Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thoughts on skin color in Mexico

We just finished oohing and ahhhing over family photos I brought with me from back home. I have photos dating back to my grandmothers infancy, and a couple of her parents when they were young.

Mostly tonight we looked at photos of me and my brother and all mycousins, when we all were infant -adults. Some of my Dad and his brothers and my grandmother.

Besides exclaiming "que guapo! Que guapa! Que hermosa!" (how handsome, how gorgeous!) etc etc they were also exclaiming "puro gueros, no? Toda la familia son gueros! Que guero! Que guera!" . (purely white people, right? The whole family is white! How white!)

I just find it so intriguing for a culture to use skin color as a descriptive term so much. This isnt the time to go into the differences in "race relations" here in MX and there in the US. I actually took a class in college titled "languahe and culture in Latin America" and we spent a week on Mexico and we discussed the usage of skin color (not race) here in MX. It awefully hard not to think to myself though "Why are you so obsessed with being white?" on almost a daily basis.

When we went to San Juan de Las Lagos, the family kept exclaiming "wow! Puro gueros aqui! Son bien guero aqui, no?" ("wow! Purely white people here! They are really white!")

Everytime I go outside I am advised to put on sunscreen so I dont become "bien negrita"

The other day we were sitting outside and mi suegra asked me three times to move into the shade so I didnt turn negrita.

When I get introduced to new people they always exclaim "que guera! Que guapa!

My girls are also described as gueritas , which is funny because in the States people have asked "what are they? (to which I responded "a girl!" or even "human, like me!" -On my more fiesty days)

My family here is considered pretty guero as well, so its not as if Im the only guera living here.

Hard to get used to, just another cultural difference I suppose.


  1. Yea that is how it is here. It is kind of hard to get used to its like when they refer to people as gordo or flaca. I told javi the other night people here tell you to your face how big or fat you are and over there you would not even think of saying something like that. Luckily for me they call my suegra la guera so they can not give me that nickname if they wanted. I have more color than she

    1. I had a little while to get used to the forda/flaca thing before we moved, as the Mexicans we knew in the States all used ot alot. Im not sure why I never noticed them using skin color as much there though! Thats cute about your MIL, at least you canhave a (hopefully) better nickname

  2. Yeah, I hear this all the time, the majority of Miguel's family is guera but, he has 1 sister who isn't and her daughter is even darker than her so, she gets crap form everybody. They all tell me, I better not have any negro babies!!! I am like and what if they are obviously it runs in the family!!!! I think it is bad, nobody should be judged just because of their skin color!!

    1. Ugh, so lame. I hate it when people treat babies andkids like that. It seems worse to me when its a kid being taunted :(

  3. Skin color here is a BIG deal! It's really interesting how they discriminate against each other and it can go both ways.

    My mother-in-law is from "Los Altos de Jalisco" where there was once a large European community. She is as white as a light bulb, milky-white, almost transparent. And of course, she considers herself superior because of it.

    When I became a part of the family, she started calling me "La Negrita." This wasn't any sort of compliment and I found it very upsetting. She wouldn't stop, so my husband had to talk to her about it. She has stopped calling me "La Negrita" and now refers to my skin as "morado" (purple) or "quemada" (burnt). Not much better I must add.

    But get father-in-law is "moreno" and if you ask her why she married him, she will tell you and in front of him, "That he was a good man and had a lot of money." I wanted to die the first time I heard this one.

    And there's more...all of her children are "gueros" except my husband...he's "moreno" like his father and he almost died when he was just a few weeks old. She claims from some type of stomach problem, but it makes me wonder...

    When I was expecting our daughters, I was worried that if they were "morenas" she would reject them too. Her grandchildren are "gueros" and she's very proud of that. She has one grandson that's a tad dark and she would say and in front of him and his parents, that he was her "nieto más feito." How sad, no?

    Needless to say, it's been hard. I've since just tried to accept her because at her age, she's not going to change and she truely believes that fair skinned people are superior.

    Sorry for such a long comment, but I just wanted to share how this has affected my life.

  4. Jackie-

    Wow! I can't even imagine. Now Im wondering if my MIL has secretly been insulting me (well, not secretly. Unbeknownst to me) when she says Im "quemada" hmmm.
    I cant imagine saying - in front of their husband or at all - that they married for money!! My MIL was kindain the reverse situation - she came from money and my FIL didnt.

    People are so ..... "interesting" . Thats theword my grandmother uses when she either doesntlike something or doesnt have any other word to describe it.

    I really wish people didnt auto-associate whiteness with beauty, its such a shame. Especially when referring to ones own grandchildren, who could they? I can not imagine.

    Im sorry you have had to deal with this so close to home. Your girls are gorgeous, and would be with more tan skin as well. As much as this feeds into the mentality, Im glad for them that they didnt end up with tanner skin like their cousin - how would ou explain to them why their own grandmother calls them ugly? It would be impossible! In my mind at least. And trying to explain why we should accept grandma speakng that way but we dont speak or think that way would be so difficult. Im sure it is difficult to as it is, not sure if the girls are old enough to be aware of those sorts of comments and the meaning behind them.

    Thank you for sharing, I really appreciate it Jackie.