Revueltos, Grijos and Puchuncos: Racialization, Identity and Miscegenation in a Town of the Costa Chica of Guerrero1

Receipt: July 25, 2020

Acceptance: December 17, 2020


This article presents an ethnographic discussion around the processes of racialization, miscegenation and the construction of identity/otherness in Punta Maldonado (El Faro), on the Costa Chica of the state of Guerrero. In the first place, it examines the concepts of race and racialization in order to understand how physical attributes have been used to highlight differences and order them into a hierarchy. Next, it explores the meanings of some locally used categories that show the way in which the physical aspect, and the way to wear one’s hair in particular, is socially perceived and interpreted in El Faro. Finally, it analyzes how the idea of mixtures is viewed and incorporated into the collective identity narratives in the area.

Keywords: , , , ,

scrambled eggs, cracks and puchuncosracialization, identity and miscegenation in a town of the costa chica of guerrero

This article presents an ethnographic discussion around the processes of racialization, miscegenation and the construction of identity/otherness in Punta Maldonado (El Faro), on the Costa Chica of the state of Guerrero. In the first place, it examines the concepts of race and racialization in order to understand how physical attributes have been used to highlight differences and order them into a hierarchy. Next, it explores the meanings of some locally used categories that show the way in which the physical aspect, and the way to wear one's hair in particular, is socially perceived and interpreted in El Faro. Finally, it analyzes how the idea of mixtures is viewed and incorporated into the collective identity narratives in the area.

Keywords: identity, alterity, race, racialization, miscegenation.


Punta Maldonado is a town of fishermen and farmers belonging to the municipality of Cuajinicuilapa, in the state of Guerrero, in the so-called Costa Chica. This region extends from the urban pole of Acapulco (Guerrero) to that of Huatulco (Oaxaca); its physical landscape includes coastal plains, mountainous areas of the foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur and lacustrine areas (Campos, 1999; Lara, 2017; Widmer, 1990). As is the case in other localities in the region, this town has been marked by historical processes of miscegenation and cultural exchange between Afro-descendants -whose presence dates back to enslaved people of African origin who arrived in the region during the colonial period- and indigenous people -especially, the groups ñuu savi and nn'anncue ñomndaa-.2 In local jargon, the former are usually referred to as morenos - and, to a lesser extent, as negros - while the latter are labeled as indios. Thus, indigenous (or indios) and Afro-descendants (or morenos-negros),3 have been protagonists of the past and present of Punta Maldonado, a place better known by its nickname: El Faro (The Lighthouse).

Map 1: Punta Maldonado (El Faro) and its neighboring localities. Source: INEGI, with modifications made by the author. Date of preparation: June 6, 2019.

According to Gloria Lara (2017), in the Costa Chica it is difficult to sharply separate Afro-descendants from indigenous people, as if they were two distinct groups that have maintained fixed ethnic boundaries throughout history; on the contrary, the dynamics of miscegenation and cultural exchange have diluted such boundaries, forging porous alterities that make it necessary to study how "the black", "the brown" or "the Indian" has been specifically constructed in local spaces.

In the case of El Faro, there are several ways in which Morenos and Indians mark their differences: from the language and the way they speak Spanish to the way they speak Spanish.4 to marriage customs.5 However, one element that has great relevance in everyday narratives of otherness is physical appearance or, in the words of Elisabeth Cunin, "racial appearance", that is, the "set of physical features -skin color but also hair, nose, body, etc.- to which a meaning is attributed within a socially determined framework" (2003: 19). In this sense, the fareños -a self-denominative term coined by people born or living in Punta Maldonado- use categories such as puchuncos, grijos or lacias. The first alludes to men and women with very curly hair, while the other two denote, respectively, men with short, spiky hair and women with long, straight hair.6 These words draw individual and collective differentiations based on a particular physical criterion -hair texture-, because if dark-skinned men and women are associated to lo puchuncothe Indians are associated with lo grijo or with lo straightdepending on whether they are men or women.

However, reality is much more complex than the categories with which we sometimes try to capture and classify it. Even though El Faro discursively sets out an opposition between the Indian people and the brown people -hair is used as one of the many differentiating criteria, in practice there are people who puchuncas that are not assumed brunettes and men grijos or women lacias that do not call themselves Indianseither because they highlight other physical criteria -for example, a light skin tone- or sociocultural criteria -dressing and speaking in a certain way- which in turn would link them to other labels; or because they highlight a mixed genealogy that leads them to define themselves in another way: scrambled eggs, mestizos.

