not create group-based identities. This article explores how race and color labels are used, andthe extent to which group-based identities orm part o the local parlance in an Aro-Peruviancommunity. This discussion sheds light on the utility o generalizations about race in LatinAmerica or understanding race and color distinctions in the Aro-Peruvian community understudy. In the next section, I discuss these generalizations.
Literature Review: Conceptualizations of Race in the Americas
Mulatto Escape Hatch
The “mulatto escape hatch” (Degler 1986), also called the “intermediate mulatto stra-tum,” (Saa 1998) reers to the notion that someone can be born black, yet become mulattothrough an increase in social status, or intergenerational whitening. This intermediate catego-ry emerged rom the large ree colored population in many Latin American countries duringthe time o slavery (Saa 1998; Skidmore 1993; Smedley 2007). The creation o the mulattocategory, which possessed some benets over blacks, was a mechanism o social control inso-ar as the possibility o moving out o the category, “black,” inhibited alliances among peopleo Arican descent (Daniel 2006). Peter Wade (1997) contends that in Latin America, raciallymixed children are recognized as socially distinct rom their parents. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva(2004) explains that Latin American countries have a tri-racial system, in which an interme-diate group buers race confict. Luisa Schwartzman (2007:944) also claims that, in Brazil,“browns serve as a buer zone between blacks and whites.”
A related process that scholars argue tones down race confict is whitening. There arethree ways that whitening can occur: (1) Intergenerational whitening is when a black personand a white person have a child, and the child is considered whiter than the black parent;(2) Social whitening is when a person is born black, but through an increase in class status,is considered white or whiter in some situations; (3) Cultural whitening is when a person is born Indian, yet acculturates to the dominant culture and becomes white or whiter in somesituations. Intergenerational whitening can reer to blacks or Indians; social whitening is morecommonly used to discuss people o Arican descent; and cultural whitening is more commonlyused to describe processes o incorporation or people o indigenous descent. The whiteningprocess works at the level o practice and ideology; people hope to “improve the race” throughmarrying lighter-skinned partners, and the governments o many Latin American countrieshave promulgated
(racial and cultural mixture) or the purpose o whitening the na-tion (Graham 1990; Skidmore 1993).The possibility o whitening is dependent on a denition o race that is not based solelyon color or descent, but on other changeable actors. Many scholars contend that, in LatinAmerica, race is not always based solely on color or descent, but that social and culturalcharacteristics also come into play (Rodríguez 2000). Jorge Duany (1998:150) argues that inthe Caribbean, “[p]henotype and social status rather than biological descent dene a person’sracial identity.” And, Nancy Landale and R. S. Oropesa (2002) posit that in Latin America,“denitions o race are more fuid and ambiguous than is the case in the United States” (p.233). According to these scholars, the lack o rigidity in racial classications allows a person tochange their racial status in Latin America.
Scholars o Aro-Latin America have argued that blacks can be whitenedthrough a change in social status. Winthrop Wright (1990), or example, claims that in Ven-ezuela, “when a black escaped poverty, he or she ceased to be socially black.” Wright goes on
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