Critical Translation of Vasconcelos

Racism in Vasconcelos?
Footnote to a Sunday Sermon
on Chicano Nationalism

UCLA physicist J. Manuel Urrutia in this page
of translation introduces critical questions about some racist
assumptions that may have informed the grand theory of race-mixing
proposed by Vasconcelos.

As we explored in the essay below, Vasconcelos favors some European
influences in culture and religion, opposing ‘Aztec primitivism’ as too
brutal. Thus, his concept of Mexican nationalism requires some
notion of Iberian mix. His reasons for favoring European
influence sound a lot like Aristotle’s metaphysics of gender, where the
male (Iberian) brings to the female (Aztec) the spirit that saves the
body from mere passivity or brutishness.

Critical readers of Vasconcelos, however, like critical readers of Aristotle, need not swallow whole. We notice a tendency of
MEChA’s critics to foist upon MEChA only the worst of the textual
history, a method that if applied evenly across the board would cause
deep suspicion of anybody who references Aristotle, and for exactly the
same reasons. It’s interesting how MEChA would be disparaged for tolerating the
racism of Vasconcelos when the gist of the Vasconcelos bias would cut
squarely against Aztec nationalism, but Aztec nationalism is what
motivates the Aztlan worldview. One can only conclude that in
order for MEChA to acknowledge La Raza Cosmica and Aztlan, too, they
must be fairly open minded, independent, and original thinkers.

A reviewer at Amazon (curious pun, considering that Brazil was an
inspiration to the theory) suggests that the more decisive problem for
Vasconcelos was not the brutality of Azteca but the materialism of
Yankees. This priority is clearly borne out in our review of
Vasconcelos’ autobiography. Los Indios were inseparable partners
in the struggle for Mexican liberation. And that liberation was
often sought in opposition to Imperialismo Yanqui.

In the case of Vasconcelos, the conceptions also raise Hegelian
issues related to the Master-Slave dialectic. Between the guns
organized by Zapata and the Ministry of Education organized by
Vasconcelos we find two disparate activities of an actual
revolution. In the nonviolence philosophy we seek not to dismiss
the power that the guns represent, but to re-make that power.

This part of the nonviolence philosophy is often misunderstood, as when
activists are asked to denounce "violence on all sides" by folks who
call themselves "fair thinkers" but only when the fair thinkers have
been offended by revolutionary violence. When activists
call attention to the daily violence of oppression, the "fair thinking"
crowd begs us to be "more realistic." And so it goes around.

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