How can we analyze categories that appeal to physical attributes in the marking of differences? What are the meanings given to terms such as puchunco or grijo What role does mestizaje play in the redefinition of these denominations and in the configuration of other identifications? These questions are the basis for reflection. The first question leads me to the concepts of race and racialization, usually associated with the interpretation and classification of physical differences; to that extent, in the first part of this article I will review these terms. This leads me to the second question, concerning the meanings of the words grijo and puchunco in El Faro, two racializing categories related to the marking of otherness and identity in this place. in situ between 2013 and 2016. Finally, the third question introduces the concept of mestizaje, which further complexifies the discussion on racialization and identification; specifically, I will explore the Faroese notion of the messy or mestizo,7 which alludes to a crossbreeding black-Indian that dilutes but does not eliminate the contrasts marked from the opposition between puchuncos and grijosand forges unstable, ambiguous, flexible identifications.

Race and racialization

Currently, in the field of anthropology and social sciences there seems to be a consensus: race is not a biological and immutable fact that determines the moral and intellectual qualities of human beings but, rather, a sociohistorical category from which inequalities have been legitimized on the basis of physical traits, especially skin color (Arias and Restrepo, 2010; Gall, 2004; Hoffmann, 2008; Stolcke, 2000; Velázquez and Iturralde, 2016; Wade, 2000, 2014; Wieviorka, 2009). It is essentially an ideological construct whose meaning has varied over time and according to specific historical and political contexts.

Verena Stolcke traces the origins of this category back to the xiiiIn the Iberian Peninsula, when the Catholic doctrine of "purity of blood" sought to separate, after several centuries of coexistence, Christians from Muslims and Jews; following the medieval physiological theory according to which the "essence" of a person was transmitted by the mother's blood, someone considered "pure" could only be begotten by a Christian woman. The term race, which still had an isolated use, was linked to a theological-moral principle in which the phenotype was absent, since the crucial element in the differentiation of groups was religion (Stolcke, 2000: 43-44). At the same time, the idea of lineage was important, that is, descent and belonging to a given family; thus, race also referred to the genealogical bond that united a certain group of individuals around a common ancestor (Wade, 2000: 12-13).

Towards the end of the xviiWhen European naturalists began to systematically study the physical and cultural differences between humans, the phenotype began to take on greater relevance. The first typologies associating physical traits with moral and intellectual aspects were then elaborated and developed in the 20th century. xviii and, above all, during the xixwith the emergence of the so-called "scientific racism" (Velázquez and Iturralde, 2016: 77-83; Vergara, 2018: 20). Thus occurred an important development in the notion of race, which now did begin to see physical differences (relying for this purpose on sciences such as biology, craniometry and comparative anatomy), which were tied to differences in morality, intelligence and degree of "civilization". This new conception germinated in an environment marked by industrial capitalism, European imperialism and modern science, which together explained and justified social inequalities based on supposedly innate and immutable physical types; from such an optic, races were transmitted from generation to generation and were ordered in a hierarchical scale in which "whites" occupied the first rank while "blacks", "yellows" and "Indians" were left behind because of their "inferior qualities" (Stolcke, 2000: 44-45; Wade, 2014: 42-43; Wieviorka, 2009: 22-30).

The sense of race as a link between physical characteristics on the one hand, and social, moral and psychological inequality on the other, persisted in political and scientific discourse until the middle of the century. xxThe Nazi ideology, which took scientific racism to its ultimate consequences, was repudiated worldwide at the end of the Second World War (Wieviorka, 2009: 31). In this scenario, also marked by the struggle waged by African Americans against legal racial segregation in the United States, race underwent another conceptual twist that made it lose validity as a notion to understand human diversity. It ceased to be seen as a natural fact and began to be understood as an ideological category used to legitimize social asymmetries.

In short, the notion of race has had several meanings over time. First it was associated with the idea of lineage or lineage, in a clear moral-theological connotation that hierarchized social groups according to the religion professed. Then it came to be seen as a natural fact inscribed in the skin, skull and facial attributes, expressing inequalities in the intellect, values and social development of various human groups. Today, in academic language, the term is understood as a historical category used for two related purposes: 1) to interpret and classify human diversity and 2) to legitimize social asymmetries. In this sense, race is not an objective reality but a historically determined ideological construct (Wade, 2000: 21-22).

Although the term "race" gradually disappeared from academic language (replaced by words such as "ethnicity" or "culture"), this did not mean that racism as an ideological structure legitimizing subordination and exclusion disappeared. On the contrary, racializing conceptions of difference persist, from which stigmatization is based on skin color or facial features, whether in family and everyday environments (Moreno, 2010), regional community dynamics (Quecha, 2017), or within institutions such as schools (Masferrer, 2017), to mention just a few scenarios.

