Discrimination has always been a big issue around the world and two of these types are racism and colorism. According to Ware, “Racism involves discrimination against individuals based on their racial category. Colorism, in contrast, involves discrimination against dark-complexioned people on the basis of their color”. According to Statista, Mexico is 62% mestizo, 28% mostly or entirely Amerindian, and 10% other races (mostly European). If Mexico is a place with diversity, then why are Mexicans discriminating against each other? Mexico needs to stop normalizing and acknowledge that they are discriminating others by not allowing certain skin tone or race to receive the same opportunities as those with a lighter skin tone.
Yalitza Aparicio became the first nominee for the Academy Award for the best female role from among the indigenous people of Mexico. Aparicio had just graduated to be a teacher but was given the opportunity to be in the movie ‘Roma’ and play the role of Cleo without any acting experience. Since then, she has been on Vanity Fair, W Magazine and the cover of Vogue Mexico. She has received attention not only from the public but also from her colleagues but some of it isn’t positive. Most arguing that she isn’t a real actress and that’s who she is while also pointing out her skin color or her ethnicity. One of these people is Sergio Goyri, who apparently was unaware of him being recorded, says “fucking Indian who says, ‘Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am’” (Cotte). Goyri later on apologizes and states that his comments weren’t meant to offend anybody and congratulates her. On ¡Hola! Mexico, Aparicio is featured on the cover, but her skin has been photoshopped to look lighter. Some even tweeted”: “You can dress and make a monkey look good but she’s still a monkey”.
One of the most obvious places you can see discrimination is on TV. Growing up as a child, one of the things I noticed was how light most of these Mexican actors are like Kate del Castillo, with pale skin and blond hair. If they look indigenous or Afro-Latino, they’d usually be in the background, acting like a servant or a worker. One example of this is Netflix’s ‘Made in Mexico’, which seem very whitewashed. The darker Mexicans are in the background while the lighter ones portray as the main rich characters (Bautista). Many Mexican telenovelas like ‘Pasión de gavilanes’ (Passion of Hawks), ‘Rubí’, ‘Amigas y rivales’ (Friends and Rivals) are also whitewashed. The most important roles are played by light-skinned actors. Including politicians and new reporters on TV are light-skinned. Television has only shown what others want to see which are the light-skinned while the dark-skinned are shunned into the background. It’s not very surprising to see people’s negative reactions towards Aparicio, but it’s surprising how most of these people give such hateful comments when they also look like her or have family that are like her.
Mexican magazines also prove colorism and racism. In Mexican magazines, 2 out of 10 would be brown or black (Armitage, Agis, Hernández, Aceves). According Armitage, Agis, Hernández, and Aceves, there was a low percentage of black and brown people on the 15 magazines that were reviewed, none of them had black or brown people in their covers and if there were dark-skinned Mexicans, they would only appear for charity events, travel, etc. Photoshopping Aparicio’s skin tone may have something to do with people not being used to seeing brown people in magazines (Cott). It’s disturbing to know that as a colored person, you can’t be on the cover or be mentioned just because of your skin or race and knowing that it will disturb others, especially in a country that is filled with people of color.
Valuing whiteness has also been something that is seen a lot. Society has given this idea that the darker you are, the uglier you are. It’s not rare to hear a child be insecure about their dark skin tone. Growing up being dark was also one of my insecurities due to the people on TV were white, almost European looking. Many Mexicans will go to the point that they will stay inside on a sunny day not to protect themselves from skin cancer but to avoid getting darker (Rivera). To be considered Mexican, it seems that you also have to be a certain shade. Many Afro-Latinos have this issue, some are told that they really aren’t Latinos, but black (Rivera). Latinos are mixed with many types of races, so you don’t need to be a certain skin tone or look a certain way to be considered Latino.
On the other hand, many Mexicans like Goyri will claim that a proud Mexican cannot be racist (Cotte). But in reality, there are phrases that are used and seen as normal but are racist. An example of this is ‘No seas Indio’, which translated into English means ‘Don’t be an Indian’. Indigenous are viewed as uneducated, poor, and dark-skinned. This phrase is commonly used when somebody says or does something that an indigenous would apparently do. Indio shouldn’t be used as an insult. An indigenous person should not be ashamed for who they are.
Others will argue that there is no way Mexico can be racist when there is a lot of diversity. According to Minority Rights Group, the government itself doesn’t acknowledge Afro-Mexicans and “African descendants in Mexico are not conceived of or included in the contemporary nation or politics”. Mexico is taking away basic human rights by not allowing these people to have a voice in their government. No voice means they can’t stand up for themselves and fight for what they deserve. Afro-Mexicans should be acknowledged and be given the same education and rights as white Mexicans. Even if there’s not a lot of them, they deserve to be recognized as part of the nation. Mexico isn’t only full of mestizos, there’s also many other races and Afro-Mexicans are part of el orgullo Mexicano (Mexican pride).
People like Yalitza Aparicio face discrimination every day. It may not be verbally to these people but it is seen in magazines, television, politics and etc. Society has given Mexicans the idea that being light or fair-skinned is beautiful while being dark is a bad thing. As a Mexican, it’s alarming to see Mexicans discriminate against their own people. As a diverse country, Mexicans need to learn how to love themselves and accept their ancestral roots while television needs to start giving darker people more important roles and magazines need to stop photoshopping people to look lighter and put them on covers. At first there may be criticism but as they continue accepting darker people in society, their minds will change and become more accepting. As people become more accepting, the country may prosper more and may become more open-minded about other people and their cultures.
- Armitage, Susie, et al. ‘Mexican Magazines Are Way Whiter than the Actual Mexican Population’. BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 14 Dec. 2016, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/susiearmitage/how-mexican-magazines-reflect-racial-discrminiation.
- Cotte, Jorge. ‘Yalitza Aparicio’s Success After ‘Roma’ Exposes Mexico’s Ugly Truth of Anti-Indigenous Bigotry’. Remezcla, 25 Feb. 2019, https://remezcla.com/features/film/yalitza-aparicio-roma-success-exposes-mexico-ugly-truth/
- ‘Critiques of Netflix’s MADE IN MEXICO Reflect Ongoing Diversity Issue in Latin American Media, Experts Say’. Latino USA, 9 Nov. 2018, https://www.latinousa.org/2018/11/08/madeinmexicocritiques/
- ‘Afro-Mexicans’. Minority Rights Group, https://minorityrights.org/minorities/afro-mexicans/
- Pasquali, Marina. ‘Mexico – Ethnic Groups’. Statista, 4 Sept. 2019, https://www.statista.com/statistics/275439/ethnic-groups-in-mexico/
- Rivera, Sabrina. ‘Valuing Whiteness: Colorism in the Latino Community’. The Body Is Not an Apology, 20 Sept. 2016, https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/valuing-whiteness-colorism-in-the-hispanic-community/
- Ware, Leland. ‘’Color Struck’: Intragroup and Cross-Racial Color Discrimination’. Race, Racism and the Law, 2013, https://racism.org/articles/citizenship-rights/slavery-to-reparations/116-racial-reentrenchment/1707-colorism001