Some notes on Lund, The Mestizo State
Every nation produces and identity through which it expresses its history as a political formation. In European derived societies, these identities emerge through and in dialogue with racial discourse. Mexico is an archetypal case of this. Yet the idea of race in its modern Mexican specificity has been insufficiently thought.
Race in Mexico is blindingly present and central to the stories the country tells itself about itself, and still the idea of race there has not been well enough looked at. The mestizo has Mexican subject has a long history, since Independence at least. Blond Maximilian took over; Zapotec Benito J. through him out; mestizo Porfirio D. completed the dialectic and converted a war between races into the totalizing racial discourse of the state (A. Molina E., suggestion that Porfirio put Mexico at the vanguard of a greater Latin American hybridology).
What Vasconcelos does is take that mestizo and use it to universalize Mexico (to make it cosmic). His thesis is megalomaniacal, and the cosmic race is universal, apparently antiracial but really hyperracial race to come. His book was published in exile and did not circulate in Mexico until later, but it did give the country a certain language of race. Cf. the UNAM slogan “por mi raza hablará el espíritu”, murals on the rise of the mestizo and its export appeal … which would stretch all the way to the Chicano movement.
Scholarship up until now has covered three issues: relationship between indigenismo and mestizaje, limits of the allegedly inclusive discourse of mestizaje, and the veiled African presence. All of these foci take the basic category of race as self evident, i.e., they assume it is a thing. Lund, on the other hand, will address race as a cultural-political problematic. He says it is integral to the very production of national history … indeed, it stands as the central pillar for the very conceptualization of the social and historical dynamics out of which modern Mexico emerges. It is through race that we “think” this cultural history.
Krauze: mestizaje stabilizes and Mexicanizes, and the national territory has spaces that are more and less mestizo and thus less more and less successful examples of Mexicanness. Lund, meanwhile, has three points. First, race is a theory of the organization of human difference that hierarchizes this. Second, it is dependent on an aesthetic vision of the human: it is tied to beauty, form, representation, and narrative. Third, it is productive of group identity. So, it can form networks of hierarchy; but, because it is governed by a hierarchical impulse, it always returns to segregation.
Race is written, and thus produced in major Mexican work after major Mexican work, but critical reflection does not move beyond the mestizaje paradigm. But race is also a question of space and of land. Indeed, i becomes meaningful only as it operates at the division of material resources and the institutional vigilance over that division. Racialization is the aesthetic mode for the representation of the battle over space and land resources.
The mestizo state has 3 dimensions: 1. Mexico’s institutions of sovereignty: this hegemonic state formation has been explicitly conceptualized in a way that resonates racially, at least since Molina’s 1909 text Los grandes problemas nacionales. 2. The national state of being, the fictive ethnicity, the national race. 3. Most importantly, the mestizo state resonates as a historical and political process of state formation and capitalist penetration that explains itself to itself, indeed sustains itself, by drawing on a discourse of race. That is: it is the name for the historical consequences of the confluence of race and nation in Mexico.
Lund is trying to read race, but not “read for racism.” He is interested in finding out how racism works, what its comceptual bases and govern categories are, how it changes, and how it does not.
CHAPTER 1. Colonization and Indianization in Liberal Mexico. The Case of Luis Alva.
We are in a postmulticulturalist moment, contemplating the theories, practices, and legacies of race; hybrid identities and their critique reign. La raza cósmica is only the most spectacular example of attempts to think beyond race.
In Mexico, this stylized mestizaje plus the postrevolutionary turn to a discourse of indigenous rights, helped consolidate the vocabulary of a conversation around race that is still playing out, often in pantomime form, on the national stage. For example: the white V. Fox called Indians his brothers (not fellow citizens), and at the same time S. Marcos was called to white to be an indigenous leader. And more generally: Indians really are the source of the nation’s cultural patrimony, and yet it is founded on their abandonment. These are the outlines of the discourse that resides at the heart of the mestizo state.
SO: MEXICO IS IN FACT AS SCHIZOPHRENIC AS PERU, say I. And furthermore, says Lund, Vasconcelos’ thesis was already derivative; these ideas had been consolidated during the Porfiriato and they retain hegemony today.
Key: Mexico’s liberal concensus has always had to address the place of indigenous communities in the heterogeneous cultural landscape. Thus the history of racialization in Mexico is particularly useful for thinking about the limits of the liberal critique of race and rcism generally.
These limits arise at the very formulation of liberalism’s assumptions and are reached at the basic articulation that converts the idea of race into racist practice: the joint that binds economic and social relations, i.e. modes of production. Liberalism, as an ideology of freedom and equality, cannot deliver what it teaches us to demand because it is committed to capitalism, which precludes these. And in the modern world, modes of production have a racialized analogue.
19th century essays on the process of “colonización” (cf. Alva), can shed light on a process that is still unfolding. There is much to be distinguished between the neoliberal state (1994 forward) and the simply liberal state of the 19th century. But if liberalism in general relates to space, it does so by trying to make space productive in the capitalist sense and enlisting the state in this task. People get in the way of this. That was the problem for Porfirio and it is the problem now.
1880s “colonization” was taking over of land held by indigenous groups. Modernization thus understood of course was not trusted by such groups. So there is tension between capitalist expansion and popular sovereignty, which creates dilemmas for the liberals (who believe in equality and freedom).
By the late Porfiriato it is common to see Indian as victim of history; at this point a new rhetorical device emerges, Indianization (Indianizing the national image, e.g. putting the statue of Cuauhtémoc on Reforma, etc.).
Alva: fearless polemicist. Serious about rights oriented liberalism and also about technocratic perspective on relations between society and the state. All of this gives him an interesting off center perspective.
1893, when Alva died, was last moment for doctrinaire liberalism, as the state turned more statist. At the same time, news of military atrocities in the hinterlands — Tomochic — began to circulate. And the issues Alva had raised were the issues that would give rise to the Revolution.
Lund: Alva’s take on race marks the limits of the liberal critique of racism. It rejects the idea of innate inferiority and degeneracy. His question is how to fight barbarism, which can arise in anyone. Alva’s Indian has economic power and juridical rights, and so is a real person as opposed to a rhetorical device. Because he is so forthright and because he cuts to the heart of real issues, it is possible to see in him the limits of liberalism. He also speaks to the relations between liberalism and race in a way that points toward an indigenism to come.