The brief exploration of the concept of race allows us to arrive at two intertwined points. First, it is a socio-historical category whose uses and meanings have varied over time, due to specific political, economic and ideological contexts. Second, it is a polysemic category that hides and overlaps several meanings, not necessarily consistent with each other, in languages ranging from the scientific-academic to the vernacular-popular. Thus, an analytical task is to investigate, historically and ethnographically, when and how the notion of race develops in a given scenario, what meanings it denotes, who uses it and for what purposes.

At this point, it is appropriate to bring to the scene the concept of racialization, coined from academia to refer to certain processes of hierarchical marking of differences that emerged in modernity (Arias and Restrepo, 2010). According to these authors, the term in question implies three interrelated aspects. First, the definition of the human based on the distinction and opposition of two entities: the physical-material and the mental-moral. Second, the centrality given to the physical or external dimension, from which the moral or internal dimension is defined and encompassed. Third, the apprehension of this physical-material entity in biological terms, associated with the emergence of expert knowledge since the second half of the twentieth century. xviiiThe process ultimately results in the creation of taxonomies ("black", "Indian", "white", "mestizo", etc.) that classify, qualify and hierarchize people into a hierarchy ("black", "Indian", "white", "mestizo", etc.), which classify, qualify and hierarchize people into a hierarchy. Ultimately, the process results in the creation of taxonomies ("black", "Indian", "white", "mestizo", etc.) that classify, qualify and hierarchize differences, based on physical-external-biological aspects.

Racialization responds to local, national and international conceptual geopolitics, in such a way that there is no homogeneous or linear process of racial classification, but rather multiple and specific ways of hierarchization according to the context. For example, the racialization that emanates from the elites is not equivalent to that which is configured among subalternized sectors, although both can maintain relations of coexistence, tension and articulation (Arias and Restrepo, 2010: 60-61). Following the proposal of these authors, a task to develop would be "to establish genealogies and concrete ethnographies of how the different racial articulations (or racialization) emerge, unfold and disperse at different levels of a given social formation" (2010: 62).

Finally, the terms race and racialization go hand in hand. If the former is a sociohistorical and polysemic category that has been used to legitimize inequalities, the latter is an analytical tool through which we seek to understand how the idea of race has been implemented in specific sociohistorical scenarios, how it has been conceived and used, from what conceptual assumptions and for what purposes. In this order of ideas, I will now explore two categories that show processes of racialization in El Faro.

Morenos puchuncos, grijos IndiansRace and racialization in Punta Maldonado

If race is a category whose meaning varies according to the particular contexts in which it is deployed, what do Fareños understand it to mean? On the one hand, as in popular Mexican language, the word has the generic sense of "people", it is used to refer to a group of people to which one may or may not belong, and it is usually associated in discourse with place of origin, nationality, ways of speaking, behaving, dressing, etc. During my ethnographic experience I recorded comments where the term was used in several situations: "Toda esta raza de por acá nomás es el puro cotorreo" (September 18, 2013), in order to emphasize the jovial character in the fareños; or "Tú tienes raza, de allá de tu tierra, ¿Cómo se llama?... Aquí nuestra raza es la mexicana, y la tuya?" (April 5, 2016), to remark a differentiation around nationality. In these excerpts, the term was used to refer to a certain group of people and differentiate it from another group, based on elements that did not always stick to physical appearance.

However, the word race is also often associated with categories such as moreno or Indianand in fact it is usual to hear in El Faro expressions such as black race, white race, brown race or Indian raceThe use of stereotypes, which tend to exalt physical traits such as complexion color, hair shape or size -although without ignoring other stereotypes related to temperament, values or customs-. Along these lines, in some everyday discourses there are traces of language alluding both to "purity of blood" and to the stigmatization of certain physical characteristics, such that a "race" would be "worsened" or "improved" depending on the person with whom a sexual-marital union is made. In general, the union with those who have been marked as "pure blood brunettes or black is often viewed as pernicious, especially by those who do not recognize themselves in the same way: "These black from around here are going to look for the indias from beyond the hills pa' they want to improve the race, the blood... they want to improve their color, their blood" (November 30, 2016); "If my granddaughter leaves, she shouldn't even think about coming back because she has already decided to leave with her husband. That's right, what the hell, she wanted to make the race worse. How did the little boy come out! [She points to a black car]... like that car over there!" (August 10, 2016).

The first comment was recorded in an informal conversation with two local men about the recent wedding between a young man and a young woman. moreno and a young woman india in the neighboring town of Tejas Crudas. In that context, one of the men explained the apparent predilection of the black by the indias because of the desire to "improve" the blood -read descent-, implicitly suggesting that in them there is a certain discomfort with their own pigmentation. The presence of the "old" senses of the word "race" can be appreciated in the discourse: both the connotation of a lineage susceptible of "improving" or "worsening", as well as the positive or negative qualification of aspects such as complexion color.

