Introduction
“We Declare That We Are Indians”
Dominican Identity Displays and
Discourses in Travel Writing, Museums,
Beauty Shops, and Bodies
We declare that we are Indians so as not to recognize ourselves
as mulattos, to deny the black we have behind the ears, in our
aspiration to whiten the
race.1
In 1613, after many decades of research and travel in Peru, Hua-
mán Poma (a Quecheua Indian) wrote: “When mulattoes—a
mixture of negro and Indian—produce quadroon children, these
children lose all physical trace of their negro origin except for the
ear, which still gives them away by its shape and size.”
—Jack
Forbes2
Dominicans will often say “Tenemos el negro detrás de las orejas [We have
the black behind the ears]” when speaking to matters of blackness and
Dominican identity. In doing so, they echo and affirm the most famous
line of a Dominican décima (ten-line poem) written by Juan Antonio Alix
in 1883.3 In the décima, “El negro tras de la oreja,” Dominicans are hu-
morously chastised for their “overwhelming” desire to whiten:
Como hoy la preocupación Since nowadays there are so many
A más de una gente abruma, Whom this dismays
Emplearé mi débil pluma I will employ my weak pen
Para darle una lección; To offer all a lesson;
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