Border Jumper: Mexico’s Color Wars

Introducing “Border Jumper,” a new series from contributor Brandon Brewer, an expat schoolteacher in Acapulco, Mexico. Over the coming weeks, Brandon’s dispatches on being gay south of the border will show another side of a nation far too many Americans know only for drunken frat rats and cheap margaritas.

129327-dibujo02lc4A few months ago, I went to Pie de la Cuesta with a small group of students from the university where I teach English. About a half hour north of Acapulco is a somewhat secluded beach known for its rough waves and swampy lagoons, which coincidentally served as the setting for Rambo II. We chose a spot at one of the small, cabana-style restaurants, complete with palm-frond roof, and settled in. Applying sunscreen in anticipation of taking on the rough waters, I asked one of the girls to join me in the ocean. She told me that she preferred the shade, adding, “I don’t want to get dark.”

There’s no doubt that one of the most important issues facing Mexico today is the drug war. However,there’s an entirely different subject that’s been, at least in my opinion, completely absent in the national discourse: the very conspicuous exclusion of dark-skinned Mexicans in everything from telenovelas and commercials to all kinds of other advertising. I hesitate to use the word racism only because I risk conflating the two very different racial systems that exist between the U.S. and Mexico. Colorism is a more apt term—rampant colorism.

It’s something that, especially as a person of color, has frustrated me since I first moved to Mexico in 2006. One immediately notices that the models on billboards, in store windows and on bus stops have surprisingly white complexions in comparison with the actual passersby.

In fact, if you were exposed to this imagery and never stepped foot in the country, you would probably think that Mexico had no mulatto, mestizo or indigenous population at all. Go ahead, turn on Univisión or Telemundo, which often run Mexican-produced telenovelas, and you will see exactly to what I’m referring: Actors like Christopher Uckermann of Rebelde fame, or William Levy Gutierrez (actually a U.S. nationalized citizen born in Cuba) from Cuidado con el Ángel , who, although they may indeed be fine thespians and ridiculously good-looking, also seem to have passed the Mexican equivalent of the brown paper bag test. In their case, it’s more like the white milk carton test.

After the soap operas, stick around for the commercials if you want to witness even more “whitewashing.” This commercial for a new shopping plaza in Guadalajara called Plaza de Hierro is a perfect example:

Just to add insult to injury, as Alejandro Fernandez’s love ballad swoons for that girl from Guadalajara with beautiful “ojos negros,” we’re treated to a slow motion close-up of two green and blue-eyed models passing by.

Now I know that some people may be thinking, “What are you trying to say, that all Mexicans are brown-skinned?” This is, in fact, a common response from certain Mexicans when I bring the topic up to them. Of course that’s not my point. But even if the Mexican population were, say, 50 percent “light-skinned” and 50 percent “dark-skinned,” there should at least be a somewhat similar representation in the media, right? Well, currently, that ratio seems to sit at about 99 percent “very light-skinned,” far from a faithful representation of the country’s actual population.

When I try to bring up colorism to people, the usual response is to point out that the U.S. is a lot more racist than Mexico

It’s not my intent to belittle any voices who are indeed speaking out against this injustice, but where’s the outrage and criticism? One study estimates that 40 percent of the population acknowledges that this problem exists. But there is a difference between acknowledgment and public protest. Furthermore, when I try to bring up colorism to people, the usual response is to point out that the U.S. is a lot more racist than Mexico. That may or may not be true, and colorism is indeed alive and well in the north of the border, but having a racism contest between the two nations is besides the point.

If you’re still not convinced colorism is a problem, consider that, like my student who declared her fear of becoming darker, the preference for white is chillingly echoed in everyday conversation, something attested to in this ethnographic study on skin color in Veracruz, Mexico. The research references a common, bluntly stated ideal in Mexico (although it’s also present in other Latin American countries): mejorar la raza, or “bettering the race.” How does one “better” la raza? By marrying a white person into a dark family. The hope is that the next generation will be lighter. Better.

Brandon Brewer is a Fulbright scholar living in Mexico. Read more about his travels down south here, at his blog.

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  • Tallskin


    Er, and?

    So what?

    I’m buggered if I can work out what the fuck this has to with anything GAY!!

    Perhaps the writer is a friend / family of Queerty editors?

  • Tallskin

    Cute muscled boy in the vid though.

    when I travelled in the California then on down to Mexico I found the mexicans despise citizens of the USA.

