most people and it also seemed strange to me. Mexico takes great pains in avoiding the truth. I went to many seminars regarding the Mexican Identity and I put the question to the experts. I asked them point blank, "We know many Indigenous people died when the spanish came due to war, maltreatment, and disease. We know there were only so many Indigenous people left after a time and at certain times during Mexico's history, but how many Spanish people came to Mexico?" Never did I ever receive an answer to this question. It does not seem like such a hard question. I was trying to determine the number of non Indigenous people that came to Mexico and any given time to get an idea of the Mestizo mix. The experts never had that number. Seems kind of strange, but I finally figured it out. They did not want to tell me that Mexico never had a great number of immigrants from Europe because the Mestizo Mexico was just a lie. So if Mestizaje was a lie then the next thing I had to figure out was why did they lie? What reason would Mexico have to fabricate its identity?
Mestizaje - A Political Strategy?
In the early part of the 20th century, Mexico's most prominent archaeologist, sociologist & advisor to presidents, Manuel Gamio, put forth his doctrine of the mestizaje as a way to unite the country & create a population that was inclusive following the Revolución.
It was a carefully constructed world view that had been on the periphery of Mexican consciousness for centuries, i.e., White Spanish males and brown Indian females producing a mixed race. Gamio oversaw that this world view was institutionalized through the mass education (however insubstantial) & definition of national character of the Mexico.
His game plan was to see that Spanish language & culture & religion & governmental nuance (as filtered through Mexico) would unite the country &, therefore, dissipate the power of the indigenous people who, in sheer numbers, vastly out numbered the white population of the country. The reward for the Indians was that they could now be White Europeans or at least part White Europeans. In Mexico, everyone knows who the least powerful are no matter how the Aztecs are glorified in the popular culture. Gamio's plan was a way of institutionalizing the Revolución without actual handing over power to the vast majority of the people.
What is really interesting is the genetic studies that have been done on populations in Mexico with the result that, overall, at a conservative guess, 80% or more of the population is Native American. When these studies are done in the American Southwest, Texas & California (albeit smaller samples), the gene pool is, again conservatively, still in the range of 65 - 75% Native American gene pool. Given these numbers, it is obvious that Gamio's political concept of the mestizaje was immensely successful.
This bold print was a contribution. I will ask the author for permision to put her name here.