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Brown Skin, White Masks

France invaded Mexico in 1861, but we forgive easily and soon the white Mexican economic elites began to import and imitate everything French. I was born in 1980 and got indoctrinated in Francophilia. I took five years of French in college, I read novels, watched countless films, and read philosophy in French. Most of my peers also studied French. English was taken as an annoying obligation, while everyone enrolled in French out of love for the French language and culture. This Francophilia made many of us forget our skin color. Although there are many white Mexicans, most of us are mestizos and have brown or dark skin. But the day came when I realized I was not French, and it was painful.

It happened on a trip to Guatemala. I arrived in Antigua sometime in 2008 and stayed in a hostel where there were a couple of French guys. I was glad to find them. I immediately started speaking to them in French. We had a brief but interesting conversation about Guatemala. The next day, I took a bus to Volcán de Fuego. As I got on the bus, I soon realized I was the only bean in the rice. Most of the tourists were white Europeans, Australians, and Americans. Nonetheless, I was glad to see that the French guys were also there. So, I sat next to them, thinking we were going to be allies and form our little gang. We finally reached the mountain and began to climb it. I followed the French guys and spoke to them in French. Apparently, they didn’t feel like talking to me. Maybe they want to be alone and talk to each other, I thought. However, when other tourists, who did not speak a word of French, approached them, the French men seemed happy to communicate, even if they barely babbled a few words in English. I thought maybe it was my imagination, and actually the French were friendly to everyone.

So, I tried to sneak in a second time, and again I noticed that they didn’t really want to talk to me and that they preferred to hang out with other Europeans, even if they barely understood each other. They weren’t outright rude or racist, but if you’re not autistic, you can pick up other people’s emotions accurately; it was clear that the French did not want me in their gang. They probably didn’t like me because of my excessive interest in them, or they probably didn’t consider me their equal. But be that as it may, that was the first time I realized that I was not French, nor white and that Mexicans have a severe problem of self-colonization, largely imposed by public educational institutions. Since then I am not a better or a worse person, but I do have a better understanding about the complex racial issue of Latin American societies. We wear, like Fanon’s Martinica, a white mask on brown and black faces.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Keith Dunn

    Sabino, Thanks for doing this story. You have a lot to add to the Millsaps community, even outside your excellent academic training and expertise. We’re glad you’re here!

    Keith Dunn

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