    I was welcomed when I tried to speak in my bad spanish to them and explained that I was from Europe.

    the problem is that yanks treat mexico as their playground and mexicans as their slave class.

    Mexicans don’t like that.

  • Jason in WV

    I’ve never treated a Mexican like a slave! That’s a horrid thing to say. Maybe they do that in other places, but I sure as hell don’t! Everyone has a right to be who they are, damnit!

    Has being gay taught us nothing?

  • hardmannyc

    Writing about gay life in Mexico from Acapulco is about as typical or informative about writing about gay life in the United States from Palm Springs.

  • BillyBob Thornton

    Excellent article. I witnessed the same when I lived in the southwest. Thanks for adding feature.

  • alan brickman

    Don’t understand why this is here?….more whinning..just what we need….

  • oneway

    @1 Relax. Introducing us to the hottie from the telenovela was good enough reason for me!

  • alan brickman

    I agree with the last comment! wasn’t seeing the “subversive hottie” part of the article…lol

  • Mark M

    I’m really reaching here,(to see the relevance to this site) but it reminds me of the Castro and seeing so many guys trying (Way too hard) to look as straight and ‘non gay’ as possible. When oppressed people really haven’t done the work of resolving their identity issues they just end up looking like buffoons trying to mimic their masters.

  • Seth

    Fascinating article. I’m looking forward to reading more of this series. I’m a big fan of the new direction that Queerty has taken since Japhy entered the picture. It’s a nice mix of high and low brow–stimulating in many ways.

  • James in Montreal

    I agree that there is definite colorism… but to say it’s imported from the US misses a bit of the nuance…

    Traditionally, most cultures in the world, including ‘white’ ones, valued paleness over tanness, it was a mark of relative wealth and leisure, while being tan meant you worked in the fields. In china today, many beauty products are intended to bleach the skin to perfect paleness, as has been the style for milennia. I think really the difference is between economies with a large middle/leisure class and ones without: in the US and europe, we like tans because it alludes to a beach-bound lifestyle of leisure. In Mexico, I’ll wager that its a class issue as well, and that colorism is only part of the problem.

  • James in Montreal

    erm, *millenia…

  • M st-Jacques

    @Jason in WV: no one said YOU did treat mexicans like slaves, but lets be honest, most of americans ignore the fact that mexicans can be light skin, well educated and speak a few languages, anyway colorism is a part of our culture than can only be ended when we start giving the native people (dark skin) an education, better jobs and their place in society. but anyway, even with our little issues about colorism and drugs making their way into the USA, we have deeper values than most americans. oh and yes, some mexicans read this website.

  • jake

    i’m half german/english and half mexican. i know this problem. my family suffers from this color issue with a range of skin tones and preferences. they call darker skinned mexicans indigenous people/indians/moors (moreno) and it is likely an imported mentality (not necessarily from the US of course, probably spanish colonialism)

  • Michael W.

    What’s the problem? The people of Mexico are obviously fine with it.

  • Toro Castaño

    I enjoyed reading this and look forward to more in the series. I had heard “mejorar la raza” but never outside of the country of Brazil. It doesn’t surprise me though. Sad stuff.

  • Santo Gay

    Being Mexican is not about a race; it is about being from a country. People of color seem to always be getting the short end of the stick. Discrimination in México exists like it does in the USA, though Mexican and Americans come in all sorts of colors.

    There is discrimination in Mexico, why else do you see so many dark Mexicans crossing the border? They cannot get hired. Gosh even age discrimination is rampant in México. An employment sign will read age restrictions on their announcements.

    So what does have to do with gay? Pleeez the gay community is most discriminatory against dark Mexicans. For example just pick up any gay magazines and one will only see white, blonde Mexicans.

    There is a lot more to say on the issue but this is it for me, at least for now.

  • giovanni

    “What’s the problem? The people of Mexico are obviously fine with it.”

    Hilarity ensues…

    “I’ve hear it said it is in our destiny that one day we will all be white”

    Michelle N’dgeocello.

  • blake

    @alan brickman:

    Did you miss the whole point of the article? The author is a gay man living in Mexico. He is explaining how one form of discrimination affects a large portion of the Mexican populace. Now, someone with reasonable intellect might be able to extrapolate from that and understand that there are parallels that affect gays, either in Mexico or the U.S.

