Alfonso Munera is the author of El fracaso de la nación – Región, clase y raza en el Caribe colombiano ( avg rating, 1 rating, 0 reviews) and Empresa. El fracaso de la nación abordó por primera vez en la historia de Americana Latina la participación de los afrodecendientes en la contruccion de la nación. by . El Fracaso de La Nacion by Alfonso Munera, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide.

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Multiculturalism and Racialization in Latin America and the Caribbean. This article, which is based on a keynote address, delivered for the 2 nd International Congress of Caribbean Studies, held at the Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla, Colombia, in August ofargues that Caribbean nations are in dire need to analyze and deconstruct the foundational myths upon which their national unities were constructed after achieving independence.

This process is under way in such countries as Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia, but has not been carried out for most Caribbean nations, maybe with the exception of Cuba. Where such efforts have not been pursued vigorously, myths of racial harmony tend to prevail.

These myths, while having served the initial purpose of undermining factionalism and potential secession, are now standing in the way of recognizing cultural diversity so that it can be addressed with meaningful public policies. Before a thorough dismantling of such foundational myths of racial harmony is achieved, multiculturalism, i.

In this talk, I will share some thoughts and questions I have formulated for myself over the past years in my role as a researcher and scholar.

El Fracaso de La Nacion : Region, Clase y Raza En El Caribe Colombiano (1717-1821)

During those years, I was fortunate enough to have lived in Colombia for two years -half of which I spent in Condoto, department of el Choco. InI enrolled as a student at the Federal University if Bahia, Brazil – and I ended up living in that place for eight years.

In all this time, I rather worked or studied issue of democracy, democratic participation, and what is often called “problems of development. After moving to the US, I thus focused my academic work on the question ‘how to achieve democracy and development’ which to me automatically meant: Instead of representing just an academic curiosity, this question was and continues to be connected to my effort to bridge the gap that often divides academic work from social activism.

To overcome this division I am actively engaged in several projects that seek to bring activists together with academics. One of the most important ones is the network of Latin American and Caribbean black community organizations which is trying to launch a USF summer training institute for Afrodescendant community leaders, to be held every July in Panama. I have launched this initiate in April of and we published naxion papers presented at the initial conference as a book, entitled Afrodescendants, Identity, and the Struggle for Development in the Americas.

So it is with xlfonso background and experience of a practitioner and professor who teaches seminars on development, citizenship, and the making of race and nation at USF that I come to you today. I truly hope that some of my aalfonso on this issue of multiculturalism and racialization in the Caribbean resonate with your own experiences and that they provestimulating. I composed this talk as a sort of thought provocation – so please forgive me if some o the ideas seem radical or offensive.

My aim is not to insult, but to stimulate. I will divide this talk into two sections.

First, I will talk about what from nscion standpoint appears to be the state of the art, or the things we know about multiculturalism and racialization in the region. Secondly, I will seek to deconstruct the notion of multiculturalism and argue that what nacin really are confronted with in the region is not multiculturalism, but European monoculturalism. Maybe as a German I can say: I know it when I see it. The State of the Art: Freyre and Vasconcelos provided their state elites with exactly those tropes that allowed them to forge nations where difference and claim-making based on previous discrimination, was made impossible thus not only saving those emerging states from potentially devastating law suits, but also offering to the different peoples living on Mexican and Brazilian soil a way to imagine themselves as a new and united people.

Freyre in particular was enthusiastic about all of the great things that the new world offered – and all of the old things that migrants to this region could leave behind – not least of which racism.

Of course, this stressing of the new ran against all those that were not new to this region: To these new states, doing so was necessary due to the large numbers of immigrants, the legacy of slavery, and in general, the presence of very heterogeneous societies all over the region. By not only actively promoting the idea that “we are all the same,” but criminalizing anybody who dared to say otherwise, these emerging states were able to achieve stability and undermine fraacaso attempts to forge potentially costly cleavages among its populations.


Both Brazil and Mexico to this day deal with the legacies of those days, because in the name of nationalism, junera was abolished, but equality did not follow. At first, minorities seemed to have bought into these slogans of equality, as they promised to overcome a legacy alfondo scientific racism nacionn eugenics that clearly sought to promote whitening as the only means to achieve civilization and progress. With such racist thoughts, practices, and institutions as a backdrop, racial democracy and the idea of a cosmic race seemed very promising to all those that had previously been declared unfit, uncivilized, barbaric and degenerate mongrels by European and US scientists and munea local elite adepts.

As the Brazilian case shows, the tropes of the cosmic race and the racial paradise where all people are the same became a central part of collective imaginings of these emerging nations.

This was fracso through a massive promotion through all the means that these modern states had at their disposal: Beginning in s, Latin American school children were all taught that theirs was a nation where alfobso is the same, that is: Like I said before: But as time went on, it became clear that this was after all only a story, propagated by powerful state elites who seemed to spare no effort in proclaiming equality while constantly enacting inequality.

For those same elites did not seem comfortable when identified as mixed and half-black or half-indigenous themselves. Some of these munrea went so far as to adopt indigenous names as in Mexiconacio they hardly ever seemed to associate with indigenous people, nor did they speak their languages.

Latin American elites, instead, continued to associate and identify themselves with the white European colonizers that invaded these lands in the 16 th century. However, as time went by and the poor, the excluded, and ethnic minorities started to organize for change by challenging these stories, sometimes threatening to overcome their internal divisions and joining together under one, big social movement, most Latin American elites saw the dangers in such an alliance naciln called on the military to avoid any such radical social changes that could topple them from power.

It took many years of clandestine organizing and careful mobilizing, sometimes under the disguise of the Catholic Church, to finally break the power of traditional elites and their military governments. Only in the s, which is commonly called “the lost nacon in Latin America, were the excluded able to topple authoritarian regimes and find ways to finally make their voices heard.

