The Perpetuation of Indigenous Erasure
By Val Reynoso
Along with the history of the development of the term, the notion of the Latin race is constructed against indigeneity as well as Blackness, which was reinforced with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo between the US and Mexico.
The Mexican-American war of 1846-1848 ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo on February 2nd, 1848 at the city of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Mexican government surrendered to the US on September 1847 following the demise of the Mexican capital, Mexico City, and defeat of the Mexican troops. Peace talks were mediated between chief clerk of the US State Department, Nicholas Trist, and General Winfield Scott-who concluded that Mexico should be treated as a defeated enemy.
Trist and Scott negotiated with a particular delegation of the fallen Mexican government represented primarily by Don Bernardo Couto, Don Miguel Atristain, and Don Luis Gonzaga Cuevas. Trist negotiated a treaty which stated that Mexico should cede to the US its Upper Californian and New Mexican territories, also known as Aztlan. This was also recognized as the Mexican Cession and consisted of what are now the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and portions of Utah, Nevada, and Colorado.
Mexico had given up territorial rights to Texas and identified the Rio Grande as the US-Mexico border (The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo). The division of North America via an imperialist treaty in which the US claimed Aztlan created the artificial border between the US and Mexico as well as a division between Natives in the US, whose colonizers were from England, and Natives below the US border, whose colonizers were from Spain.
When entering the US by any means, Natives from below the US border are labeled Latin and therefore illegal foreigners in the country, due to their colonizers having been from Latin Europe rather than the UK. The Latin concept was designed to give non-white subjects of Iberian colonialism more proximity to whiteness; to label oppressed peoples of Latin America derivatives of Latin Europeans and Iberians, and therefore not indigenous to the lands they either inhabited prior to European settlement, or were forcefully taken from by Latin Europeans.
The Latin concept also gives criollos and other white settlers in the former Iberian colonies a false sense of indigeneity; that they are the original peoples of the region their conquistador ancestors labeled Latin America, that Spanish and Portuguese languages are native to the Americas, and that dialects of Native languages throughout the region are what is considered foreign.
Non-white Latinx/Hispanic people are expected to assimilate into the white standard of the Latin race, especially considering that Latin Americans with lighter skin possess a disproportionate amount of wealth and political power in comparison to their non-white counterparts due to criollo inheritance from their Iberian, colonizing ancestors (Planas, Roque). Given the casta system, the closest one is to the criollo category or any derivative of that, the more one is able to reap material benefits from being racialized as closer to white.
Val Reynoso is a Politics and Human Rights undergrad, journalist and Marxist-Leninist activist.