The second comment was made by a man with a fair complexion and blond hair - physical traits that are often associated with the designation "white". güero- about the definitive departure of his granddaughter, a young woman brunette that she had decided to move in with the father of her child, also morenoin the town of Tecoyame (Oaxaca). The man güero expressed to a group of relatives and neighbors her annoyance at the decision of the granddaughter, who would have "spoiled" the "race" -read the lineage- by having procreated a son with a man who is even more moreno than her. In this particular situation, black skin is negatively valued and the offspring is conceived as "worsened" because a person whose complexion was a stigmatized color was involved in a link in the family group. Paradoxically, in spite of the man's regrets güero his own wife was a black-skinned, black-haired woman with a black hair and a black skin. puchunco with whom he had procreated four males and four females, each with light to dark pigmentations, and in his extended family there were also people black and puchuncas. As mentioned above, miscegenation has been constant in the region, so that racializing discourses that denigrate certain physical attributes -black skin, frizzy hair- do not necessarily translate into practices that de facto exclude sexual unions with those who have such characteristics. I will return to these discursive contradictions and ambiguities later.

In short, "race" in El Faro implies different but not conflicting meanings: on the one hand, a broad idea of "people", defined above all by socio-cultural criteria -origin, customs, nationality-; on the other hand, an idea that, associated with words such as "race", "race", "race", "race", "race", "race", "race", "race", "race", "race", "race", "race", "race". black or IndianThis second sense is the one I am interested in delving into, since among the Fareños there are notions that appeal to physical appearance in the construction of differences and individual and collective identifications. This second sense is the one I am interested in deepening, since among the fareños there are notions that appeal to physical appearance in the construction of differences and individual and collective identifications. I refer to the terms puchunco and grijorelated at a general discursive level with the terms black and Indianrespectively. Let's look at the following excerpt from a conversation with two young men, Moro and Julio:

Moro: The grijos. Ah, but those are the ones with the hair, those are the ones with the hair, those are the ones with the hair. Indians.
Julio: Those are the Indians.
Researcher: How is that?
Moro: They have hair puntudo...
Julio: They have hair like this puntudito up.
Researcher: ¿?Bookmark?
Julio: Aha, so you you are Chinese [frizzy] and instead of Chinese if you had it up like this, like a hedgehog's, do you know it? That's how their hair is, like this, pointed, that doesn't go down to their heads. That is grijo.
Moro: And hence the puchuncoalso.
Researcher: Which one is it?
July: ...More tight yet.
Moro: More tight that not even water can get into it.
Julio: It's a hair Chinese, Chinese, Chinesebut super Chineselike this, like this, like this.
Researcher: But that is also with the Indians?
Julio: No, no, there are almost no Indians.
Moro: Those are already people black. These are puchuncos.
Researcher: That's what they call them...
Moro: Puchunco.
Researcher: Is that what they call it here?
Moro: He looks at one that has the head: "there is a puchunco" [Laughter].
Researcher: Why is that? What does that word mean?
Moro: Who has hair like this...
Julio: Who has big hair and it's all tangled, like this. All chando [ugly] [Laughter].
Moro: There are many women who do not grow their hair long, so they always have it like this. puchuncoIt does not give them, it does not grow.
Julio: Aha. It's just that it's too Chinese that no, it does not grow downwards like that... (April 26, 2015).8

As is evident from this conversation, one particular physical trait-hair-is associated with the terms Indian and blackdepending on its shape or texture: whether it is puntudois related to the first one, but if it is kinky and tight is linked to the second. This association, it must be said, is very common among the settlers when describing those who are called Indians -regardless of their ethno-linguistic origin - and also to those who have blackbrunettes. It could well be argued that in this case a process of racialization is at work as a physical attribute used not only to define otherness but also to (mis)qualify it. This can be seen in the words of Moro and Julio, who mocked and made derogatory remarks about the hairs grijo and puchuncoThe mockery that, by extension, was applied to subjects bearing such features: the Indians and the black.

Thus, hair is a diacritical marker that underlies a racializing hierarchy that undervalues, at least in the aesthetic sphere, those who are assigned physical forms considered "laughable", "dirty" or "ugly". Hence the jocular equations between the grijos and the hedgehogs, or the description of the puchuncos such as people whose hair "is so tight that not even water can get in". These are comments that provoke mockery in the face of characteristics that are negatively valued and conceived as models far from the physical ideal of beauty. What is this positively valued aesthetic standard? In several daily conversations I recorded that the "aesthetic ideal" corresponded to that of the güerodefined by his fair complexion, light-colored eyes and hair. broken or Chinese -that is, slightly curly, moldable and manageable. This ideal model of beauty is also found in other places in the region such as El Ciruelo, Oaxaca (Correa, 2013: 130-131).

