Good reading about Mexico class/ethnicity structure (depicted in Roma)?
January 23, 2019 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Do you have some good reading on the class and ethnicity structure as depicted in the movie Roma? Looking at both articles and statistics can help sort of questions inside and maybe some perspectives from those not in that culture.

how prevalent are "white-european" in Mexico? Are they usually middle-upper class? Is the family actually "middle class" as many articles represent? How much does live-in assistance cost or did cost? How do things differ in 1971 vs today? How prevalent is this type of arrangement in Mexico today?
posted by sandmanwv to Society & Culture (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
how prevalent are "white-european" in Mexico?

The answer seems to be “the government knows, but isn’t telling”. In Mexico City, I’d guess that the number of people who could pass for Europeans is closer to the lower bound of the estimate, i.e. around 10%.

Are they usually middle-upper class?

I’m not sure whether white people here are necessarily upper class, but upper class people certainly tend white. If you go to government events (or watch them on TV) you’ll see a very unrepresentative range of skin colours. AMLO, the current president, is certainly not ethnically representative of the general population.

How much does live-in assistance cost or did cost? ... How prevalent is this type of arrangement in Mexico today?

It’s cheap. Having staff (drivers, cleaners, nannies, gardeners) is very cheap in American terms. A live-in cleaner would probably cost a couple of thousand pesos per week, i.e. a hundred dollars or so - cheaper than having someone visit each day, as their room and board is a benefit in kind. Most upper-class people I know have staff that come each day, rather than stay (I’d quibble with “upper-middle class” - there isn’t much of a middle class in Mexico). But houses and large apartments almost always have a small en-suite bedroom or apartment off or near the kitchen for staff. Apartments typically have a common room in the parking garage for drivers.

(Your other questions are specific to Roma, which I’m watching this afternoon!)
posted by chappell, ambrose at 7:42 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]

You should do a search on Mexican pigmentocracy--"pigmentocracy" is one of the key terms for self-directed learning here. Much of the discourse in popular media about the racial and class position of the family in Roma is poor (e.g. the review in the New Yorker, which is not egregious but misunderstands the social cues in the film). It doesn't help that Mexicans like to repeat the idea that "en México no hay racismo" because everyone is the same mixed race (not true, and not true)--which stunts social discussions of race.

Unfortunately I'm about to head to a meeting so can't point you to good intros. But two caveats:

1) Mexicans actually see different things when looking at someone's race (or racial phenotype) than American/Canadian/western Europeans, whose notions are broadly comparable. There are light-skinned Mexican individuals who could pass as ambiguously ethnic in the US/Canada who look "indigenous" to Mexican eyes.

2) There's a Mexican saying that I used to hear in upland Veracruz a bunch, which translates to "as people get richer, they get whiter." it works in all three levels: population (proportion of paler people at one end of the wealth continuum vs the other), fungibility (where one can "exchange" wealth/class privilege for racial privilege, or vice versa), and behavior (as people get richer, especially individuals who are upwardly mobile, their behaviors become raced even while phenotype stays the same). So the question is not just phenotype, but also racial/class privilege, and the behaviors that are ascribed to those who have such privileges.
posted by migrantology at 8:20 AM on January 23 [4 favorites]

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