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Reconstructing Racial Identity and the African Past in the Dominican Republic

Kimberly Eison Simmons

Publication Year: 2009

In Latin America and the Caribbean, racial issues are extremely complex and fluid, particularly the nature of "blackness." What it means to be called "black" is still very different for an African American living in the United States than it is for an individual in the Dominican Republic with an African ancestry.

Racial categories were far from concrete as the Dominican populace grew, altered, and solidified around the present notions of identity. Kimberly Simmons explores the fascinating socio-cultural shifts in Dominicans' racial categories, concluding that Dominicans are slowly embracing blackness and ideas of African ancestry.

Simmons also examines the movement of individuals between the Dominican Republic and the United States, where traditional notions of indio are challenged, debated, and called into question. How and why Dominicans define their racial identities reveal shifting coalitions between Caribbean peoples and African Americans, and proves intrinsic to understanding identities in the African diaspora.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii-vii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix-ix

List of Appendixes

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p. xi-xi

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pp. xiii-xvi

Anyone who knows me knows that this book project is near and dear to me. I first went to the Dominican Republic in 1993 as a student. It was the first of several research experiences in the country, and I lived and worked there from 2000 to 2004. Two of my children were born in the Dominican Republic ...

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Introduction. Burying the African Past

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pp. 1-13

The Signos de Identidad (Signs of Identity) exhibit is inside the Sala de Antropología (Anthropology Room), at the Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, and it displays artifacts and representations of Dominican people and culture. In a large room ...

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1. Stirring the Sancocho: Dominicanness, Race, and Mixture in Historical Context

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pp. 14-33

The history of sancocho, also Spanish for “pig slop,” is all about raising the least to the most, the ordinary to the extraordinary . . . Call us alchemists. The African Diaspora’s always done what it could with what it’s had, transmuting base metals into gold. We’ve turned table scraps into feasts, curd into cheese, sour grapes ...

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2. Indio: A Question of Color

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pp. 34-60

Ethnically, the aboriginal population represented a category typified by non-whiteness as well as non-blackness, which could easily accommodate the racial in-betweenness of the Dominican mulatto. Thus, the regime gave currency to the term indio (Indian) to denominate the complexion of people of mixed ...

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3. The Dominican Diaspora: Blackening and Whitening and Mixture across Borders

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pp. 61-89

In addition to people and money, migration-driven nonmonetary resources such as ideas, cultural values, fashion, and so on move daily between the two countries: Dominican newspapers are distributed in the United States on their day of publication, popular Dominican television series are simultaneously ...

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4. Africanidad and Afro-Dominican: Alliances, Organizations, and Networks in the African Diaspora

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pp. 90-114

Sherezada “Chiqui” Vicioso, an accomplished Dominican poet, migrated to the United States in the 1960s. Before that time, she considered herself to be india clara. However, this was called into question in the United States as she entered the country and settled into her neighborhood. She wrote about the experience ...

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Conclusion. Unburying the African Past

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pp. 115-120

I began the book by questioning the issue of black denial in the Dominican Republic and asking if Dominicans were denying that they were black (as is often the assertion) or if their blackness had been denied by the state. I suggest that it is the latter. The African past was buried in textbooks, identity construction, and ...


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pp. 121-129


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pp. 131-135


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pp. 137-144


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pp. 145-148

About the Author

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p. 149-149

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048215
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813033747
Print-ISBN-10: 0813033748

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 13 b&w photos, 8 tables
Publication Year: 2009