    American culture in general idolizes certain features and attributes more than those seen in the general population.

    Sadly, Alan, your reduction of the article to “whinning [sic]” shows your own prejudices and inability to grasp the real issues here. Just amazing!

    So, how would you feel if straight people said that an article about gay white men facing homophobia was just whining? Do you think when gay white men are fired for being gay it’s no big deal? How often do gay people in the U.S. decry the lack of presence of gays in popular media? Are gays just whining?

    Queerty Editors & Brandon,

    Thank you for contributing this article. Latin American racism and colorism are interesting topics that should be explored especially in light of how much they compare to dysfunctions evident in gay culture. The horror of colorism and racism in Latin America is real. Many people are denied jobs, social standing, and face harsher treatment in the legal system.

    It’s a shame that some of the gay men on this site are unable to find any empathy about the discrimination that darker-skinned Mexicans (and other Latin Americans) face. I wonder how many of these men complain when they hear about homophobia amongst people of color in the U.S., expecting people of color to have more compassion and understanding than those gay men have.

  • p. solanki

    It never ceases to amaze how you Americans take the “holier than thou” role every time. What about African-American models and actresses? Vanessa Williams, Tyra Banks, Beyonce? As soon as a singer or actress makes some money she has straight blond hair, blue contact lenses and her skin mysteriously lightens. No peer pressure for people of color in America? Clean your own mess before judging others.

  • blake

    @Michael W.:

    Thank you once again for bringing your ignorance, shallowness, and lack of empathy to Queerty. As always, you are the voice of white supremacist thought.

    Following Micheal W.’s logic: Many people in the U.S. and Europe are fine with homophobia. Quite a few are only happy to violently assault and murder gay people. Many others would be happy to never see a gay person appear in a book, film, or TV show.

  • Michael W.

    When it comes to discrimination that can effect a person’s life, like say refusing to hire an employee at a garment factory because they’re too dark, then that of course is wrong.

    But putting light skinned and/or white people in movies, on TV and in advertisements? So what? All people from all countries around the world like the beauty of fair skin. Even the darkest people on the planet look at stars such as Zac Efron and Keira Knightley with awe and admiration for their perfect complexions.

    If the people of Mexico don’t like it they can rise up and change it anytime they want. Obviously, even though 40% may be conscious of the fact, they’re fine with it because they like it. It’s a matter of supply and demand.

  • Michael W.

    @blake: There are laws in the US and Europe against murdering people, Blakey. I don’t see how the analogy fits. And when it comes to homophobia, there is change afoot because the people are demanding it. Soon gays will be allowed to openly serve in the military, for example, because we went to the polls and demanded change.

    But aside from a few whiners, I don’t see some massive uproar over the fair skinned depictions in the media. It’s because most people, no matter their race or color, are fine with it.

    The 40% in that poll cited should’ve been asked if they not only recognize the slant toward fair skin but if they want to CHANGE it. That’s the question. Do we want darker skinned representation in the media? Nope. And what about fatter people and uglier people? Do we want to see them on TV, too? Even though people may say “I recognize discrimination against fat people on TV and in movies” doesn’t mean they want to see more obese representation on their screens. They still want fit, sexy celebrities.

  • cord

    @ Michael W.

    “Do we want darker skinned representation in the media? Nope. And what about fatter people and uglier people? Do we want to see them on TV, too?”

    So dark is equivalent to fat and ugly? Keep this nonsense up and you’ll be banned.

  • Mark M

    I think that the whole group could use a big midol right about now.

  • Michael W.

    @cord: Of course not. There’s probably more dark skinned fit people on the planet than light skinned when you consider geography and the sedentary western lifestyle.

    My point was that there are numerous types of people that aren’t fairly represented in the media. Fat people could complain that though the majority of adults in America are overweight/obese, 95% of people on TV, in movies and advertising are slim and muscular. Then if you held a poll asking Americans if they acknowledge it, most would say yes. My question is, would those same people then ask for more overweight representation in the media? And the same with ugly people, etc. The answer is No.

  • jake

    @Michael W.: I understand why you think people are “fine with it.” If you understand how systematic discrimination can be successful and still think people are “fine with it,” then you’re simply one of those that are completely okay with discrimination. However, I don’t believe you’d like it if your “shortcomings” (as decreed by others) were to take away opportunities in which you’d be competitive. Maybe it’s already happened to you, but because of your inability to see it, you were “fine with it.”

