How is “mestizaje” reflected in Mexican Culture? What are concrete examples of how Indigenous people negotiated with Europeans through religion, language and culture? Do you view this blending as an act of resistance/survival or subordination/subjugation?
The discussion of race will bring about several opinions and stories on the correlation between race, ethnicity, and cultural identity. When the world was newer (or older) there were several racial identities that were new to others. In the case of the Mesoamericans in Latin America they were considered a new breed of species in the minds of critics like Erik Von Daniken’s claim that they were considered part of an extraterrestrial civilization. (Carrasco, 1998, pg. 25) In their time during the 16th century they were looked on as not entirely human, looking for parts of the world they could originally be from. When first encountered by the Spaniards, they didn’t understand, and this could very well be their entire culture that was misunderstood. The Mesoamerican civilization was lost in syncretism that broke their religious culture into different religious throughout Latin America after the conquest. The Mesoamericans did this because it was an act of subjugation forced on them by the Spaniards as their civilization was dying out, they could only negotiate through their language, religion, and culture. The culture of Mexico was created from the abandonment of their old cultures to a more mainstream or mestizo way.
Going back through Mesoamerican culture their entire civilization was created behind their religious beliefs. Their religion was celebrated with ceremonial centers and monuments built around their cities and city-states. To the Spaniards great surprise, Mesoamerica, “was an urban civilization organized by powerful, pervasive religious beliefs, and practices.” (Carrasco, 1998, pg. xiv) Their calendars, writing system, rituals and symbols was based on their beliefs in their Gods and cosmovision. Their structures included places to serve their gods like, Teotihuacan, Xochicaloc, chicen Itza, Colohuacan, Tollan, and Teocolhuacan. The cities were set with centers and theaters that showcased their social and religious society. The ceremonial centers attracted the elites, common people, sacred forces, and a place for market. Within the ceremonial places god s and values were redistributed to the people that benefited the society at large.
According to Carrasco within eighteen months, the Spaniards began to distrust the Aztec people, they murdered, tortured, and dominated them until their surrender for subordination. After the conquest the Spaniards formed a strategy of “divide and conquer” in order to effectively break the unity of the Indians in Mexico to create a new order. (Menchaca, 2006, pg 48) This devastation and complete savagery of the Spaniards led to colonization and a cultural transformation brought by the conquest of the Europeans. This transformation led to the dying out of the cultural beliefs and practices that spawned a joining of local and European vales. These changes have shaped the theory of the identity of the creation of the Mexican race.
The Mexican race is theorized to be formulated by the mixture of Indian and European ancestry. Due to the conquest of the Spaniards in the 16th century, the Mesoamerican people were emphatically wiped out by the Europeans and the Indian allies. The indigenous people were bribed with the thought of being more civilized with schools, roads, and clinic if they would give up their old customs and conform to the European culture, or a mainstream Mexico, better known as mestizo.” Mexican national identity has been constructed in terms of the idea that Mexicans are the product of a creative mixing of Indians and Europeans. In theory this is an argument about a fusing together of cultures but in practice it gets conflated with the idea of mixing of races, mestizaje in Spanish” (Mestizaje, n.d) According to Menchaca around fifty years after the conquest the relationship between the Spanish and the indigenous people were redefined as their created a new social and economic organization spaced on the Spanish colonization. (Menchaca, 2006, pg.49) The indigenous people were forced to give up their customs and downplay their religious beliefs in order to conform to the new social order from the Spanish. Through their language and religion they tried to relate to the Spanish in order for a little bit of their civilization to remain. Their leaders were replaced, and their land was overrun by other tribes. Through co-opt rule of the Aztec leaders and the Spanish they were able to symbolize legitimate rule over the Indians. (Menchaca, 2006, pg 50) Other examples were of the noble family using their language and culture as a benefit for the Spanish to establish their rule of the indigenous people. They rationalized with the Indian people for continual labor of the land, and in way protected their religion from Christianization. The intermarriage of the Indians and Spaniards that was encouraged created mestizos and in the eyes of both races help further their culture.
In conclusion, these cycles of conquest by the Spanish that, created alliances, instituted technological changes, intermarried with the indigenous people, and instituted a racial hierarchy, was forced and later followed by the indigenous people due to subordination. The indigenous people at first resisted, but it was the dominance of the Spaniards and their allies that forced the culture to conform to the European colonization. Their religion, culture, and language were watered down to meet the standards of the Spanish colonization. It is only later that the Mexican culture has recognized the significance of the Mesoamerican culture.
Carrasco, David. Religions of Mesoamerica: Cosmovision and Ceremonial Centers (Religious Traditions of the World).Waveland PrInc1998. Book.
“Mestizaje and Indigenous Identities.” N.d Web. 19 Sep. 2013. http://jg.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/Peasants/mestizaje.html
Menchaca, Martha. Recovering History, Constructing Race:The Indian, Black, and White Roots of Mexican Americans. University of Texas Press. 2001. Book.