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my dance among Guatemala's racial-cultural groups, cont.

marybellefrey's picture

I have been here a long time.  The little girls who came and went freely in my house now have adolescent children.  When we get to reminiscing, their children can't believe we really did all those things.  We have talked about everything that can be talked about.  They hope the baby or grandbaby will be born 'blanco' because it will have an easier time in life.  They regret that a grandchild is particularly dark and is looked down on by its extended family.  Only a few months ago a friend and I were talking about racial prejudice.   I mentioned the many ways in which I am shown preference, especially in businesses in town.  He was telling me about a family here which is from a nearby village originally.  The family looks down on everyone;  their children even call other children 'indio'.  The joke here is that the village they come from is about half ladino and half indigenous, even today.  I speculate that they were mixed blood ladino when they came here and that attitude continues. 

The people I know are mostly very good-natured about this; we laugh at ourselves while we laugh at others.  Someone referring to a neighbor who is brutal with his family for example, says, "We're all 'indios' but he surpasses himself as 'indio'."

Calderón suggested that I ask my neighbors if they think white is superior.  As I have indicated, what they feel and believe is very clear from their speech and behavior.  But I thought it might be interesting to ask.  Goya is a young woman who worked with me in my business for several years.  She is very clear about who has the right to feel superior to her.  I have heard her say things like:  "I don't notice that he is such high society: he's as black as I am!"  or about a condescending waiter in a snazzy restaurant, "I wonder why he's so snooty: he surely lives in the same kind of shack I live in."  She was pained by my question.  But admitted that in fact "we think white is better."  She said her brothers who take after their father were called 'negro' in derision as they were growng up.  She says she will hire a light-skinned woman as a seamstress in her workshop, but she would feel really uncomfortable having her clean the house.  Another young neighbor who was in charge of my retail store years ago, who has a good education, speaks English well, and has a very good job, answered very shortly, "Oh, Doña Mari, you know very well we think white is superior!  We worship ('adoramos') anything white or lighter.  My brother, Justo, 'el blanco', always had all the best of everything and lorded it over us all.  And the worst of it was that we envied him at the same time as we chafed."

From the beginning I percieved my problem as getting down off the pedestal.


Anonymous's picture

would you please read your regular email account

my letter to you was returned -- so i'm just trying to contact you.
love valya