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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Afro-American Studies

Year Degree Awarded

2015

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

John H. Bracey

Second Advisor

Agustín Lao-Montes

Third Advisor

Luis A. Marentes

Fourth Advisor

Sonia E. Alvarez

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Latin American History | Latina/o Studies | Race and Ethnicity

Abstract

This investigation intends to uncover past and contemporary socioeconomic significance of being a racial other in Oaxaca, Mexico and its relevance in shaping Mexican national identity. The project has two purposes: first, to analyze activities and observations of cultural missionaries in Oaxaca during the 1920s and 1930s, and second to relate these findings to historical and present implications of blackness in an Afro-Mexican community. Cultural missionaries were appointed by the Secretary of Public Education (SEP) to create schools throughout Mexico, focusing on the modernization of marginalized communities through formal and social education. This initiative was intended to resolve socioeconomic disparities and incorporate sectors of the population into the national framework that had been excluded prior to the Mexican Revolution in 1910. While these efforts were predominantly implemented in indigenous communities located in the northern part of Oaxaca, observations from cultural missionaries related to social and educational conditions reveal ongoing disparities between what it means to be indigenous versus mestizo. The exclusion of moreno, or Afro-descended people from this state sponsored initiative indicates that blackness along with indigenity is otherized, with the primary difference being that Afro-descended Mexicans lack visibility.

To gain a better perspective of the historical and present significance of blackness, my project moves from the general to the specific to include José Maria Morelos, Oaxaca, an Afro-descended community that is isolated, has no tourist attractions or services, dirt roads, and little access to socioeconomic resources. Morelos was established by blacks who escaped slavery and lived independently in their own community. People in the town strongly identify with this history and its relation to their present condition. After speaking with local activists, it became apparent that rights that were supposed to be gained from the Mexican Revolution, such as land rights and public education, did not happen in Morelos, which adversely affects people’s prospects for socioeconomic advancement.

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