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Of Ships and Saints: History, Memory, and Place in the Making of Moreno Mexican Identity

Excerpt From Essay

"All along Mexico's southern Pacific Coast, in the region known as the "Costa Chica" of Guerrero and Oaxaca, people tell a story about a foreign shipwreck and its human cargo of slaves who escaped the sinking vessel and found freedom on land. Unable to document any evidence for this story, I came to place less value on it for its clues to the past than for its clues to identity formations in the region today. Outsiders often describe that region as "black" (negro), for its communities are home to many people descended from Mexico's colonial population of African slaves. Yet in San Nicolas Tolentino, the Guerreran village in which I have been doing fieldwork since 1997 and which is commonly referred to as the cradle of local culture, "blacks" consider negro to be something of an insult when applied to contemporary populations. They reserve negro for ancestors, who were "really, really black," while identifying themselves instead as moreno. This term, which is explored in the following pages, signifies what they understand to be their shared history, genealogy, and contemporary experience with Indians (indios)."

"Of Ships and Saints: History, Memory, and Place in the Making of Moreno Mexican Identity," Laura Lewis (62).

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