Posts Tagged castas

The Historical Collage

Recently I had to write an essay describing my scholarly interest and include it in my application to grad school. I had been putting it off because I honestly had no idea what my scholarly interest was. I just knew that I liked history and philosophy. The deadline for the application was closing in on me so I couldn’t put it off any longer. I banged it out, finally, but it did offer me a bit of clarity. The following paragraph is from my essay and I think I might actually be on to something:

The Modern Era encompasses the bulk of my historical interest. From the conquest of the New World to colonization to globalization to the World Wars and beyond—this is the broad timeline in history that really interests me. It is difficult to be too specific as to the actual events within this period that interest me because as I learn of new happenings in history, it is easy to make connections. I look at this period as a big picture made up of several snap-shots—each requiring extensive analysis, but each one being the cause or consequence of some other event or “snap-shot”—so that the big picture is essentially a collage. These snap-shots overlap and connect in various ways and it is these “various ways” that I find so interesting.

That was as precise and focused as I could get. However, my collage analogy got me thinking about the smaller connections that are made everyday with plain ‘ole, regular people. Like how most people tend to accept the societal structures imposed upon them. They might not like them, and they might complain about them often enough, but they accept them, none-the-less. For example, in sixteenth to nineteenth century Mexico, Spaniards developed the racial classification system sistema de castas according to how much Spanish blood a person was perceived to have. The darker and poorer one was the lower in the hierarchy they fell. This system was dismantled after the revolutions in Latin America in the 1810’s-20’s, but, the pertaining societal structure remained and still exists today in Mexico and among Mexicans as one’s “darkness” is still very much an issue. “Darkness” in Mexican culture is associated with shame and guilt. In my collage example, this is where two snap-shots have overlapped. A system that was created by the elite and imposed upon the poor and disenfranchised five hundred years ago still holds sway today. I wonder why? So, my description of scholarly interest must not be so vague, after all.


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