there were no ethnic differences in Ecuador and Peru, where national poverty increased. Since racial and ethnic minorities are generally further behind than the dominant group on poverty and related indicators and since goals generally measure progress towards an absolute standard rather than achieving the standard itself, progress may be similar across groups, at best, thereby not reducing, and sometimes increasing, levels of ethnic inequality. Thus, reducing the racial/ethnic gaps on the MDGs by 2015 remains a great challenge for Latin American countries. Historical Background Like the United States, many countries in Latin America were sites of encounters among indigenous peoples, Europeans and Africans. In broad terms, Europeans came upon American shores as early as 1492 and found various groups of indigenous peoples. Soon after, the European colonists waged wars and brought disease, resulting in the decimation of the indigenous population and either the enslavement or displacement of the indigenous survivors. As the weakened and reduced Indian population was often inadequate for their labor needs and because indigenous slavery was made illegal in 1542, Europeans would turn to Africa for slaves. Eventually, several million Africans were brought to the New World, especially to Brazil and the Caribbean but also to most of the rest of Latin America. Many of the descendants of Africans continued to be enslaved until well into the 19th century while others, as well as the conquered indigenous peoples, would continue to suffer from various repressive or exploitative labor systems. In the 19th century, scientific racism had deemed that nonwhites were degenerate and intellectually inferior. Since many Latin American countries had large nonwhite populations, elites actively sought to escape from their apparently doomed status by whitening their populations. This included importing large numbers of European immigrants and encouraging racial mixing, expecting that white traits would dominate. Brazil, for example, assured whitening through ship subsidies and land grants to European immigrants while African and Asian immigration was prohibited. With a large African and indigenous population, Argentine elites in the 19th century strongly advocated for whitening because of the presumed superiority of the white race, a goal that they would largely achieve. Indeed, Domingo F. Sarmiento and Carlos O. Bunge saw race as the leading problem of not only their Argentina, but of all Latin America (Helg, 1990). In particular, the science of eugenics, which sought genetic improvements in humans through better breeding, emerged in the late 19th century and was embraced by the leading Latin American scientists (Stefan, 1991). Race became a dominant theme for eugenecists and the Latin American eugenics community largely pursued the avenue of ‘constructive miscegenation,’ contrary to the more repressive means used in other countries.
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- Fall '19
- The Land, Ethnic group, Indigenous peoples of the Americas