We've all heard it.
According to the CIA World Factbook, 60% of Mexico's population is mestizo (European/Indigenous), 30% is indigenous, and 9% is white.
That fits in with the recent work of the Mexican Genome Project which calculates that 65% of Mexican genetic material is indigenous (i.e., American Indian) and 35% is non-indigenous (principally European and African)
Of course, the term "mestizo" is somewhat slippery. It includes individuals of mostly European ancestry and a little Indian blood, or vice versa.
The Mexican white-mestizo-Indian spectrum is a continuum. Technically speaking, the "mestizo" classification includes every Mexican with any white/Indian mixture—whether that's 99% white and 1% Indian or 99% Indian and 1% white.
So there are mestizos at the white end of the spectrum who can pass as whites and for all practical purposes are white. At the other end of the spectrum, there are mestizos who are, racially speaking, indigenous.
It isn't just skin color. Some Mexicans have dark skin but European facial features. Others have light skin but indigenous features.
And, although many Mexicans won't admit it, there's a definite correlation between racial background and socioeconomic status.
It's not a hard and fast rule. There are plenty of exceptions. But, unmistakably, the higher one travels up the socioeconomic ladder, the whiter the Mexicans are. The farther down one travels, the darker they are.
The poorest three states in Mexico, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas, in the south, are the most indigenous. (According to the Mexican Genome Project, Guerrero is also 22% African).
I encountered this phenomenon soon after moving to Mexico. My first job was teaching fifth-graders in a private school. The students were upper middle class and upper class. They were predominantly white. Some were even blond.
In one of my fifth grade classes, every student—with one exception—was white. The only exception was a nice little girl with dark-skin whose family's economic background was not as high as some of the others.
The fifth-grade boys regarded the dark-skinned girl as the ugliest in the class. The girl wasn't ugly, but the boys considered her so because of the color of her skin. The girl they thought the prettiest in the class was blonde.
These fifth-grade boys didn't invent the Mexican standard of beauty. They just reflected it. It's been going on strong for about 500 years, since the Spaniards arrived.
One of Mexico's biggest cultural exports these days is the telenovela, a genre akin to the soap opera. In these series, which are exported worldwide, the principal characters tend to be white and the dark-skinned actors portray servants. Like in real life, in other words.
Last Saturday, October 6, Mexico held its annual Miss Mexico beauty pageant (known here as "Nuestra Belleza Mexico"). The winner of this pageant goes to the Miss Universe pageant—where Miss USA was booed when it was held in Mexico City earlier this year. The runner-up goes to the Miss World contest.
But you can't make up your mind from one example. I invite you to look at this photo gallery of all the Miss Mexicos since 1994. Note that they are all white, some are blonde.
The winner of "Nuestra Belleza Mexico" represents Mexico in the Miss Universe pageant, while the runner-up goes to "Miss World." If you look at Mexico's Miss World representatives since 1995, you'll see they are white also.
Since Mexicans use two surnames (one paternal, one maternal), you can learn a little more about their ancestry. Notice the presence among the contestants of the surnames Jones and Murray (of the British Isles) and Erhard and Honstein (Germany).
In fact, the Nuestra Belleza contest is presided over by a certain Lupita Jones, a former Miss Universe from Mexico (see photo here . ).
As a point of reference, you might visit the Miss Spain website. If you look at the recent Miss Spain winners, they aren't that different from Mexican beauty queen types—except that the Miss Mexicos tend to be lighter-skinned.
This indicates that a Miss Mexico candidate could easily cross the pond to the "madre patria" and be competitive.
That's especially ironic given the PC version of Mexican history. Today's Mexicans—including white Mexicans—view the Spanish conquistadors as the bad guys and the Aztecs as the good guys (the non-Aztec Indians are usually ignored). Even white Mexicans will tell you "The Spaniards conquered us."
Nevertheless, 500 years later, the Mexican standard of beauty, as reflected in the Miss Mexico contest, is so Spaniard-oriented that a Mexican beauty queen could compete, quite probably successfully, in a Miss Spain contest.
In contrast to Mexico's white -oriented beauty pageants, notice the racial variety of some recent Miss Americas:
One of the reasons that Nuestra Belleza Mexico is weighted toward the white end of the spectrum is the height requirement. In order to qualify as a candidate for the Mexican beauty pageant, a contestant is required to have a minimum height of 1.68 meters. (That's 5' 6" for those of us who think in English measures). The newly crowned Miss Mexico, Elisa Najera, is a six footer. [See pictures]
Well, maybe all countries have their height requirements. After all, nowadays they like tall models.
However, in the case of Mexico, that effectively discriminates against indigenous women who are, on average, shorter than Euro-Mexican women. (In pre-Hispanic Mexico, there was even a height difference among the indigenous—the Indians of northern Mexico were taller than those of the south.)
Looking at the list of the winners and runners-up of Nuestra Belleza since 1995, with one exception, only one is from a state with an indigenous majority. They are almost all from central and northern Mexico, several being from border states. (According to the Mexican Genome Project, the border state of Sonora is 58% European).
I don't mean to suggest, by the way, that this sort of Eurocentric beauty contest business is unique to Mexico. Oh no. As I pointed out in an article several years back, it's all over Latin America.
For a recent example, see the contestants in the Reina Hispanoamericana (Hispano-American Queen) pageant scheduled to begin today (October 12th).
So Mexican beauty pageants definitely favor the white end of the Mexican racial spectrum. What's the point?
Am I telling Mexicans and other Latin Americans how to run their own beauty pageants?
Perish the thought. They can do what they want.
They just need to quit calling us racist.
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) resides in Mexico, with a legal permit issued him by the Mexican government. Allan recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here his "Dispatches from Iraq" are archived here his website is here.