  • blake

    @Michael W.:

    Duh! Putting people in films, TV shows, and advertisement is hiring discrimination!

    How utterly ridiculous that you can’t seem to grasp that actors get paid. Moreover, you also can’t grasp that basic facts that by excluding people of darker complexion, there is a psychological, sociological, and economic impact on all those people who are being told that they are worthless, ugly, and undesirable.

    Many gay people on Queerty wanted to see openly gay and lesbian people as part of Obama’s cabinet. Why do you think that it is? Could it be that gay people want to see people like themselves in positions of VISIBLE power? Hell, why do you even think Queerty or any other gay media exists? Oh, yeah, gay people want to see people like themselves represented as being good, sexy, and all other things that are society considers successful.

    Didn’t we just read on this site about a cast member on Survivor who refused to disclose to his castmates that he’s gay because of fear of discrimination? Didn’t that same man contrast himself to a previous gay Survivor contestant by bragging about how he, unlike the other contestant, was masculine, straight appearing gay man? What does hell does that say? We live in a homophobic society that punishes those who are not like the ideal straight guys. Gay men are made to feel ashamed for being different and hate themselves and others for not being like the ideal.

    The reality is that darker skinned Mexicans would like to see themselves in the media but they face incredible discrimination. Have you ever bothered to read anything about Latin American history and great economic divide that parallels the color line? The wealthy white elite controls the economy, politics, and media. The poor don’t. The poor have virtual no say. Why the hell do you think so many try desperately to leave Mexico?

    As for your pathetic excuse of trying to compare sedentary, obese people and their portrayal in the media to the plight of victims of colorism and racism, you really are either intellectually dishonest with yourself and Queerty’s readers or just plain clueless.

    The response by people with your perspective and inability to empathize shows why the world is so screwed up. You expect people to ignore your difference and treat you as a human being but don’t wish to accord those same rights to another person because of his difference.

    Please tell me why do you think straight people of color should support gay rights for men like you if you don’t believe in recognizing their basic human rights?

    Newsflash: There are more straight people of color in the U.S. than there are gay men like you. You need their support in Congress to get laws passed to give you some of the rights they have.

  • rogue dandelion

    @Michael W.: haha, you don’t even seem to know how racist you are being!

    anyways, this problem most likely has nothing to do with mexico or the US, or gay people for that matter. It is a much broader phenomenon.
    My friend, who is a child of cambodian(khmer) immigrants, always has her parents tell her she is too dark and should stop going out in the sun. She also explained that having dark skin meant working in the fields to her parents.
    This is partly relic of European Colonialism, and may have separate origins in Chinese/Japanese dominance of East and South East Asia, along with traditional class roles.
    For an interesting counter example, lower tibetan/gurung castes in nepal are generally paler than the higher castes. Thankfully the caste system there is beginning to dissolve
    Interesting topic, but hardly a queer one.

  • rogue dandelion

    @oneway: that guy was hotter than any of the morning goods

  • Scrufff

    this issue is even more rampant in Brazil. Brazil has the largest black African population outside of Africa itself. But you’d never know it by the Brazilian media.

    Currently some of the top models in the world both male and female are from Brazil, and all are white European looking (Gisele Bundchen, Adriana Lima to name a few.) And we only need to look at “morning goods” to see the large number of gorgeous white or light olive skinned Brazilian male models featured in gay Brazilian magazines.

    My family is from Brazil and whenever a new baby arrives one of the first question asked is “does the baby have good hair?” Good hair of course means straight and/or light colored hair. And as a side note, I was born with “good hair” but when i hit puberty, my hair went “bad” ;-) and ever since i’ve been relaxing my hair straight. I’m laughing as i write this because i never realized the implications of this small but meaningful act.

  • sal

    skin bleaching creams ads sometimes show where i live,i say its a mind thing too we have all kinds of people here and they are pretty much equal as long as they treat themselves as equal ,but to be honest it’s a really powerful issue in people subconscious-the simple mind thinks white is good.where i live the two women who won a certain title for international beauty were black(smart!captivating!) women(the first in history for that title too i may say)(p.s.i dont live in mexico)

  • sal

    @Scrufff: lol,i so get what u mean

  • burton21

    @blake: Oh thank you for responding to that racist, I was really not looking forward to addressing it myself.

