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Before Mestizaje
The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico


Part of Cambridge Latin American Studies

  • Date Published: January 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107670815


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About the Authors
  • This book opens new dimensions on race in Latin America by examining the extreme caste groups of colonial Mexico. In tracing their experiences, a broader understanding of the connection between mestizaje (Latin America's modern ideology of racial mixture) and the colonial caste system is rendered. Before mestizaje emerged as a primary concept in Latin America, an earlier precursor existed that must be taken seriously. This colonial form of racial hybridity, encased in an elastic caste system, allowed some people to live through multiple racial lives. Hence, the great fusion of races that swept Latin America and defined its modernity, carries an important corollary. Mestizaje, when viewed at its roots, is not just about mixture, but also about dissecting and reconnecting lives.  Such experiences may have carved a special ability for some Latin American populations to reach across racial groups to relate with and understand multiple racial perspectives. This overlooked, deep history of mestizaje is a legacy that can be built upon in modern times.

    • Proposes a new view of race and the consequences of racial mixture in Latin America
    • Connects Latin America's colonial period with more modern periods, such as the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, showing the evolution of racial concepts over time
    • Surveys the evolution of the history of racial concepts in colonial Latin America through the lens of Mexico
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a brilliant book. Meticulously researched, cogently argued, and beautifully written, it insightfully explores the myriad ways in which the problem of racial diversity profoundly affected not only the Spanish colonial reality but also the Spanish imperial psyche.' Franklin W. Knight, The Johns Hopkins University

    'Before Mestizaje is a richly layered and sophisticated account of the meanings and practices surrounding race and difference in colonial Mexico, and a model for understanding the intersections of law, economy, and cultural practices in the constitution of a social order.' Laurent Dubois, Duke University, North Carolina, author of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History

    'Before Mestizaje is a major contribution to an increasingly sophisticated literature about racial mixture in colonial Latin America with its critical scrutiny of the 'sistema de castas' and the political, legal, social, and cultural variables that shaped its development.' Susan Deans-Smith, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107670815
    • length: 304 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.44kg
    • contains: 29 b/w illus. 3 maps 27 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Wayward mixture: the problem of race in the colonies
    2. Mestizaje 1.0: the moment mixture had modern meaning
    3. 'Castagenesis' and the moment of castizaje
    4. The jungle of extremes (Castas)
    5. Extreme mixture in a theater of numbers
    6. Betrothed: marrying into the extremes
    7. Betrothed: identity's riddle
    8. Betrayed
    9. Colonial bequests
    Appendix A. Core records consulted from the Archivo General de la Nación
    Appendix B. Place of origin of the extreme castas in Mexico City's marriage cases, 1605–1783
    Appendix C. Extreme caste slave sales, from Mexico City Notarial Archive, seventeeth century
    Appendix D. Identity reconsidered: factoring lineage into declarations of casta.

  • Author

    Ben Vinson III, George Washington University, Washington DC
    Ben Vinson, III is the Dean of Arts and Sciences at the George Washington University, Washington, DC. He was formerly the director of the Center of Africana Studies at The Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of numerous books, including Bearing Arms for His Majesty: The Free-Colored Militia in Colonial Mexico (2002) and African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean (2007). He is the editor-in-chief of The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History.

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