At this point, I must say that neither Julius nor Moor fit the physical pattern of the güero, because her skin was not white and her eyes were not light: neither of them fit the "aesthetic ideal". However, even though her mother recognized herself -and was recognized- as india and his father considered himself - and was considered - to be blacknone of them was assumed to be black or as Indian. Although their skin color may be close to the category of "white", they may be moreno or from blackThe texture of their hair - neither straight nor too curly - was a factor that, in his opinion, set them apart from the label of "the best in the business". puchuncos and of the grijos -and, therefore, of the black and Indians-. In other words, a subjective selection of attributes marked as "positive" to the detriment of those perceived as "negative" was at work here, along with narratives that shunned semantically loaded terms. Why did the two young men avoid these categories? What was behind the reticence towards the "positive" and the "negative"? puchunco and the grijo?

In the first place, the negative valuation - at least at the aesthetic level - of these physical attributes has a correlate in a structural racism which has undervalued Indians and to blackwords that in themselves carry a pejorative semantic charge of colonial matrix (Good, 2005; Quijano, 2000; Velázquez, 2016). From this perspective, not only is the mockery or contempt towards physical characteristics considered "proper" of historically disqualified subjects understandable, but also the reluctance of such subjects to identify themselves with disdainful labels such as Indian, black or morenoThis is even more so if they do not have any of the traits associated with such terms. That is, to a certain extent, actors can play with racial terminologies, emphasizing in their personal narratives physical aspects socially conceived as "positive" -for example, hair broken-and ignoring those that are socially perceived as "negative" -dark skin-. These processes of "subjective selection" of bodily attributes, which authors such as Cunin have called "mestizo competition",9 are inscribed in the broader scope of a racism whose evaluations of what is "good" or "beautiful" and what is "bad" or "ugly" are the basis on which racialized subjects elaborate identity narratives that may, as in the case of Moro and Julio, avoid burlesque terms.

Secondly, the reluctance to label oneself with words such as grijo or puchunco is explained by the existence of other notions that, on the other hand, are used in everyday discourses of self-identification. In El Faro such notions are those of mestizo or scrambledWhat are the meanings of these designations and how do they relate to the ideas of lo puchunco and of the grijo, of the black and of Indian?

Mixed, mestizos, crossbreeds, crossbreedsMestizaje, racialization and identity in El Faro

Moro and Julio are the result of a union between a woman and a man. india and a man blackand for this reason they found it more appropriate to call themselves scrambled eggs, crusaders, campechanos or mestizosThe terms alluded to the mixture of their origins. From their logic, they were no longer black ni Indiansbut subjects differentiated from their predecessors by virtue of their "mixed" quality. The mixture appears here as an element that configures new identity narratives; in this sense, it is worth mentioning the words of Don Evaristo, father of Julio and Moro:

Just pretend, I got together with her. I am black and she is Indian. Now my children, they are neither black nor Indian but... how do you call them... that has a name... mestizo I think they are called. They are already mestizos because they have black and Indian crossbreeding (April 5, 2016).

The narrative of don Evaristo and his children appears in other accounts of collective identification that also emphasize the experience of miscegenation, mainly among agents that have been socially classified as Indians and how blacksHere we are more mixed up, that is to say that the race is more mixed up. We are negros, güeros, inditos, you see everything here" (Cusuco, October 3, 2013); "The race is already campechana. All mixed up, then. Black with Indian, Indian with black... All mixed up" (Gerardo, December 12, 2016). As can be seen, there is an emphasis on the terms. scrambled, wallow or countrymanwhich emphasize mixtures in collective narratives of identity and in theory minimize the importance of "racial" appearance: it would no longer matter whether someone is Indian or black, brown or white, because at the end of the day "we are all scrambled".

In this way, Punta Maldonado recreates the idea of a We scrambled which highlights the mixture between subjects defined as Indians and how blacksbut not excluding agents designated as güeros/as. It is, moreover, a narrative in which physical features seem to lose relevance, because if everyone recognizes each other mestizos And if "the breed is country", what importance could things like skin color or hair texture have? Two important questions to develop arise from this. First, how is this subject characterized scrambled or mestizo and how it differs from the Indian and in front of the black? Second, how fixed or how mobile is this denomination, to what extent does it suppress racializing labels such as grijo and puchuncoTo what extent does it deviate or not from the processes of racialization?

