Chocolate and Corn Flour

History, Race, and Place in the Making of “Black” Mexico

Chocolate and Corn Flour

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 43 photographs, 2 maps Published: May 2012

Author: Laura A. Lewis

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Located on Mexico's Pacific coast in a historically black part of the Costa Chica region, the town of San Nicolás has been identified as a center of Afromexican culture by Mexican cultural authorities, journalists, activists, and foreign anthropologists. The majority of the town's residents, however, call themselves morenos (black Indians). In Chocolate and Corn Flour, Laura A. Lewis explores the history and contemporary culture of San Nicolás, focusing on the ways that local inhabitants experience and understand race, blackness, and indigeneity, as well as on the cultural values that outsiders place on the community and its residents.

Drawing on more than a decade of fieldwork, Lewis offers a richly detailed and subtle ethnography of the lives and stories of the people of San Nicolás, including community residents who have migrated to the United States. San Nicoladenses, she finds, have complex attitudes toward blackness—as a way of identifying themselves and as a racial and cultural category. They neither consider themselves part of an African diaspora nor deny their heritage. Rather, they acknowledge their hybridity and choose to identify most deeply with their community.


Chocolate and Corn Flour is an insightful and remarkable study of color and race, with all its subtleties and implications, by a Professor of Anthropology that has obviously conducted many years of research on the subject. It is a book that I highly recommend.” — Dennis Moore,

“This delightful book, based on well over a decade of research in Mexico and the United States . . . traces the history and social relations of a self-described moreno community from the colonial period to its contemporary diasporic dispersal to the United States.” — Leigh Binford, American Ethnologist

“As Lewis takes us, along with the people she has studied, to the edge of the present and before a tentative future, she maintains a narrbative richly textured with research and detail yet poignant and engagingly clear in its composition.” — Matthew Restall, Hispanic American Historical Review

“Geographers will find in this work a good balance between careful case study and broader literatures about race, migration, sexuality, gender relations, globalization, and material consumption that characterize a fascinating group of Mexicans.” — Joseph L. Scarpaci, Journal of Latin American Geography

Chocolate and Corn Flour offers a compelling study of the moreno community in San Nicolás.” — Daniel Astorga Poblete, Itinerario

Chocolate and Corn Flour should inspire future work on racial identity and inclusion in Mexico and elsewhere and expand the limited knowledge base of ethnological work in the field.” — Nnenna M. Ozobia, Americas Quarterly

“This ambitious ethnography…. presents a very useful history of the Costa Chica region that specialists will relish.  The book also includes a well-researched discussion of the anthropological work of central pioneers in the field of Afro-Mexican studies…. Where Lewis most successfully brings to bear her wealth of experience in the region is in her discussions of transmigration and the persistence of family ties despite the economic challenges that often separate families across borders.” — Bobby Vaughn, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Rich with details and reflects a deep relationship with the San Nicoladenses." — Sarah Warren, Qualitative Sociology

"[Lewis's] use of oral histories creates a body of knowledge that fills voids in an area little documented, such as the local history of San Nicolás." — Kency Cornejo, AmeriQuests

"In the 1940s, when Mexican anthropologist Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán first brought Afromexicans into academic and public discussion, African presence in Mexico had been under erasure for so long that Mexican national identity had elided Africa altogether. Today, Mexico’s 'Third Root' has gained national and international recognition. This process has gone hand in glove with a new politics of identity. Laura A. Lewis's ethnohistorical study of race probes the local politics of autochthony, nationality, and citizenship in the Pacific heartland of Afromexico." — Claudio Lomnitz, author of Death and the Idea of Mexico

"The kind of great ethnography much needed in research on Latin American blackness: Laura A. Lewis puts a crimp in recent multiculturalist constructions of Afromexican 'blackness'—but also in Mexican mestizo nationalism—by revealing local meanings attached to being moreno as a complex historical mixture of blackness and indigenousness." — Peter Wade, author of Race and Sex in Latin America


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Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Laura A. Lewis is Professor of Anthropology at James Madison University and the author of Hall of Mirrors: Power, Witchcraft and Caste in Colonial Mexico, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. The Lay of the Land 15

2. Identity in Discourse: The "Race" Has Been Lost 55

3. Identity in Performance 85

4. Africa in Mexico: An Intellectual History 119

5. Culture Work: So Much Money 155

6. Being from Here 189

7. A Family Divided? Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces 231

8. Transnationalism, Place, and the Mundane 265

Conclusion. What's in a Name? 305

Notes 323

Bibliography 341

Index 363
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5132-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5121-4
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