“Racist Latin America?” Marta Rodríguez, The World Weekly, 16 February 2017

“One study indicates that hostility against immigrants is more intense when they are not white and come from countries with higher proportions of indigenous people or Afro-Latinos. This is the way Argentines perceive Bolivians, Chileans see Peruvians and Venezuelans view Colombians”.

A recent poll found that 36% of Argentinians think “Argentina should be only for Argentines”. President Macri issued a decree to limit access for immigrants. There is a similar trend across the region. Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru and Mexico have the largest proportion of indigenous people, while the Dominican Republic and Brazil are home to the largest Afro-Latino communities. When Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors took control of Latin America in the 16th century, they imposed European culture on native populations, and the subsequent revolutions of independence did not return power to the indigenous population: they were led by European elites. In Brazil, which presents itself as a rainbow nation, the Cabinet of President Michel Temer is entirely white and male. Ecuador’s Amazon region is currently the scene of a severe conflict between natives and the government of Rafael Correa, who granted a Chinese company a mine in lands where indigenous Ecuadorians live. The little progress made is embodied in Evo Morales, President of Bolivia and Latin America’s first and only modern indigenous leader. Since coming to power in 2006 he has empowered indigenous people. Although Latin America has escaped the rise of right-wing movements opposed to mass immigration, discrimination is pervasive. Current right-wing extremists in Europe have focused their hostility on Muslims, whereas immigration flows in Latin America are mainly between neighbouring countries with similar cultures. Religion tends not to be a divisive issue because the region is predominantly Catholic. Dark skin, slanted eyes and short stature are observed as common traits in Peru, where only 6% of society is white, but it is difficult to find them in a media landscape dominated by European looks. Across the region, Western beauty standards prevail in advertising and television. Latin America is home to 28 million indigenous people and 150 million Afro-Latinos: around 40% of the region’s population, and the poorest segment of society. The largest group is defined as ‘mestizo’.

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“Racist Latin America?” Marta Rodríguez, The World Weekly, 16 February 2017


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