La Raza

Mexico should be a land of infinite possibilities. It has almost every climatic and topographical region found on the planet; there is a wealth of natural resources and the greatest of these has always been its population.

The people who live in this country are strong and hardworking. They are loyal and love their families. With such ease they create achingly beautiful art, music, colour, dance and delicious food. Yet many are poorly educated. Their familial alliances are often severed by poverty and circumstances. Their unique culture is not respected – and too easily, the essential parts of the national identity can be corrupted and diminished.

 The politicians of ‘the free world’ are very quick to condemn Mexico for being the corridor through which drugs are shipped to the north. Do they ask themselves why the drugs need to go there? They’re also very judgmental of Latin American politics. Why do we tolerate this attitude? We have enough to deal with.

  The lifestyle of the  majority of Mexican families is just high enough to deter serious civil unrest but not good enough to allow sustained material, social or emotional growth. For those with means, living in Mexico is like being set loose in the candy store. For the poor, it is like standing outside, and looking through the window of that same shop.


Yet I have seen remarkable examples of faith and fortitude. Despite all the manipulation, the  local and foreign interests have never managed to completely capture and cage the spirituality of the millions. The ancient ways are still alive.


It’s hard to understand how this culture prevails. The means of survival are beyond their experience…Sublime stories passed from father to son and secrets whispered between women as they prepare the mid-day meals… the nursery songs and children’s games… annual festivities and fervent devotion to traditions. Through these seemingly naïve folkways, the age old values are passed on.

Have you heard the term, La RazaLa Raza can trace its roots to the same time period as the early American civil rights movement. Singer Joan Baez and agricultural workers’ activist, Cesar Chavez were two of  the movement’s earliest supporters.


La Raza – The Race, is certainly a term open to very broad interpretation. It is often used by tough-looking street kids looking for a descriptive moniker. But in truth it’s a symbol of Mexico’s cultural identity. It not only encompasses diverse ethnicity but also fierce allegiance and pride. If a way to positively spread the strength of La Raza was put in motion, you’d see mountains move. However, La Raza is yet a sleeping giant.”

Except for the last three, the photographs were taken by my son Carlos.



Filed under Vida Latina, Writing

19 responses to “La Raza

  1. The La Raza that I know is a political and Racist movement that teaches that the Mexicans can take over a huge part of the U.S. if only enough Mexicans move there and join together to accomplish this feat. The leaders that propose this view are determined to change the borders of the U.S. and Mexico. They also teach that the people of Mexican heritage in present day U.S. are victims of Racial hatred and oppression and all whites are against them. Even though the facts do not support this, a few decades ago that would have been a logical conclusion based on what I saw in Texas, however times change – some people don’t.

    • What can I say? I knew that this post would incite some comments similar to yours. Have you ever been to Mexico? (I don’t mean the strip along the unfortunate no mans land called the border) The huge majority of Mexicans want nothing to do with the negativity and violent attitude you speak of. I have lived among them, in their country for 35 years. Except for a few incidents, I have been warmly embraced and although the country is not without its warts (no place is) where I live is not remotely interested in “taking over a large part of the United States”. I wish that people north of the border could all come and live here, even for a short time. How the perception would change.

      • Joanne: There is much truth in what Julia says. In the U.S., the banner of La Raza these days is not that different in tone than the Black Panthers and other such groups.

      • In times of fear, as we are living now, misinterpretation and miscommunication are rampant. When a person or group make a statement, their opponents don’t stop to consider the point of view, they get overly defensive and start to spread their version of what they perceive the other side said. I know people who belong to Latino Rights organizations in the USA. They are absolutely not wanting to take over the southern states. They want a fair shake. They work hard and they want dignity. I think if I were treated with disrespect, my haunches would raise way more than the Hispanic voice does.

    • Julia seems to have been reading right-wing propaganda in the United States, confusing the “La Raza” (a civil rights organization going back to World War II veterans associations in south Texas) with MeChA, a Caifornia student organization that back in the early 70s modeled loosely on the Black Panthers, put out some inflammatory manifestos talking about “Aztlan” and using “reconquista” in a political sense, not the sense of a cultural “conquest” — the acceptance of Mexican foods, architecture, music, religious practices etc — cultural values in general — in the parts of the United States where there had always been a Mexican-American community.

      In the U.S. (don’t know about Canada, sorry), some white supremacist groups latched onto that MeChA manifesto, using it as “proof” that there was such a conspiracy. There are a small number of people in the U.S. (who seem to be more on the internet than in real life) who still use “reconquista” in a political sense, but I sometimes think they must be supported by white supremacist groups, since white supremacists are the only ones who took them seriously (and both put out anti-Semitic literature as well). I’ve never seen them taken seriously by Mexican-American political or civil rights organizations, and most people connected with MeChA are rather embarrassed by that early manifesto.

      As it is, the white supremacists were successful at selling those “reconqusta” documents as “proof” of racism to various U.S. politicians and pundits. Notoriously, Lou Dobbs used map showing “greater Aztlan” (supposedly parts of the United States to be absorbed by Mexico… mostly the area ceded to the U.S. in 1849) provided by the Conservative Citizens Council (the KKK in suits and ties).