    Great article Queerty! I hope to see more of these in the future. And for those of you that don’t see the relevance of posting it here… well, um, wake up. There are some OBVIOUS parallels between this story and the gay community, not least of which is the prevalent “straight-acting” plague that both the mainstream and gay communities force upon us.

  • Mister C

    This is nothing new.
    These practices are done in every Latin Country! Folks should travel more often.

    We call the discrimination here BLACK AND WHITE and they call it there LIGHT AND DARK.

  • blake


    But isn’t it sad that some gay white men can’t understand the obvious parallels? I’m more than happy to point out moronic people of color who are sexist, racist, homophobic or whateverist but just plain saying that darker-skinned people are ugly, unattractive and should not expect any kind of acceptance in their ancestral lands is shocking! Why shouldn’t people of native Mexican ancestry demand to be treated with respect and dignity any less so than gay American men (of any background)?

    Eva Longoria-Parker of “Desperate Housewives” is mestiza, part white and part native Mexican (Indian). Longoria has spoken on several occasions about how her grandmother would insult her as a little girl because she had brown skin and had native features. Furthermore, Longoria-Parker explained that she was afraid to tell her grandmother that her then fiance, Tony Parker, is black (actually biracial).

    In Latin American societies skin color, race, and social acceptance create a strange brew as difficult to imbibe as that found here in the U.S. Skin color and race are also often used as pronouns, unlike a white person, a brown or black skinned person is called a negro, negra, morena, moreno, or other skin color-derived terms. Imagine walking down the street and being referred to constantly by your race or color in most interactions: “hi, blackie, brownie, mulatto, etc.” One is a color or a race and not a real person. Whites are not referred to as blanco, blanca, etc. in the same way. White is the ideal. All others are the exception and most be noted.

    What would the gay equivalent be? Straight people calling gay folks: gay, homosexual, gay boy, lez, queer, homo, etc. Imagine, how ould it feel to be constantly greeted as “homosexual” or “gay man.” All being done with a smile and knowing belief of superiority and expectation that those labels should be accepted. How would that make most gay people feel by constantly having their sexuality placed as the forefront of their identity in terms of being other and less (even more so than the heterosexism that already exists)? Would you grow to accept it or resent it? Would you want to say, “Hey, look being gay is just part of who I am, it’s not the most important part of me or what entirely defines me. So, stop referring to me with a label! I have a name. If you don’t want to use it, then you can use sir or mister or even dude.”


  • JIm McDaniels

    I am 1/2 Black and 1/2 Mexican and I have been to the mall advertised in Guadalajara. The people in the mall have the same skin tones as the models used in the ads. I’m pretty dark skinned. I felt absolutely creepy being dark in a mall populated by white people in a country that predominately brown.

    The writer is absolutely right, you can’t talk to mexicans about this issue. They freak out.

    Mexico is much more racist then the US. Show me brown Mexicans with any face time on TV or in the upper echelons of power. At least the U S conscious of trying to be diverse.

    It’s the Jaime Crow down south in Mexico and no one wants to own up to it.

  • John in CA

    If you disregard the Non-Hispanic question altogether, you might think California’s racial distribution hasn’t changed at all in the last fifty years (!). This fiction is maintained because Mexican immigrants typically self-identify as white on census forms. This results in a hugely artificial boost for the white population.

    Given that many of these folks are darker than Barack Obama, they aren’t doing it because it is a reflection of their appearance. There’s a lot of self-imposed cultural racism going on with these statistics (i.e. the Native American element must be driven out and destroyed in favor of “superior” Spanish culture).

  • blake

    @JIm McDaniels:

    Don’t you feel that it would be highly unlikely for a dark-skinned George Lopez, who have distinct native features, to have gained the success he has in the U.S if Lopez tried to build a career in Mexico? Even in the U.S., most Latinos in popular culture are depicted as lighter skinned mesitzo (half-white/half-native) or white Spaniards. Latinos are more likely portrayed as the very European Penelope Cruz or Antonio Banaderas than those with more native/indigenous features. In some ways, it’s like how mixed-race, light skinned African-Americans like Will Smith and Beyonce have greater crossover appeal.

    On several occasions, magazines and cosmetic companies have been accused of whitewashing Beyonce with lighting effects to make her appear fairer skinned. While this may be partially true, the reality is Beyonce is fair-skinned. Her parents are Creole, part black, white, and possibly Native American.