First of all, contrary to what might be believed, the idea of subject scrambled is not dissociated from descriptions that appeal to bodily attributes; in this case, the characterization distances itself from the images commonly associated with both the black as with the Indian. Moro, in one of our talks, pointed out: "Already we [the mestizos-revueltosWe don't have tight hair like the blacks. If you see, my hair is more wavy, and the skin is not so dark, it is lighter" (September 12, 2013). In other words, for Moro there were notable differences between the categories. black and half-casteThe same was evident in the texture of the hair and skin tone. In a similar vein, Julio emphasized: "As a oraMy hair is normal, or do you just look at it standing up like a hedgehog or tight as a microphone? Neither Chinese ni grijonormal" (April 26, 2015). Certainly, for Julio and his brother a "normal" hair did not take on the forms cracks and puchuncas of racialized subjects such as the Indians and the black.

But the characterization of the subject mestizo or scrambled is not reduced to hair or pigmentation. As Odile Hoffmann (2007) and Citlali Quecha (2017) rightly argue, in Costa Chica the boundaries of otherness and identity go far beyond appearance and range from idiomatic aspects to oral tradition, religious beliefs or spatial practices. In a similar direction, Amaranta Castillo (2003) shows how stereotypes account for behavioral aspects that ethnic actors project on themselves and others, so that the characterization of selfhood and otherness transcends the corporeal sphere. As for Punta Maldonado, everyday discourses also allude to features of social life which, in general, point to more "civilized" qualities in the mestizos and more "backward" or "rustic" in the Indians and in the black. For example, the inhabitants of Tecoyame are classified by the Fareños as blackOn a couple of occasions I heard the following comments: "They're in the jungle, these guys. vatos. They see a car and they are surprised, as if they didn't know civilization" (Cusuco, September 9, 2013). "In other words, we are more civilized than they are... In other words, they live in those old houses, you don't see them anymore, big straw houses" (Felipe, September 14, 2013). Despite the fact that Felipe and Cusuco said to each other. scrambled eggstheir complexion could very well make them pass for brunettes and yet they still considered the black of Tecoyame as people "who did not know civilization" or who lived in an "ancient way". I recorded similar notes about settlers from other localities considered to be "uncivilized". black regarding the way of speaking: "Those from La Culebra, worse. They speak even more rustic; 'Mi a-má', 'Mi a-pá'. They go to high school... and they keep talking like that. Here we speak differently" (Ramona, April 29, 2016).

Negative appraisals are equally present in the case of those who are labeled with the label of "poor". Indians. In many cases, the Fareños used derogatory terms such as Indian (infantilizing diminutive) or guanco/to (which alludes to a supposedly "untamed", "dirty" and "backward" condition), which is why they were often used as an insult. Even when the comments were not offensive -in fact, on many occasions they praised aspects such as the industriousness, curiosity or temperament in agricultural work of the so-called "untamed", "dirty" and "backward" people- they were often used as an insult. Indians-They did express condescension and emphasized their "closed" or "uncivilized" character, in contrast to the "open" and completely "civilized" character of the "open" and "civilized" ones. mestizos. Let us look at Doña Cirina's perceptions of the Amuzgo municipality of Xochistlahuaca, being a woman of Amuzgo origin with more than 30 years of residence in El Faro:

There it is pure indigenous people. But the people were closed before. They didn't speak Spanish, just their own language. But now they don't, now that there are schools there, they teach them Spanish... Some still wear huipil but others wear regular clothes. Especially the younger ones are the ones who already speak more Spanish than Amuzgo... Yes, there is more civilization, then (Cirina, July 19, 2016).

In summary, the definition of the subject mestizo in the local discourse as something in principle opposed to the subject. black and the subject IndianIt is conceived as superior to both in the physical-bodily and behavioral-social spheres. With regard to the first area, the mestizos are projected as bodies lacking the attributes that have been considered aesthetically inferior: they would no longer have "tight" or "bristly" hair and their skin color would no longer be as dark, as Moro and Julio argued. However, there are those who say scrambled even though its appearance would fit in with the idea of lo moreno -as in the cases of Felipe and Cusuco-, or of Indian -as in the case of Cirina. At this point, the social dimension comes into play, in which the mestizos are considered "civilized" people who speak better Spanish or have an "advanced" lifestyle, evident in the houses they live in, the clothes they wear or the education they receive; from this logic, Felipe, Cusuco or Cirina move away from the racializing labels that their appearance implies at first, and then they are framed within the notion of "civilization". half-caste by adducing certain social aspects that they categorize as "typical" of this category, or simply exalting the idea that the people are mixed and therefore all would share this condition. Thus, following Hoffmann (2008), social actors move in various contexts in which dissimilar identity affiliations flow (Indians, black, mestizos), which coexist contradictorily and are activated in specific situations.

