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Chocolate and Corn Flour

History, Race, and Place in the Making of "Black" Mexico

Laura A. Lewis

Publication Year: 2012

Located on Mexico's Pacific coast in a historically black part of the Costa Chica region, the town of San Nicolás 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 Nicolás, 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 Nicolás, 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.

Published by: Duke University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xvi

I have had overwhelming institutional support for this project, beginning with the American Bar Foundation, which funded my initial trip to the Costa Chica in 1992 while I was a Dissertation . . .

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pp. 1-14

In the summer of 1992 I perched on a low wall in the quiet and dusty central plaza of San Nicolás Tolentino, an agricultural village in a historically black region of Guerrero, Mexico. Pigs, chickens . . .

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Chapter One: The Lay of the Land

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pp. 15-53

San Nicoladenses use the terms white, moreno, and Indian in reference to the three broad “types” of Costa Chicans, which is why I use them too. As discussed in the following chapter, that . . .

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Chapter Two: Identity in Discourse: The “Race” Has Been Lost

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pp. 55-83

Many colonial ranchers on the Costa Chica were absentee landlords. Those likely to live there, such as Mauleón, who also oversaw royal tribute, combined official and unofficial functions. Yet . . .

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Chapter Three: Identity in Performance

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pp. 85-117

I now turn to three narratives that together express the exclusion of whiteness through the symbolic entanglement of Indianness and morenoness in the formation of place and identity. The . . .

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Chapter Four: Africa in Mexico: An Intellectual History

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pp. 119-153

This chapter explores “the Africa thesis,” as John McDowell (2000:9) terms the ascription of Africanity to coastal belt morenos. I begin by reconstructing an intellectual genealogy that began . . .

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Chapter Five: Culture Work: So Much Money

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pp. 154-188

Scholars of other African diaspora populations have worked within the particularities of American histories and experiences, offering stellar examples of the nexus of ethnicity, race, and nation . . .

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Chapter Six: Being from Here

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pp. 189-230

Culture workers find positive value in San Nicolás principally around the abstract qualities of Africanity or blackness. But for San Nicoladenses such qualities are either negative or not engaged . . .

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Chapter Seven: A Family Divided? : Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces

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pp. 231-265

Until the 1970s many San Nicoladenses lived in the fields during planting and harvesting seasons and did not attend school. Sebastián therefore lamented that he wanted to learn to read and . . .

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Chapter Eight: Transnationalism, Place, and the Mundane

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pp. 265-303

Doña Cata sang this traditional song to me in 2002 as her “goodbye.” She was getting too old to dance, sing, and travel, she said. Before she died in 2007 she told me that she had taught a lot of young . . .

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Conclusion: What’s in a Name?

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pp. 305-322

San Nicoladenses’s identities rest on a complex calculus of race, history, and custom. That calculus is situational, which makes it fluid and conciliatory rather than bounded and antagonistic. But . . .


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pp. 323-340


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pp. 341-362


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pp. 363-370

E-ISBN-13: 9780822394778
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822351320

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 45 illustrations
Publication Year: 2012