It has often been said that the practice of Chicanos to refer to the overall Mexican American population as "Raza" is inherently racist. This is because the translation of this term into Englishremoves its philosophical baggage and makes it look as if Mexican Americans are the race, similarly to Nazi claims that the "Arian" was the race that should inherit Earth.
Understanding how this termoriginated is important to know its meaning. One must be aware that the term is originally from México and it was first promoted by José Vasconcelos, a respected and venerated Mexican intellectual(1881-1959). It was given shape in his book La Raza Cósmica (1948) and it was introduced as a response, based on "scientific" evidence then available as well as Catholic theology. I have translated partsof the prologue of the second edition and parts of the first chapter where the philosophy is defined.
In the early 1900's Mexican intellectuals were trying to come up with an identity for theMexican people during a time of social upheaval. This social change was being fueled by two revolutionary changes in thought: Marx and Engels "Das Kapital" and C. Darwin's "Theory of Evolution of theSpecies." The first one challenged the position of the moneyed class (whether old or new money) while the second challenged the position of mankind itself in the general scheme of things and went againstbiblical teaching.
The most successful of them, José Vasconcelos, came up with a kooky concept where he claimed that the indigenous people of America had had their day in the sun but theirmixture with the "better" Europeans gave rise to a new race, the mestizo. (In those days, it was common to divide Homo Sapiens into four races: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, and Amerindian. Thrown asevidence, he cited the lost continent of Atlantis.) He called this new race "La raza Cósmica" and argued that it would be the one that would show "the way" to the rest of the world. It is a very catchy...
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