Introduction

Discrimination due to skin color, physical features and one’s way of speaking and dressing is a fact of daily life in Mexican society, as it is in many other parts of the world. The terms that accompany this discrimination – indio patarrajada, naco, chaca and many others – show how these physical and cultural characteristics are assigned a set of values; that is, it is thought that white skin is better than dark skin, narrow noses better than broad noses and Spanish better than Nahuatl or Maya.

Let’s Talk About Racism, 2016, Video Installation. Idea and text by César Carrillo Trueba. Produced by La Maga Films

 

We are immersed in a system of values that determines relationships both between individuals and between the so-called mestizo society and indigenous peoples, as well as between the former, seen as representative of the Mexican nation, and immigrant communities that maintain a certain cohesion (Chinese, Jews, Roma, etc.). This is a system based on ideas, concepts, theories and prejudices that are deeply rooted in our way of seeing the world, having first been learned at home and at school and then reinforced by mass media such as television and the press, as well as in government policies, but it is one that is never openly acknowledged. It is a veiled racism, slippery, hard to discern.

This discrimination is paradoxical, given that Mexico has always had a majority-indigenous population: there are around 15 million people who still speak an indigenous language and nearly the entire country has some indigenous ancestry. Nevertheless, over time – especially in the 19th Century – racial ideas constructed an image of the inferiority of the physical and cultural characteristics of indigenous peoples that persists to the present day. How did this happen? Why do we denigrate those who have the same origins and physical characteristics as us? Why do our textbooks glorify pre-Hispanic civilizations, while our government policies promote the disappearance of contemporary indigenous cultures, forcibly integrating them by stripping them of their language and culture?

EThis exhibition offers an introduction to this serious problem. Through a broad, transdisciplinary perspective, but one centered on Mexico, it aims to expose the implicit racism contained in the prevailing images of what it means to be indigenous, of indigenous descent or to appear indigenous…an entire universe of connotations.

Art is a good mirror as it, too, is immersed in this same system of values and social relationships, yet good artworks are aware of this; the same is true with science, with its theories and concepts, classifications and inferences. Both art and science construct an image of the world, a system of representations whose meaning is not visible at first glance – one must unpack it, make it visible.

That is the purpose of this exhibition and this curatorial essay – an essay in the sense of a reflection that suggests new ways of seeing, of the transdisciplinary nature of the works that make it up, of its intention to open a dialogue, of its invitation to look at the other and at one’s self, of its goal of contributing a grain of sand towards the transformation of everyday behavioral patterns, so that we no longer see human differences as inequalities, so that we no longer discriminate nor let ourselves be discriminated against, so that we fully embrace the diversity that characterizes our species.


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