    In the U.S., we still see lawsuits about white employers firing black employees for wearing African hairstyles, even a natural unrelaxed/unstraightened afro can be seen as outside the bounds of acceptability.

    Now take these analogies and anecdotes and compare them to gay life: people criticized for “gay face,” bullied for being effeminate, etc. It’s all very similarly twisted.

  • Anonymous

    Another example of trying to view another culture through an US filter. Other people aren’t as obsessed with skin color as the media in the US is.

  • Punchy Pinguino

    @BillyBob Thornton:
    I’m with BillyBob and Mr. Brewer on this one.

    I lived in Guadalajara for a year and a particular image on a bus stop always stands out in my mind. It was an ad for a lightening cream and showed a young Mexican woman in stages of lightening. When she was moderately morena she was frowning and as she became whiter (as implied through use of the cream) she became exhuberant and happy. Bonkers.

    Thanks to Mr. Brewer for drawing our attention to some issues that may not seem GAY at first but have some striking parallels.

    Bien hecho hombrito!

  • blake


    Dude, you are truly clueless. Have you ever been to Latin America? Hello! Some of have. In fact, if you bothered to read the responses, some of us are Latinos.

    Maybe you should pick up a book and read about the history of Latin America and how race and color affect the cultures of there? Yeah, that would actually be too much trouble versus spouting right wing platitudes.

  • Dabq

    This is actually “old” news as its been going on forever, despite the fact that the Mexican government says only 10% of the population is white. Brazil and Venezuela are worse than Mexico ever could or will be, the largest black population outside of Africa, but, you would never know it from TV or magazines.

    And, we do have names for white skin, and, usually its an affectionate term, one I was given as a child, wedo, and, with my fair skin and being of Mexican American descent, I was one of the favorite of my grandparents, but, not as much as my cousins who were fair and had blue eyes who they basically worshipped. The self hatred caused by this nonsense is ridiculous and in turn affects everything in life including being gay, and, usually in a bad way, since, my birth certificate says I’m white, but, the world sees me as Latino and it should say human race.

    Well thought out and written article, and, as timely as ever.

  • LP

    @Tallskin: Actually, I think that’s another generalization. I’m a very fair skinned Mexican-American (light hair, light skin, green eyes). A lot of my family still lives in Mexico, and when I go back to Mexico City every summer people are almost… IMPRESSED that my Mexican family has “familares Estadounidenses [American relatives].” Of course, there are people who resent Americans, especially in the border towns where they are practically considered squatters by the Americans. I think to a lot of others, though, Americans are considered the ideal people; we have everything that they don’t: money, (mostly) uncorrupt politics, food, etc.

    Also, in response to the article, he mentioned specifically telenovelas as the medium where “colorism” is most prevalent. What he doesn’t mention is that the main characters of the telenovelas are almost all very wealthy with the occasional pretty poor girl for the rich guy to fall in love with. In this case, it isn’t so unusual that the people are light skinned. This is something that goes back to colonial Mexico when Spaniards were the wealthy land owners and the natives were the help. It’s still basically like that in Mexico today, the light skinned, mostly of European decent, Mexicans are the wealthier families.

    I’m sure that my family in Mexico are secretly proud that they’re not dark, I don’t know, but it’s something that exists. I agree with the article where he says that it’s something that needs to be discussed and faced.

  • alan brickman

    Blake I agree with evrything you said…but he’s still hot!!

  • alan brickman

    I agree the whitening of the world is just shallow….and it happens in brazil too you know…some of the hottest guys i know are not “blond”…and I am thankful for that…

  • princedeligne

    This isn’t unique to Mexico, it is the reality from every country from Mexico down to Argentina and certainly includes Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. There has always been a racial pecking order,with Indians at the bottom,its been like that since the Europeans arrived centuries ago, but the racisim is no where as near as bad as it is in America.Race & skin color are not discussed in latin American cultures as much as it is here in the states.Its a non issue mostly, as in many families you will see the full spectrum of skin tones/hair textures and facial features.Go to any latin nightclub in the city and you will see mestizos, mulattos,indians, black & whites dancing and drinking together- something that is still uncommon in mainstream America.I’m a white Puerto Rican, auburn hair, fair skin,slender and I frequently get mistaken for being of a different nationality & race. Few caucasian Americans would believe that my mother looks indian, my father “white” and my grandparents mulatto.

