LastRealIndians states the following quote on the Facebook page:
“Natives saying ‘You can barely tell the difference between us Indians and them illegal Mexicans that can’t speak English, huh?’ [with a slightly condescending laugh at “can’t speak English”]. ***LOL that’s because they are the same as you imbecile victims of colonial brainwashing that you’re so proud to speak English and be a ‘legal’ American. We don’t have to perpetuate the artificial divisions of the colonizer. Same thing goes for Natives jokingly calling each other n**** or making fun of how ‘dark’ a native is by calling them “black boy.” We’ve got to teach our children better than that.”
Just because we speak Spanish does not mean we are automatically “Hispanic” or “Latino.” Would it be the same for a North American Indian who speaks English to be labeled as “Britannic”? The Indo-mestizo people in North, Central, and South America are conflicted with their mixed-identity and are taught to hate their Indigenous heritage, to look down their Indigenous brothers and sisters, to view them as savage, illiterate, dirty, dumb, alcoholic, and so forth. But that is like internally hating themselves for being Indigenous, too. That’s like looking at themselves in the mirror and saying, “I hate the way I look. I hate who I am. I hate those who came before me.”
The truth is our Indigenous ancestors were never “savages” or “illiterate” in the first place. They were a people who lived in complex societies and achieved amazing feats in their time. The capital of the Aztec Empire had the largest population in the world in 1491. The Tawantinsuyu Empire was the largest empire in the world in 1525. The Mayas invented an accurate calendar based on astronomical observations made in 1491 – an accomplishment that no other civilization during that time achieved. How is that “savage’?
We mixed-Indigenous people happen to speak Latin languages because of colonialism. But that does not make us fully Spanish. Or less Indian.
We mixed-Indigenous make up about 400,000,000 across the Americas, which makes up about half of the total population in North, Central, and South America. One of the comments on Facebook states: “We would then have things our way. Not the other way around.”
Here are more opinions from other readers about the comment above from LastRealIndians:
“Go tell it to the Mexicans who are the greatest of all colonial divisionists looking down on those who have more Native blood than those who have more Spanish blood even among the very victims of the divisions.”
“None of us were consulted when boundary lines were set.”
“Mexico, the USA & Canada were at one at one time. There was no Rio Grande border. The Great Lakes was not a border. We traveled freely back and forth. We are, the one!”
The “Indians” in North America and “Indios” in Central and South America are victims of colonization. But we Indo-mestizo people are also victims of colonization whether we want to see it or not. I notice we divide our own communities based on skin color and background. We make prejudices about Blacks, Natives, Whites, and Cholos. We look at a newborn and praise their blue eyes and light skin como la bisabuela de Espana, but not their black hair and morena piel como la bisabuela Indigena. Sometimes if a Indo-mestizo does something silly, society tells them “No seas Indio (Don’t be Indian),” culturally translating to, “Don’t be stupid.” From a young age, we are taught that Columbus discovered our ancestors and The Catholic Church saved them from savagery, which is damaging to the youth psyche and understanding of Indigenous culture.
However, this does not mean Indo-mestizos should culturally appropriate other Indigenous cultures as part of their identity. This does not mean we were plumes and pretend we speak a native language. This does not mean we quickly identify as Indigenous and wear regalia and claim it as our own. Because none of this is right.
But I do want to point out that some of us Indo-mestizo feel the strong urge to reconnect with our ancestral roots, culture, language, music, and dance. We see the beauty in Indigenous identity because we feel it in our blood and we re-tell our oral tradition to our close relatives and friends as well. We spend time researching our family tree and try to find the right connection to learn of a culture that should belong to us, but does not exist anymore. Because one day, we hope our mixed-Indigenous heritage, culture, and narrative becomes a part of society, school curricula, and media, too.
Because when we try talk to others about our mixed-Indigenous identity, we are faced with people who do not approve of such curiosity or ridicule our attempt of re-indigenizing. We retrieve back to the closet and pretend the backlash never happened. We conform to the Casta system, to the Latino label, and to just be Hispanic.
Julieta Paredes, a Bolivian Feminist Indigenous leader once told me, “Our people need to treat each other with respect. We are like the human body. We need to work together to collaborate and live a happy life. We cannot let the right fist punch the left eye. We cannot let the left leg kick the right knee. But that is what we are doing to ourselves. We need to spread the message and open our people’s eyes to see the reality of who they are.”
If we continue to turn a blind eye at our other half-Indigenous heritage, we will never unite as one pueblo, one country of Indigenous and Indo-mestizos and other mixed-races to protect our land, our food, and our way of life. We have to look into the past in order to understand who we are in the present and where we are going in the future.