“… can shed light on the profound impact of cultural and ethnoracial tradition in the diverse ways people experience and express the Christian faith. ”
This multidisciplinary (history, theology, ethnic, cultural and race studies) critical study of the category of mestizaje is divided into three key historical eras beginning with the inception of the use of the term at the end of the 15th century; moving through its development and complexification from the 16th to the 18th century; and finally, tracing its racialized stage during the 19th and 20th centuries. I plan to illustrate how mestizaje became a powerful ideological force and paradigm over time, deployed to promote national, ethnic and cultural identity among Latin American nations. I also intend to trace how mestizaje functioned as a potent mechanism which served to consolidate the power of the mestizos/as over the indigenous and African communities of Latin America. Ironically, mestizaje was used both as an idealized cypher which promoted the whitening of the indigenous and African population, and, despite its Eurocentric frame, as a means to reclaim the indigenous and Afro-Latin American cultural roots, a paradox which will be unmasked in my proposal.
Fieldwork is an essential component of this project. I will travel to key geographical locations which played a crucial role during the era of Spanish colonial societies: Spain (General Archive of the Indies), Mexico (Museo del Virreinato), Guatemala (National Library), and its Caribbean presence in the Dominican Republic (Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo). The field work is necessary because crucial primary sources in the form of paintings, baptism records, official documents, unpublished personal accounts, etc., are accessible at the places where they are housed. Examining these documents will allow me to demonstrate even more clearly how the notion of mestizaje developed and changed over time.