A Question Regarding Hispanics and Indigenous Peoples

I am wondering about a phenomenon in identity and ethnicity. Recently I attended a poetry reading at a Hispanic Cultural Center. Each of the poets included a poem about an indigenous person either from Mexico or the Southwest USA and each of these poems was affectionate.

When I asked one of the poets why, with the overwhelming numbers of Meztizo people in the community, no cultural center has been named The National Meztizo Cultural Center, for example. Why does the term “Hispanic” always dominate?

The answer I received did not satisfy me: Because that is what the Census Bureau calls us.

Possibly there are those in this online community who can tell the story or share their concerns about this, what appears to me to be a disrespect for the Native aspect of Hispanic heritage.

I don’t mean to incite discord or display my own ignorance, but to learn from those who know more about this than I do.

Many thanks,

Wild Onion

1 Comment

  1. and it doesn’t have an easy answer.

    It is very clear that an effort has been made by the powers that be to diminish the power – numerically of indigenous people in the United States.  

    The first wave of this countries history was to attempt to commit genocide.  The second wave was to commit ethnocide – by sending many native peoples to Euro schools and wipe out their language and culture.  

    This parallels a similar movement in Spanish colonies to create a class of people who would hold no claim to land.

    You can see how this plays out in places like Puerto Rico, where an entire people have been sold a history that says all the Tainos were wiped out – yet we now have DNA evidence that a majority of Puerto Ricans have indigenous ancestry, no matter their phenotype.

    Mexico still has a very large indigenous population for whom Spanish is not their first language.  Yet they are “Mexicans” with Spanish surnames, and when they cross the border into the US – that is how they are designated.

    Attempts to create a middle class in Mexico meant that the “stain” of indio blood had to be dealt with, and a system of denial and rejection of ancestry was put into play by the ruling class. (and you can include the whitewashing of African ancestry as well – except in Costa Chica and Vera Cruz)

    Current demographics for Mexico show


    Those of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry. They form the largest group, comprising up to 60-80% of the total population. Mestizos are not an ethnicity per se since they are more European or Amerindian looking depending on their racial background.


    Descendants of the native American peoples who inhabited Mesoamerica. They comprise around 10%-30% of the population (depending on the method used). The CDI identifies 62 indigenous groups in Mexico, each with a unique language.[

    Yet the emphasis in terms of social class hierarchy and upward mobility has been an embracing of the European-Spaniard ancestry.  

    Since Amerindians in Mexico were not pushed onto reservations, nor was genocide/ethnocide possible their status in Mexico differs from that of their brothers and sisters on this side of the border.

    In recent years there has been a effort by a variety of groups to re-establish the ties between and among all the indigenous peoples in this hemisphere.  That also requires a massive effort in education.  

    In the late 60’s when I was a member of the Young Lords Party – we stressed the Afro-Taino heritage of Boricuas (Puertoricans).

    I also went to South Dakota, to Pine Ridge – to the survival school to teach that same history on the Lakota rez.  

    There are groups today who are re-defining the boxes they have been placed in.

    For example there is a center of young people in Utah – The Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective which is taking on this identity of mestizaje

    In her book – Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldúa addressed this entire issue.

    I don’t think your question creates discord at all – it prompts reflection, and pushes us towards more unity.

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