      People in the United States, where “race” is a much more important social marker (and has a long history of racial segregation) are confused by the word “raza” which, while it can be translated as “race” is more nuanced than that. “Hispanic”, having been invented as a “racial” category back in the Nixon Administration, it is easy to see why people sometimes translate Raza directly into English, and then throw the U.S. concepts of that word onto it. The primary meaning, in the sense of animal husbandry is “breed”. In reference to humans, the primary meaning has little or nothing to do with ones DNA. It means “nationality or ethnicity” — “race” in the old-fashioned way that one spoke of the French “race” (being people with the values associated with the French language, both French Canadians and Parisians) or a large cultural group, like the Celtic “race” lumping together somewhat similar cultural values and customs of the Irish, the Bretons and the Spanish Galicians.

      “Raza” in Mexico simply means the peoples and cultures of Mexico… from Carlos Slim and Elena Poniatowska to the muxes of Juchitan to the Tarahumara long-distance runners to Mayans to the mix-n-match ethnic and cultural heritage of the Mexican peoples.

      • Whew… This comment is actually another post, I thought about putting it on the blog as such. But the points are so valid and sound, I am reproducing it here verbatim as your reaction to the previous comment. Thanks for further clarification and definition of “Raza”… like many words in Spanish, there is not a truly adequate word in English and vise versa. The emotion of the term Lla Raza” must be felt in the soul rather than understood in the mind. Mexicans know this..

      • Thanks for that, RICHMX2! Much better than what I was working on, and I was actually finding myself a bit too angry to do it “right”. Here’s another link which Julia may want to check out as well.

      • Yes, Richard does have a way with words. Have you seen his book, “Gringos, Gods and Gauchupines” You really love it Alinde.

      • I am not confused by the term La Raza, The context I wrote about has to do with the political group in the U.S.I have met the folks of La Raza in Arizona and if you did it would make you step back and think. Their claims are a hot button issue in Arizona, So. California and parts of Texas.

        To not believe that some Mexicans still have bad feelings about past U.S. and Mexico events such as the Mexican American war is wishful thinking. The Oil issue with American Oil companies caused the nationalization of the oil industry in Mexico, the Gadsden purchase by the U.S. was another issue not popular in Mexico. NAFTA is not loved by every Mexican either.

        Many Mexicans don’t care to discuss their feelings with foreigners, however now and then you come across someone who lets out their true feelings and it is a bit of shock to Gringos who are unaware of the tumultuous relationship between the U.S. and Mexico as most Gringos are ignorant of their own history and believe in the myth of the U.S. always being the good guy.

        I agree that La Raza has a different meaning inside Mexico, however once on the other side of the border the meaning changes abruptly. This is my experience yours may be different.

      • Hello again Julie. I realize that you’re making the point that the term “La Raza” has been used by several different groups with different agendas. But I am referring to it’s original purpose – to unify the people of Mexico to stand up for themselves and their rights. This does not include reclaiming the souther USA – that battle is long over. Yes nearly all Mexicans have resentment towards the American (and other country’s’ positions) about Mexico. I hear this daily… remember I have lived in Mexico for 35 years. (I have written a book on the topic and did extensive research) I am a business owner and active in many community groups. And I know that most Mexicans do not confuse the politics with the people. As well, Mexicans are pragmatic, they know there can be no dialogue when the other party is so very sure he’s right (about everything) and won’t listen to any reasonable argument. However, the USA and Canada should take a closer look at Mexico. They have much to learn from this country. There is not space here to write more but maybe one day we’ll be able to share our views. Respectfully, Joanna

      • Yes, Richard does have a way with words and so do you, Joanna. Your post is great and Richard’s reply to Julia is spot-on. But his book is “Gods, Gachupines and Gringos: A People’s History of Mexico” and is currently the bestselling history of México in English. Every native English speaker (since you don’t like the word expat LOL) living in México should read it right along with your book, “Magic Made in Mexico: Live Your Dream…in Mexico”. Together those two books are a killer combination for learning about México. There is nothing else even close.

    • Thank you Alinde, I can see that this issue is of concern to many on both sides of the Rio Grande. I will post again on the topic…

  2. Wonderful photos and very meaningful post.

    “It’s hard to understand how this culture prevails. The means of survival are beyond their experience…Sublime stories passed from father to son and secrets whispered between women as they prepare the mid-day meals… the nursery songs and children’s games…”

    I believe this is precisely how the culture of Mexico prevails. It is something that the US has lost, or perhaps never really had – the initiation of sons and daughters into adulthood through “sublime stories from father to son” and from mother to daughter, and perpetuating values and traditions that help keep the family intact and primary.


    • I appreciate your comment John. The post is actually an excerpt from the novel I have just finished. “If Only You Knew” is love story between two people but also the portrayal of a country that keeps its dignity, even in the face of such unfair criticism

      • I can’t speak for “La Raza” that you know, not being in your local

        But let me add–beliefes based upon facts true even “a few decades ago”, as you admit, are NOT inconsequential. People and generations do have memories, racism and agendas do become “closeted”, and any residual skepticism is most understandable.

  3. Great shots, all of them.

    • Thanks so much. When I was attaching the pictures, I thought of how clear, crisp and candid Carlos’ pictures are, while mine are not as much so. So, thank you for saying “all of them”

  4. Thanks, Joanna! That post is both informative and stimulating. I’d forgotten some of that history, so now I have lots of web perusing to enjoy.

    My very first Spanish language album was Joan Baez’s “Gracias a la Vida.” And it’s still one of my favorites–she’s one of my heroines.

    I do believe that Mexico will survive–for precisely the strengths you point out.

    The photos are wonderful! The elderly couple dancing is so very Mexican, isn’t it?
    Even though they are’t smiling, they ARE dancing. I love it.

    • Thank you as always Alinde for your comments. And as usual our musical tastes are the same. As youu say, Mexico will survive lets hope we see more prosperity for all.

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