First Advisor

Michele Gamburd

Term of Graduation

Spring 2021

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Anthropology






Black people -- Mexico -- Costa Chica, Mexico -- Race relations, Social status -- Mexico -- Costa Chica, Discourse analysis



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 121 pages)


Processes of Black racialization in Mestizo Latin America open a space to expose how subjectivities emerge and change while in tension with broader national ideas and transnational discourses. Morenos, typically dark skin individuals of African descent, inhabit the boundaries of mestizaje, Mexico's national racial ideology which emphasizes indigenous and Spanish ancestry. As a result, regional narratives subject morenos to racialization processes that align with the historical erasure of people of African descent, effectively excluding morenos from the nation. Nevertheless, morenos incorporate themselves into the regional and national narratives through various mechanisms and (re)formulations of established discourses.

I propose a conceptualization of "moreno" as a discursive figure that explores the processes of racialization and examines how morenos contest, internalize, and perpetuate it. In doing so, I draw on several theories. I draw from practice theory to contextualize how national discourse racializes morenos and the ways morenos subvert it -- specifically looking at Foucault's ideas on the discursive tension between social structures and individuals. I also draw from Black theory, particularly Franklin Frazier's theorization of Black people as a dispossessed group and Thomas Biolsi's racial technologies. To frame these notions within wider regional and national narratives, I employ Stuart Halls' ideas on diasporic communities and their intersection with discourses of gender and nation.

In Mexico, as in various Latin American countries, Black represents a moving target. For this reason, I do not ask whether someone is moreno or not, but instead, I explore the local mechanism marking their bodies. In doing so, I delve into what constitutes a "moreno" subject position, what it might offer to Mexicans of African descent, and how it is in the process of continuous transformation based on historical and socio-political processes.

To arrive at these topics, I employed discourse analysis -- paying particular attention to how morenos talk about themselves in local and regional settings and contrasting it to broader perspectives held by non-moreno communities regionally and nationally. I gathered my data through six months of ethnographic work in El Azufre, a small Afro-Mexican community on Oaxaca's coast. From August 2019 to January 2020, I engaged in numerous hours of participant observation, conducted forty interviews and two focus groups, and participated in a community-wide census.


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