  • blake


    Dude, you are sugar coating things. Puerto Ricans in your circle may not discuss race as Americans do and they may not have the same level of animosity, however, there is real racism and colorism in Latin America. You obviously don’t either know anything about the history of Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, etc. or are pretending otherwise. In all of those countries, Indians and blacks are third class citizens.

    Racism in those countries is different than in the U.S. They don’t have the One Drop Rule. Great. That seems to benefit you. But are you going to say that the wealthy white elite in Bolivia aren’t upset that Evo Morales, an indigenous man, is the president? Get real.

    Are you going to say that racism in Brazil isn’t still the cause of the deep economic divide between whites and others? That would be in contrast to the new policies and laws being put in place by the Brazilian government to counteract systemic racism.

    Are you going to say that Cuba, a country whose population is majority of black descent, has very few black politicians, whose black population has been virtually barred from working in the lucrative tourist industry, does not have a serious problem with racism?

    The U.S. has serious racial problems; however, you would be hard pressed to find as many successful non-whites in positions of real power in Latin America as seen in the U.S.

    (P.S. You mentioned Argentina Argentina is primarily European country whose non-white population is minuscule.)

  • Rusty

    This isn’t unique to Latin America. This kind of bias is also seen in black and asian cultures as well. Ask any black friend if they or anyone in their family is familiar with or has heard of the ‘paper bag’ test. Which (I’m told) started back in the slave days and essentially says that if you’re complexion is as light as a paper bag you can work in the house, but if you’re darker than the paper bag, then you have to work in the fields. (Shady, I know).

    It’s also in the Asian culture as well. Lighter skin is very much celebrated in the Philippines where most of the population has a dark complexion. There are even soaps and creams that supposedly lighten the skin. And from talking to a friend who works in the cosmetic industry in Asia, guess how they sell? Like white hotcakes!

    It’s crazy!

  • Rusty

    One more thing… unfortunately it’s our society that says that “Lighter” is better. I mean c’mon- Michael Jackson? Oh, and when did Lil Kim become a white woman?

  • mangoman

    Reposted comment (mostly) from where this was shared.
    The problem Brewer refers to is very relevant and spot-on and correct – although not so precise in his focus. Yes, there is well-studied media bias and/or stigmatized racism in Mexico; those reports are at Colegio de México and other institutes, unfortunately collecting dust rather than igniting public debate. That, I think, is the significant socio-cultural difference between the US and Mexico regarding this issue, and one that Mexicans are loathe to discuss (especially with a foreigner, regardless of color).

    As a US citizen in Mexico, I also frequently encounter the attitude experienced by Bewer. Individuals at almost any level of Mexican society do NOT want to (1) admit racism exists, (2) talk about its causes, and (3) suggest solutions. Considering that he media remains in control of very few progressives (read: forward-thinking realists), it should come as no surprise that noone here truly wants to “better” the race but rather maintain the socio-economic status quo.

    Thought-provoking article. BTW, I eat lunch *with* my indigenous maid each Friday, frequently at the local fonda – much to the shock (dismay?) of my middle-class Mexican friends! ;-)

  • rapport

    I used to live in Chile and it was the same there. All the telenovelas starred light-skinned Chileans, and although I never heard the term mejorar la raza, it was certainly implied. Pity.

    Great article, though I did forget that I was on a gay website while I read it.

  • *J_C*

    James in Montreal i agree with what you have posted too lazy to ad personal experience lol

  • Sexy Rexy

    As someone of African-American/Cuban ancestry, I can tell you in all honesty that the color line in Latin America is alive and well, but, well, more “maneuverable” than the color line in the US. To paraphrase the undertalented Denise Richards, “it’s complicated”.


    The dark skin color is still an issue, and therefore, it’s good that someone bring it up. Personally, I know people who are uncomfortable with their skin, and I have heard comment of people who don’t like people who have dark skin. In 2008, a women said she voted for McCaine and not for President Obama because there was no way she would vote for a black person. The person who said that happens to be Latina, but as we heard during the election, the skin color plaid an important roll in the media. In Latinos, there is from Light to Dark skin, and many in between. I guess, it will always be an issue if a group is not equally represented wether it is in the media, in the government, or in any form that is part of a society.

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