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Colorful Mexico

INEGI director Julio Santaella came under heavy attack for even mentioning that racism in Mexico exists
By The News · 26 of June 2017 09:12:34
Bratz dolls, No available, photo: Flickr

If you’re thinking I’m about to sell you another colorful Mexican tourist trap, read elsewhere. This article is to bring to your attention the 11 different racial skin shades Mexicans have as classified by a recent study carried out by the National Statistics and Geography Institute (INEGI). To sum it up, this is all about veiled racism, Mexican style.

The conclusion of the poll is that the darker the skin, the less possibilities of upward mobility an individual has. This is of course, either news or novelty in Mexico, where the fair skinned people have always had the upper hand for opportunities in the nation.

The study called “Module of Inter-Generations’ Social Mobility” covered 32,000 homes and exclusively people between the ages of 25 and 64 years old in urban and rural communities, focusing on three aspects: education, occupation and economics, and the effect — negative or positive — the color of the individual’s skin has on these factors.

The study, an INEGI prologue says, “was applied on a chromatic scale that includes a classification of skin color which had already been applied to former Ethnicity Project and Race for Latin America study. This chromatic scale included 11 different tones of skin color, A being the darkest and K the whitest, with the objective to have the interviewee identify her/his own skin color.”

Here are some quotes from the study on the results.

“Of those persons who classified themselves in the fairer skin tonalities (from I to K), only 10 percent does not have a level of schooling, while of the persons who classified themselves in the darker skin shades (from C to A), 20.2 percent are nearly illiterate.”

On different levels, this enormous difference between what is popularly known in the nation as “güeritos” (fair skinned) and “prietitos” (dark skinned) repeats itself all the way throughout stating that the whiter you are, the better off you are in Mexico.

Of course the study itself can’t be blamed for this, as it clearly asked every person interviewed to define their skin color according to the chromatic scale used to differentiate the 11 different shades being applied.

The publication of the INEGI study created the usual storm in a cup of tea controversial statements do. In fact, INEGI director Julio Santaella came under heavy attack for even mentioning that racism in Mexico exists.

For the most part, controversy was picked up by Excelsior daily newspaper with financial system defender David Páramo claiming that racism in Mexico is a thing of the past and labeled the study as “a stupidity” and also stated that “the war of the castes” ended in 1901.

On the contrary, Leo Zuckerman blasted the notion that racism and castes do not exists. “Only those with an uncontrollable desire to be noteworthy can even dare to not recognize what is evident and that scientific studies now prove it. And by the way, it turns out that the deniers of racism are all white. Why is this?” (This last description fits David Páramo perfectly.)

According to the INEGI study, the conclusion was that of those interviewed, 46 percent had been rejected from upward mobility opportunities due not just to the color of their skin (which influenced a lot) but also because of their physical appearance including weigh, handicaps, tattoos, physical defects and even way of dressing.

Another conclusion is that one in four Mexicans feels discriminated against for her/his looks and that people constantly offend each other due to their shade of their skin.

But again, there’s nothing new to the study. It is clear that in Mexico discrimination against darker skinned persons (noting also that there are very few black people in the country, so they did not count in this INEGI study) still exists and there is the notion that a person who marries another of fairer skin is doing it to “improve the race,” according to popular belief.

And of course, common daily language is full of racism as expressed in jokes that are funny to many a person.

When involved in controversy over the INEGI study, director Julio Santaella tweeted that in Mexico, “the people with fairer skin are directors, bosses or professional; those with darker skin are craftsmen, or support operators.”

And by the way, Santaella answered Páramo’s tirades telling him something I fully agree with: “That’s our sad reality” in Mexico.