In stories such as Philip's or Cirina's, to be called mestizo is to claim a positive categorization and, at the same time, to dissociate itself from the scornful charge contained in the labels of black and of Indian assigned to them because of their complexion or hair. On a different shore is the case of Ramona, güera which was sometimes said mestiza. It is worth remembering that the concept of güeroas opposed to that of Indian and to the blackshe does not project an inferior aesthetic model. However, Ramona noticed that her physical features were counterpointed by the appearance Indian or moreno of relatives and neighbors; that is to say, he transcended his individual appearance and noticed the "mingling" present in his extended family and in the locality of El Faro as a whole, thus subordinating his individual identification of his family and neighbors to his own. güera to the collective identification of mixed or scrambled eggs. In this case, none of the denominations disappeared; rather, they were juxtaposed even though they seemed to contradict each other.

The narrative of the we scrambled or mestizoHowever, it does not cease to provoke perplexity in those who use it as a self-identifying term. In my opinion -and here I come to the second question raised earlier-, this has to do with the concept of mixture that is handled. On the one hand, assuming oneself to be scrambled does not entirely avoid the categories Indian and blackThe latter prefigure or precede the former; the former is identified as scrambled usually mentions in his genealogy male or female subjects who are placed within such racializing labels. In other words, if a person claims to be crusade is because its predecessors are Indians and blacksthe mix between actors embodying both notions gives rise to identification mestiza. In this way, although identity categories with a negative semantic charge are avoided, they are not completely eliminated, since, after all, they constitute the starting point of the new ascription. mestizo implies being in part black and in part Indian. Here is a first complexity: the elaboration of an identification that is built by opposition to two other denominations, but which at the same time synthesizes or condenses them.

On the other hand, when a person assumes that he or she is mestiza or when he states that in El Faro "la raza está revuelta", he expresses a condition of indeterminacy analogous to what Victor Turner (2008) conceptualized as liminarity: that interstitial, ambiguous and anti-structural position through which people in countless societies pass in rites of passage such as those from childhood to adulthood, where agents cross a phase in which they do not have a status socially defined and become, for a certain period of time, indeterminate beings without any kind of social belonging. The narratives of the we scrambled are not inscribed in the dynamics of the rituals of passage, but they are similar to them in one point: they conceive of subjects who are at a threshold, since they are neither entirely Indians nor entirely black although at the same time they are both (Hoffmann, 2008: 170-172). Ramona conceptualizes it as follows: "mestizo is Indian with black. It is called mestizo to the Indian with black, because it comes out like the garrobo,10 neither here nor there" (November 6, 2016). Here is a second complexity: the ambiguous, imprecise nature of an identity category whose definition also generates doubts:

It's like us, we no longer know what race we are. The Indian joins the black and we no longer know what we are. Everything is already mixed up. If the gringo [American with white complexion and blond hair] arrives and grabs the brunette, what's going to come out of there? You don't even know (Evaristo, November 30, 2016).

Evaristo's and Ramona's comments show how complex an identity categorization can be. It is striking that the inhabitants of El Faro often hesitate when it comes to self-identifying themselves: "What are they doing here?Indians or black, targets or brunettes? To solve the dilemma, they allude to the mixture: "we are crusaders, we are mixed". Self-naming, however, is not free from uncertainty, hence Evaristo's hesitation ("we no longer know what we are") in trying to give a name to "his race". Likewise, Ramona's definition of the mestizo constructs a subject that is to some extent unclassifiable since it is neither "from here nor from there", it is not Indian ni black but at the same time harbors characteristics of both.

In this sense, the messy overlaps with racializing categories such as puchuncos or grijosThe term "person" does not eliminate them. A person who calls himself a revolt can be classified by its neighbors as grija or puchunca due to the texture of the hair; the one that is identified as a mestizo (because she has a certain skin tone, because she considers that she speaks and lives in a certain way, or because she accentuates the hodgepodge of her family background) does not prevent others from employing racializing labels for her, in this case, because of the texture of her hair. And if someone claims to be mestizo because he has hair broken and no longer kinky or puntudofor a third party that person may well be brunette because of the color of their complexion or india because of their stature. Claiming a "mixed" identification does not eliminate racialization.

This leads to a key point: rather than canceling or undermining each other, the terms scrambled, grijo and puchunco coexist and reproduce a logic of racialization in which phenotypical aspects are present in the definition of otherness and identity. However, while the former is a form of self-denomination that is coined in everyday conversations and whose connotation is affirmative, the latter are words used to refer to others, rarely used as self-identifying terms and instead are associated with derogatory and mocking evaluations. On the other hand, by recognizing both an origin Indian as one blackthe notion of lo scrambled exemplifies the instability of the categories:

Evaristo: The same with her [points to Cirina], she's Indian and I'm black, the children are already grown up. amitanadoshalf and half, neither blacks nor whites.
Cirina: But you are not black-black either, because your mother was indigenous. His father was black, but his mother was already indigenous....
Evaristo: Yes, my mother was from Copala. From Copala. She was Indian. My dad was black... I tell you, the whole race has been scrambled (April 5, 2016).

