Schwaller’s monograph explores the organization of difference in New Spain before the seventeenth-century emergence of a more systematic racial hierarchy. In one sense, the author provides a prehistory of the sistema de castas. He traces the creation of what would become the colony’s standard identity categories—español, indio, negro, mestizo, and mulato—and finds evidence of precocious stereotyping; the authorities tended to view the last three groups as suspect and threatening nearly from the start. Yet this is not primarily a story about origins, but a study that—eschewing anachronism and anticipation—stands on its own as an examination of the specific social milieu of early colonialism. Notably, Schwaller vigorously and persuasively argues that one cannot speak of “races” during this period. Contemporaries recognized variations among humans—the géneros de gente of the title—but these depended more on social and cultural characteristics than on phenotype; in any case,...
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Book Review| April 01 2019
Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico: Defining Racial Difference
Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico: Defining Racial Difference. By Schwaller, Robert C.. (
University of Oklahoma Press,
2016. xvii +286 pp., illustrations, tables, introduction, notes, bibliography, index. $34.95 cloth).
R. Douglas Cope
Ethnohistory (2019) 66 (2): 397–398.
R. Douglas Cope; Géneros de Gente in Early Colonial Mexico: Defining Racial Difference. Ethnohistory 1 April 2019; 66 (2): 397–398. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-7300240
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