Mexico, race and identity
Mexican identity is a complex subject to talk about. After independence, the new government established a series of images and symbols with the purpose of creating a new unified nation, regardless of the profound differences between regions throughout the territory. Hence, a national anthem was written, along with a flag and a narrative that would determine who we are and what makes us different from the rest of the world.
This investigations purpose is to explore the way Japanese heritage is articulated within the identity of mexican nikkei from Otatitlán, Veracruz at present, starting from the children of Japanese immigrants that arrived during the first years of the twentieth century till their most recent descendants, whose multicultural identity is being progressively recognized in the more globalized context of the twenty-first century.
It is important to talk about these communities because they have been poorly represented (if at all) within Mexico’s cultural horizon. Representation matters because it makes a people aware that they are recognized as part of a diverse nation, and as such they are a fundamental in order to improve and develop said area. This process is occurring throughout America (english-speaking countries as well as Latin America) with the creation of social movements, tv shows and movies depicting marginalized or forgotten groups of a population. An example of this is the recent recognition made by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) of Mexicans of African descent during the last statistical exercise carried out during 2016, or the series of conferences organized by the Carlos Slim foundation, titled “Los que llegaron inmigrantes en México” (The ones who came as immigrants to Mexico) that highlights different immigrant groups that have arrived to Mexico from the nineteenth century to present times.
This investigation is focused particularly on the inhabitants of Otatitlán, Veracruz, due to the fact that this diverse community represents many of the roots from where mexican identity and culture has developed. Beginning with the interaction of many indigenous groups during the Prehispanic era, the mestizaje that took place when the Spanish and other europeans arrived during the conquest, the the introduction of enslaved population from Africa during colonization, and ultimately the arrival of Japanese immigrant towards the end of the nineteenth century, this small town contains a variety of heritage from around the globe: mestizos, african descendants and nikkei, a small sample of the heterogeneity of mexican identities that exist (and have always existed) in Mexico.