The s was thus not a lost decade for everybody. For the historically excluded, it was a decade of re-democratization and increased organization and successful mobilization, so that finally, in the s, we were able to witness changes in the social hierarchies and associated power structures of some Latin American countries. Under their new presidents, most Latin American countries changed their constitutions and for the first time officially recognized that they even had minorities.

Some of them started to enact special policies targeted at those populations. Examples include the Colombian Constitution, Affirmative Action in Brazil, anti-discrimination legislation in Mexico, the Peruvian law which criminalizes discrimination, the new constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia, as well as several policies and projects for Garifunas in Honduras, for indigenous people in Chile, and for Afro-descendants in Colombia.

It is only now that the age-old “social question” is taking center stage among Latin American political leaders and it is not so much because they want to do that, but rather because they receive massive pressure from below.

Latin American social movements are as powerful as ever and they clearly demonstrate that no change will come from above -just as American civil rights did not come from above. At this point, then, the story of how elites constructed tropes of racial harmony and how Afro-Brazilians were able to fight back the hegemonic ideology of a racial democracy that de-legitimized their efforts to organize is well told.

The Colombian story is also emerging strongly, with the help of such outstanding scholars as Alfonso Munera 3 and Arturo Escobar 4among many others. Other, similar, stories are struggling to reach the surface of national and international attention, thanks to the pioneering work of such scholars as Peter Wade 5 and Aleandro de la Fuente, 6 whose work focuses on race and nationalism in Cuba.

The situation of Bolivian indigenous and black people is slowly taking shape, as is the story of those groups in Peru and Ecuador.

El Fracaso de La Nacion : Alfonso Munera :

We now also know more about the situation of indigenous and black groups living in Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua, thanks to the outstanding work of people like Juliet Hooker 7.

The same is not true for the Caribbean. There are very view analyses of how national identity favored white and brown people over black people, however defined. Every time I have a student wanting to write about racial identity and nationalism in the Dominican Republic, they face a shortage of relevant literature.


But the Dominican Republic is not the worst. How about racial and social hierarchies in Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Jamaica, the smaller leeward and windward islands, and the leeward Antilles? We know next to nothing about the forging of nationalism in the Caribbean – maybe because it is a difficult topic for this region, as independence arrived late, or never to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Curacao, Guadeloupe, and Martinique and the question of national identity emerges together with the question of independence.

For whatever reason, munerx on nationalism, multiculturalism, and cultural rights in the Fe is scarce and where it exists, it does not reach a broader audience, maybe because other problems seem more important.

I want to argue here today that research on how nations are defined and by whom this defining is done is of the utmost importance and consequence. The same is true for research on the social movements that resist such violently inclusive constructions of nationalism. We know this, for example, about Jamaica, the birthplace of Black Nationalism.

In Jamaica, paralleling the story of most of Latin America, “out of many, one people” has remained an empty promise and a promise that only superficially disguises the deep-seated colorism that informs the social hierarchies of that country. In doing that, colorism is a racial project, even if it differs from those enacted and reproduced elsewhere.

The story how Jamaican brown nationalism was constructed, by whom, muunera with what means, however, remains to be told and explained.

Only very recently have social scientists begun to tackle these issues. My friend and colleague Maziki Thame 8a political scientist of the University of Jamaica, Mona Campus, wrote that in Jamaica, brown-skin people like Manley and Bustamante successfully mobilized the black masses – only to secure office for themselves and excluding blacks. By doing so, they confirmed the racial project of Jamaica, which is one based on colorism.

Haiti farcaso a similar history, not yet coherently told despite the excellent work of such authors as Laurent Dubois 9 and C. James, author of The Black Jacobins In post-revolutionary Haiti, light-skin mulattoes took over the privileges of white elites and they dl tried to hold and defend these privileges to this day.

Thus even in Haiti colorism informs merit, beauty, and political power. Or think about the Dominican Republic. There, colorism is so pervasive that blackness is vehemently denied by the big maj ority of the country.

To capture these constructions and ideological justifications of political power, merit, beauty, and social nacionn, one needs to see beyond skin color and whiteness vs. Biology is not the relevant factor here. It is how biology is interpreted, categorized, and hierarchized. Being white, black, brown, mulatto, mestizo, etc.

Anybody trying to explain Latin American or Frafaso social and racial hierarchies to North Americans knows this from experience. This is so because racial projects are national projects.

They emerge when political elites decide where to draw the dividing line among the people living under one state.

Multiculturalism and Racialization in Latin America and the Caribbean

That is why we talk about racial regimes; because state power is involved in these projects. The political elites of any country, at a certain point in time, normally right around independence, have to decide how to best achieve their main goals, which are: These two motives are universal – at least we can assume them to be for analytical purposes, so we can then see how much insights these assumption render.

Normally, they explain a lot. The central question that political elites face after independence is with whom to ally and against whom. Anthony Marx 11 has illustrated the analytical power of this framework. The answer to this question for political elites is simple: If the strong are sufficient in number, or sufficiently armed, we end up getting typical white-dominated planter societies, based on racial regimes where the white inheritors of colonial rule control all of the feacaso, economical, political, and even cultural life of a country.

They rule and decide what is worthy and beautiful. This is the story of the USA. If the political elites are not powerful enough or too small in number and if they do not have enough obvious allies, the story gets more complicated. Under such circumstances, allies have to be made. This is normally achieved through the dissemination of ideologies that fracso either explicitly or implicitly on the idea of national unity and mestizaje.

However, none o these ideologies are strong enough to break the power of the usage of whiteness as a sort of symbolic capital, inherited from colonial time and used as a tool to secure and defend privilege.