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Chocolate and Corn Flour History, Race, and Place in the Making of Black Mexico by Laura A. Lewis

Chocolate and Corn Flour History, Race, and Place in the Making of Black Mexico


Chocolate and Corn Flour History, Race, and Place in the Making of Black Mexico by Laura A. Lewis

Located on Mexico's Pacific coast in a historically black part of the Costa Chica region, the town of San Nicolas has been identified as a center of Afromexican culture by Mexican cultural authorities, journalists, activists, and foreign anthropologists. The majority of the town's residents, however, call themselves morenos (black Indians). In Chocolate and Corn Flour, Laura A. Lewis explores the history and contemporary culture of San Nicolas, focusing on the ways that local inhabitants experience and understand race, blackness, and indigeneity, as well as on the cultural values that outsiders place on the community and its residents.Drawing on more than a decade of fieldwork, Lewis offers a richly detailed and subtle ethnography of the lives and stories of the people of San Nicolas, including community residents who have migrated to the United States. San Nicoladenses, she finds, have complex attitudes toward blackness-as a way of identifying themselves and as a racial and cultural category. They neither consider themselves part of an African diaspora nor deny their heritage. Rather, they acknowledge their hybridity and choose to identify most deeply with their community.


This ambitious ethnography.... presents a very useful history of the Costa Chica region that specialists will relish. The book also includes a well-researched discussion of the anthropological work of central pioneers in the field of Afro-Mexican studies.... Where Lewis most successfully brings to bear her wealth of experience in the region is in her discussions of transmigration and the persistence of family ties despite the economic challenges that often separate families across borders. -- Bobby Vaughn * Journal of Anthropological Research * As Lewis takes us, along with the people she has studied, to the edge of the present and before a tentative future, she maintains a narrbative richly textured with research and detail yet poignant and engagingly clear in its composition. -- Matthew Restall * Hispanic American Historical Review * This delightful book, based on well over a decade of research in Mexico and the United States . . . traces the history and social relations of a self-described moreno community from the colonial period to its contemporary diasporic dispersal to the United States. -- Leigh Binford * American Ethnologist * The kind of great ethnography much needed in research on Latin American blackness: Laura A. Lewis puts a crimp in recent multiculturalist constructions of Afromexican 'blackness'-but also in Mexican mestizo nationalism-by revealing local meanings attached to being moreno as a complex historical mixture of blackness and indigenousness. -Peter Wade, author of Race and Sex in Latin America In the 1940s, when Mexican anthropologist Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran first brought Afromexicans into academic and public discussion, African presence in Mexico had been under erasure for so long that Mexican national identity had elided Africa altogether. Today, Mexico's 'Third Root
has gained national and international recognition. This process has gone hand in glove with a new politics of identity. Laura A. Lewis

's ethnohistorical study of race probes the local politics of autochthony, nationality, and citizenship in the Pacific heartland of Afromexico. -Claudio Lomnitz, author of Death and the Idea of Mexico'

About the Author

Laura A. Lewis is Professor of Anthropology at James Madison University and the author of Hall of Mirrors: Power, Witchcraft and Caste in Colonial Mexico, also published by Duke University Press.

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Book Info

Publication date

14th May 2012


Laura A. Lewis

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Duke University Press


392 pages


Cultural studies
Social & cultural history



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