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Historical Evolution of the Mestizo Identity

Every cultural group has its own originality which it identifies. The originality of the groups is the one used in making the identity of the group. Many ethnic groups have their own identity in which they are recognized which distinguishes them from other ethnic groups. Ethnic groups use symbols, for example, symbols cultures and other to identify themselves. Identity of a social group acts as a unifying factor to the members of that ethnic group. This paper looks at the historical evolution of social construction of Mestizo. According to anthropologist Olivia Harris, Mestizo identity can be defined from an anti-ethnic perspective because it has to do with not being an Indian. According to Roger Bartra the identity of mestizo is a myth. This is a similar notion that is also held by Bolivian historian Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui who looks at the imagined nature of the community built around mestizo.  However, the above views are denied by Prof. Tarica who points out that the scholars underestimate the effect that the modern nation state has in the formation of subjectivity. Tarica hold that Mestizo has their identity in the way they treat some of their members in accordance to gender or originality. Tarica attributes them to the way that they deny power to certain types of individuals, for example, women and the indigenous groups. This is one of the ways that they can be identified. This is an identity that has developed since the early days where women were not recognized in this ethnic group. This trend has continued up to today where women in the ethnic group are not supposed to hold positions that are important in the ethnic group. They are known by other groups because of this discrimination (Amselle, 1998 pg 101-107).

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The first generation of Mestizos was a product of a Spanish father and an Indian woman. It took a long time for a larger population of the mestizos to develop. It was until 1537 when the first children of mestizo were born after the Indian rebellion had declined. The mestizo population developed slowly and was considered as illegitimate. Despite this, they held a unique position which was between the Spanish and the abused Indian peasantry. They faced limitation in their economic situations. They did not find job opportunities, and they did not have a guarantee for financial success. In order for them, to survive, most of them opted to become Spanish servants or artisans. The children were also not allowed to inherit property or land. The children who were born of privileged Spaniards had more social and economic than other children because of the positions of their parents. They received education by use of private tutors or priests. The concept of Mestizo meant a person of mixed blood. This displays the arbitrary divisions placed between different parts of the population so that the Spanish would maintain their power. The nature by which the term was used during the Spanish colonial period of 1530 to 1750 shows that race is something that is socially constructed (Amselle, 1998 pg 101-107). It is constructed by those who want to take advantage of others, for example, to maintain power.

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After the first children of mestizo became adults there arose problems in the Peruvian society. This is because most of the girls did not find money to find a husband. Orphaned mestizo family depended on charity. Philanthropic groups also created shelters for the young women. Marriage between two mestizos was not allowed at the beginning of the colonial times. Therefore, there was no mestizos family or community. They only tried to attach themselves at then lower side of the Spanish culture. Mestizos lived in isolation as they did not have their own culture despite that they stayed together. They were isolated from Spanish and Indian society. The narrow definition that the Spaniards had of adulthood made it difficult for the first generation of the mestizos to assert any opinion in the society. The society did not trust the young generation with important responsibilities. The law stated that people were minor until they reached twenty five years. This made the mestizos have little power in the society (Amselle, 1998 pg 101-107).

During the Spanish colonial period, there were complex caste systems developed by the Spaniards. The caste had its basis on race used for social controlling also which determined the importance of a person in the society. Under the caste system of the colonial Spain, the term mestizo applied to children who came from the union of peninsular and an Amerindian. The term also was used to describe children born of two mestizo parents. The word mestizo also related to illegitimacy. Despite this the term evolved as centuries have passed. During the early 16 century, the term was almost used to describe something that was stupid or bastard or illegitimate child. The term was created specifically for those people who were a mixture of Amerindian and European. These are the people who comprise the majority of the Latin America (Stahler-Sholk, Kuecker & Vanden 2008 pg 13-17).

Another identity that they have developed since a long time ago is indigenismo, which constitute an important branch of mestizo nationalism. This is the discursive formation which attributed powerlessness to the Indians. The anatomy of indigenismo which the Indian have represented in the symbolic nature of the nation depicts the role they have played in the official narration of the nation. The Indians are figured at the foot of the body of Mexico. This shows them as the root of the national identity. This is a perspective adopted by many nations in that period. It implied a discursive trap related to temporality. While located in a mythical origin of the nation, they were ignored or considered being invisible. Indigenismo acts as an example of fictive ethnicity, which has a, plot that consists of the incorporation of the Indians into a civilizing national project in order to regain their redemption.

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In the past, the mestizos were very few in accordance to official census up to the second half of the 17th century. They appeared as a sizable and a stable community despite that they had existed for over a century in Mexico. But, due to the meaning that the name had taken the designation of mestizos was removed from the groups counted during census. At the moment, the mestizos are the majority of the population that inhabits Latin America. Despite this, it is difficult to the extent of the Mestizo population. This can only happen through genetic studies. Today countries with majority Mestizo are Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador. However mestizos have developed over the centuries, and because of them staying together, they have taken up their identity in the society. Many societies, for example, in Canada have recognized the rights of the mestizos. There has been intermarriage between the mestizos and other groups. There is also marriage between the mestizos themselves. This has made them increase in population to the extent of gaining recognition by governments.Development of their identity and togetherness made the Canadian constitution be amended in order to recognize the mestizos as aboriginal people. This identity also leads them successfully sue for recognition of their traditional rights, for example, the rights to trap and hunt. In 2003, a court ruling that took place in Ontario declared that the mestizos deserved the same way of treatment just like other aboriginal communities in Canada. (Stahler-Sholk, Kuecker & Vanden 2008 pg 13-17).

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