This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Racism Rears its Head in Mexico

My son, Greg Weeks, commented in his blog today about an NBCLatino story describing a situation in Mexico in which a casting call for an Aeroméxico ad explicitly said "no dark-skinned people."
Within 24 hours of the picture being shared online, both the ad agency behind the casting call and Aeroméxico had tweeted out statements of apologies. You know, the same standard, “It was never our intent. We love people of all races, etc. etc.” public relations copy.
The author of the NBCLatino op-ed piece, Julio Ricardo Varela, also noted that:
As a child growing up with Spanish-language television, light skin was always the norm, whether it was a channel in San Juan or in El Bronx. Even to this day, I cannot get past the subtle institutional race-based society that has become the accepted way in so many parts of the region. It is even part of our language. Imagine if people started using words like “blackie” and “blondie” as English terms of endearment? I see it all the time when I go home to Puerto Rico, and I am just one of many who can speak to this ugly secret.
An excellent academic paper on this very topic is the one by Mara Loveman and Jeronimo Muniz (both the University of Wisconsin, Madison), "How Puerto Rico Became White: Boundary Dynamics and Intercensus Racial Reclassification, " American Sociological Review, 72(917-939), 2007.

Since racial/ethnic definitions are artificial and arbitrary, we usually figure this out by asking people. As I note in Chapter 4, Mexico is predominantly mestizo (mixed Amerindian and European), and the only question on the census about ethnicity relates to speaking an indigenous language or identifying as a member of an indigenous group. Data from the 2010 Census of Mexico show that less than 7 percent of the population aged 3 or older speaks an indigenous language, while 15 percent of the population report themselves to be indigenous. So, if we want to know how many "whites" there are, where do we go? It turns out that the CIA Factbook has an answer (9 percent), albeit without a source given, and since they also think that 30 percent of the population is Amerindian, instead of the self-reported 15 percent, I think the safe answer is that we don't know what percent of the Mexican population would consider themselves to be "white." And that's OK.


  1. "Since racial/ethnic definitions are artificial and arbitrary"

    No, that was an artificial and arbitrary statement. Race is a biological concept.

  2. Professor Weeks...

    And here is the study showing that ethnic boundaries are not "artificial and arbitrary"...

    Since you are a professor I have no doubt you have access to this work free of charge through your university.