About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mary and Her Disgusting Blogging

Mary Scriver over at the Prairie Mary blog has a great essay this week about the complexity of race and indigenous identity in relation to ideas of "disgust" and "disgusting." Well connected to the Piegan of the Rocky Mountain front of Montana in towns like Heart Butte and Browning, Mary is a great observer of how Indians are portrayed and "dealt with" by the local white population. You can't help but read Mary's thoughts and think of the treatment of the Tarahumara in Chihuahua or the poor indigenous beggars in Mexico's cities. Says Mary of the ways people use to talk about "dirty Indians":
Today’s civilized people do not use such words. They come from hierarchal [sic] assumptions based on the European empires, particularly the English, who used stigma to control their subject countries. But contemporary Native American people must still emphasize their professional, educated, and meticulously conventional qualities in order to get respect. Even the school children respond to the advertising-driven obsession with cleanliness, not smelling, “proper” clothes and other appearance markers that are meant to prevent disgust.
I like Mary's blog because it does a great job of reminding me of the similarities between Latin America and the United States. And while the ideas are there, you get a bit of Foucault in Mary's post without having to put up with his language - a real bonus! At any rate, the following passage certainly reminds me of the situation for the indigenous in Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas:
In the practical world, a stigmatized person is thought to deserve punishment for the original sin of being dark-skinned or poor. A couple of decades ago an enrolled Blackfeet drunk (oh, disgusting!) pestered around a bar until the bar owner simply shot him dead. The tribal people started out being indignant but pretty soon they drifted back to the bar, saying that the drunk asked for it with his disgusting behavior. Times have changed. Not long ago three brothers who liked violence picked out what they thought was a likely victim in the parking lot of a bar at quitting time: a drunk Indian ranch hand. But in the middle of their melee, another Indian -- a tribal council member and his wife -- tried to stop it, so the fun-lovers turned their fists and boots on them. The interveners were not powerless. They knew how to use the law. The brothers are serving jail time. But even the tribal council member was accused of the disgusting practice of hanging around in a bar until closing time.
I blogged about this incident of Mexican brothers beating Montana Indians and using the phrase "dirty Indian" while doing it in 2009.

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