December 07, 2004

Shades of Belonging

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In many Latin American countries, race is a flexible concept and can change with a person's status in society. Historical and contemporary evidence shows that a Latin American strain of racism favors lighter-skinned over darker-skinned people, but as an old Caribbean proverb says, "Money bleaches."

This quote comes from an article written by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, published by the Los Angeles Times. I found about this article through Hispanic Trending, a blog that writes about Latino issues in the US.

The article talks about a study authored by Pew Hispanic Center researcher, Sonya Tafoya, who analyses how Hispanics in the US see themselves in relation to race, politics, education and social position within the society in general.

This study is interesting to me because it reflects the complexity of the Latino ethnic group within the US. Whereas Latinos are defined ethnically as Hispanics for statistical purposes, they (we) are far from being a homogeneous group. Even though, Latinos share some cultural traits and a common language, they are as diverse as they come.

The study highlights the more obvious differences. Skin color, being the most mentioned. Also, among the differences, the author cites economic situation, education, employment, political ideology and cultural identification.