WhaT’s in a name?
San Nicoladenses’s identities rest on a complex calculus of race,
history, and custom. That calculus is situational, which makes it
fluid and conciliatory rather than bounded and antagonistic. But
really two issues are at play: San Nicoladenses as objects and San
Nicoladenses as subjects. Culture workers and some scholars es-
sentialize and objectify morenos, imposing racial identities based
on mythologies of purity and difference. Using top- down models,
they create distinctions between “blacks” and “Indians,” thereby
ethnicizing and insisting that “in search of a legitimate place in
the nation, each group must guard its gains and insist on all credit
due” (Williams 1989:435). This potentially undermines rural soli-
darity by fostering a national “multicultural” legitimacy that rests
on competition and that will never rectify the structural inequali-
ties Mexican small farmers suffer.
Despite San Nicoladenses’ rejection of the terms Afromexican,
Afromestizo, and black, outsiders—many from the United States or
informed by U.S. paradigms—continue to use them without en-
gaging the unique experiences of peoples from the coastal belt. The
emphasis on an Afro or black identity component follows the rule
of hypodescent, a social invention characteristic of U.S. racial clas-
sifications (Hoffmann 2006b; Wade 2006a). Thus, U.S. influences
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