Mestizaje is what defines our being and our activities as Latin Americans ....
Our present and our future are constructed on the basis of mestizaje. To
deny that is to deny our own being.
-Carlos Tiinnermann,
Nicaragua en busca de su identidad,
We know that mestizaje did not take place because the Spaniards were
thinking in terms of equality and of mutual respect. Many of our grand-
mothers were raped and the product of that rape we cannot compare with
the harmony of an encounter of two ... cultures. Today our countries are
controlled by criollos or privileged mestizos. That speaks of the imposition
of one culture on another.-Rigoberta Menchu,
The failure of the Sandinista revolution to seriously address their historic
claims was a major setback to the Comunidades Indigenas. The revolution,
pregnant with emancipatory possibilities in
left division and demoral-
ization as its principal legacy in the Comunidades. The massive disaffection of
the indigenous peoples certainly contributed to the strength of the counter-
revolution and to the Sandinistas' electoral defeat of
This book has attempted to explain the historical conditions that contrib-
uted to the tragic incapacity of the Sandinistas to deal constructively with the
Comunidades. The processes described in this book are not, however, unique
to Nicaragua. A current research project I am conducting in collaboration
with Dario Euraque, Charles R. Hale, and Carol Smith strongly suggests
analogous processes of mestizaje in twentieth-century El Salvador and Hon-
duras and in regionally and temporally specific moments in Guatemala. Re-
cent work by Thomas Abercrombie in Bolivia, Marisol de la Cadena in Peru,
Alan Knight in Mexico, Florencia Mallon in Peru and Mexico, and Peter Wade
in Colombia makes it amply clear that mestizaje is a vitally important na-
tionalist discourse throughout Latin America.' All those authors share a crit-
ical stance toward mestizaje as a form of domination, as a potential agent of
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