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«Assimilating the Primitive»

Parallel Dialogues on Racial Miscegenation in Revolutionary Mexico

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Kelley R. Swarthout

This book examines the Mexican nationalist rhetoric that promoted race mixing as a cultural ideal, placing it within its broader contemporary polemic between vitalist and scientific thought. Part of its analysis compares the attitudes of anthropologist Manuel Gamio and educator José Vasconcelos with those of the European primitivist D. H. Lawrence, and concludes that although Gamio and Vasconcelos made lasting contributions to the construction of popular notions of mexicanidad, their paradigms were fatally flawed because they followed European prescriptions for the development of national identity. This ultimately reinforced the belief that indigenous cultural expression must be assimilated into the dominant mestizo culture in order for Mexico to progress. Consequently, these thinkers were unsuccessful in resolving the cultural dilemma Mexico suffered in the years immediately following the Revolution.