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Black History Month: Giovani dos Santos’ complicated mixed heritage

Why are Gio’s black roots ignored? The answer lies in the history books.

Mexico Press Conference Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

In the months that followed Giovani dos Santos’ move from Villarreal to Los Angeles to star with the Galaxy, Walter Thompson-Hernández wrote a compelling piece for Brooklyn based Latin outlet Remezla, explaining how the Monterrey-born striker’s mixed heritage is problematic in a society that neglects his father’s Afro-Brazilian identity.

Even though states like Veracruz and Guerrero have significant Afro-Mexican populations, efforts to build Mexico’s national identity in the early 20th century focused on mestizaje (or a blend of indigenous and European heritage), and that ideology continues to impact how Mexicans think about national racial identity.

This shift can be traced back to the Cultural Revolution of 1910, when the idea of what constituted Mexican identity was transformed.

During this movement, a brand of “Mexicanness” was created, one that simultaneously celebrated an indigenous past and also rejected Mexico’s existing ethnic and racial diversity – which included people of Chinese and Filipino backgrounds in addition to individuals of African descent – according to UCLA Professor Robert Chao Romero. As a result of this Cultural Revolution, being Mexican became synonymous with being of mestizo descent; those who fell outside of this racial category were deemed non-Mexican.

As Thompson-Hernández rightly notes, its no surprise dos Santos’ blackness has been historically neglected both at home and abroad. Society often has a way of deciding one’s identity for themselves. For just one example, President Obama was a person of mixed ethnicity who was nevertheless defined as African-American during his tenure by friends and foes alike.

Read the article in full HERE.