The dialogue is illustrative since on many occasions don Evaristo used to call himself black -He was one of the few people who used that word, but as a result of Cirina's intervention, he recognized that, strictly speaking, he, like many others, was also the product of a mixture. He thus inscribed himself in a logic of lo mestizo which produced indeterminacy, because at the same time it shook the apparent stability of some of the labels -black, Indian- activated other identification possibilities -scrambled or crusaderwhich can be several things and at the same time none of them.

Finally, the significance of the messy, the black and Indian does not dissociate itself from the way in which mixtures are socially perceived and appropriated in the narratives of otherness and identity. There is here a contradictory nature in miscegenation, which, although it configures a subjectivity that cannot be reduced to physical differences, does not eliminate racialization or epithets based on the ordering and qualification of appearance (Cunin, 2003).


Throughout this article I tried to show how appearance was a significant element in the elaboration of narratives of difference and identity in a small town in the Costa Chica of Guerrero, historically marked by cultural intermingling and exchange. My purpose was not to revive the nineteenth-century idea of race, much less to establish the existence of perfectly delimited "racial types" based on physical attributes; rather, I sought to understand how some of these traits were perceived and interpreted socially and how they were used to racialize, that is, to construct, categorize and hierarchize otherness and sameness. The issue then was not to see whether complexion or hair forged the identity of a person or collective (the very idea falls into an extremely simplistic biological reductionism), but to analyze how certain aspects that were mentioned over and over again in everyday conversations, among them somatic markers such as hair, were signified by local actors to the point of arriving at racializing narratives about "us" and "the others". Along these lines, I grasped the relevance of the category of "us" and "the others". we scrambled.

The narrative of the messy or lo countryman It also reproduces a process of racialization that involves several ambivalences: it selects certain bodily and socio-cultural attributes while at the same time avoiding other types of characteristics; it opposes categories (Indians, black) that simultaneously subsumes; it is used as a self-ascriptive term but does not erase racializing labels (puchuncos, grijos), with which it in fact coexists; it projects liminal subjects, in a threshold situation; it makes identity narratives more complex, charging them with uncertainty, instability and malleability.

How widespread is this Faroese version of mestizaje in the Costa Chica? How are mixtures perceived in other local-regional contexts and how do they affect narratives of otherness and identification? How are such narratives linked to the homogenizing national discourse of mestizaje that, according to Hoffmann (2008), marginalized and denied the presence of blacks or Afro-descendants until the second half of the 20th century, and which, according to Hoffmann (2008), marginalized and denied the presence of blacks or Afro-descendants until the second half of the 20th century? xx? Such questions deserve an in-depth treatment that for now I will only mention. Suffice it, for the time being, to return to a point made at the beginning: in El Faro -and in the Costa Chica in general- it is difficult to speak of clear, self-contained and well-defined Afro-descendant or indigenous identities, since the reality of mestizaje leads to heterogeneity, ambiguity and border crossing, processes of which the local narratives speak. Furthermore, according to Cunin, "mestizaje - far from obeying a logic of harmony and pacification - feeds and accentuates the recourse to racial ideology and color prejudice" (2003: 14). This is shown in the discourse of the we scrambledThe racialization process, which integrates but at the same time transcends racializing categories and opens up multiple possibilities of ascription, without annulling the processes of racialization that operate in everyday life.


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Giovanny Castillo Figueroa is an anthropologist from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Master and PhD in Anthropological Sciences from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Iztapalapa. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Centro de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias sobre Chiapas y la Frontera Sur (cimsur), at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, as well as member of the Grupo de Estudios Afrocolombianos. Her research topics revolve around the narratives of identity and otherness and the processes of racialization and ethnicity among Afro-descendant subjects, particularly from Mexico and Colombia. She has also conducted ethnographic research with coastal fishermen, investigating, among other things, empirical knowledge, work techniques and technologies, labor relations and symbolic imaginaries.

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EncartesVol. 4, No. 8, September 2021-February 2022, is an open access digital academic journal published biannually by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Calle Juárez, No. 87, Col. Tlalpan, C. P. 14000, México, D. F., Apdo. Postal 22-048, Tel. 54 87 35 70, Fax 56 55 55 76, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, A. C.., Carretera Escénica Tijuana-Ensenada km 18.5, San Antonio del Mar, No. 22560, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Tel. +52 (664) 631 6344, and Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, A.C., Periférico Sur Manuel Gómez Morin, No. 8585, Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Tel. (33) 3669 3434. Contact: Director of the journal: Ángela Renée de la Torre Castellanos. Hosted at Responsible for the last update of this issue: Arthur Temporal Ventura. Date last modified: September 29, 2021.